I constantly harp on the importance of getting stronger and continually striving to lift heavier weights. It’s the most surefire way to make long term progress. Adding more sets and decreasing your rest periods and adding intensity techniques are short term approaches and can not work forever. The only thing that can is getting stronger and lifting heavier weights.
There are two particular muscle groups, however, where this principle doesn’t always apply. These muscles are the neck and the forearms. While you should strive to get stronger and improve your lifting poundages on neck and forearm exercises, there will come a time where the overload is too great. Once you can wrist curl a pretty decent amount of weight, it will start to get harder to continually add weight without putting your wrists at risk for injury. If you were somehow able to do a barbell wrist curl with 275, I’d be willing to bet that the pounding your wrists would take would not be worth it and that you would probably be looking at an injury waiting to happen.
That is not to say that you can not continually improve your grip strength poundages, because you can and you should. There is really no risk for injury in doing so. It’s just flexion and extension exercises for the forearm that you need to be concerned with as eventually, brutally heavy weights will be overloading the joints more than the muscles.
Using a neck harness is great to build up your neck but this is another case where you will get to a point where you are risking a serious injury when the weight gets too heavy. Working up to the point where you can do a 45 pound plate for twenty reps is a great goal for most people. Others may be able to work up to two 45 pound plates after several years but anymore than this (and in most cases, a single 45) sounds like a really bad, and dangerous idea. The potential risk to the neck and spine is just far too great, in my opinion.
So how do you progressively overload the forearms and neck if not by getting continually stronger? Well, the forearms seem to respond better than most muscles do to a higher volume of training (meaning more sets and more reps). So increasing the sets and reps and even decreasing the rest periods is a good plan to keep the forearms growing. As far as the neck goes, it doesn’t seem to tolerate as much volume as the forearms do in one particular workout but you can add volume by doing neck work more frequently (five days per week instead of one or two). With neck training, you should always keep the reps high and the sets fairly low. Decreasing rest periods or supersetting are two other effective strategies for overloading the neck without risking injury.
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