All of the guys with commanding forearms (like Sylvester Stallone pictured above!) purposely go out of their way to target their forearms.
Now, the good news is when it comes to building big forearms you don't need to dedicate another entire workout to build those bad boys up.
Throw a few of these exercises at the end of a workout or two each week.
"SJ, why the obession with how to get big forearms?"
A couple reasons, both aesthetic and functional...
- Jacked forearms are the #1 way to display strength/that you're a dedicated lifter when wearing a short sleeve shirt. No one can see your biceps!
- More importantly... your forearms, responsible for grip strength can become a bottle-neck on heavy pushing and pulling exercises such as the deadlift, weighted pull-up and bench press
From my experience you need to embrace the pain to get in a good forearm workout, similiar to training your calf muscles.
It's easy to get in a good chest and biceps without enduring too much in the way of pain, unfortunately I cannot say the same for forearms my friend.
Embrace the pain and build some killer forearms like Stallone, below are the exercises that'll get you there...
Perform These Exercises To Get Big Forearms
Instead of gripping directly onto your pull-up bar opt to hold onto either end of a towel, draping it over your pull-up bar.
The towel pull-up is harder than it looks and is fantastic for developing both grip and core strength as well as smashing the lats.
Keep in mind these are extremely hard (and therefore will be the 1st exercise in our forearm workout!) don't be shocked if you can only struggle out two or three reps when you started incorporating the towel pull-up into your routine.
How To Perform Towel Pull-Ups Correctly
With Arms fully extended and slightly wider than shoulder-width grasp a couple of towels hung over your pull-up bar and assume a dead hang position.
Tilt your head to look slightly upward and maintain a small arch in your back, this will create the slight angle you'll maintain in your torso for the duration of the set.
Drive your arms down and back, pulling through your lats.
Slowly lower yourself back down to the dead hang starting position.
Repeat for the desired number of repetitions with this full range of motion.
The Farmers Carry
The Farmers Carry is an old school strongman style exercise for building up your grip strength, forearms and mental toughness.
In order to perform the Farmers Carry correctly pick up your kettlebells (or dumbbells) with a solid grip, drive through your heels and maintain a straight back until you're upright.
Walk for a reasonable distance (50 feet) with small, quick steps - focus on your breathing as you walk.
These will burn your forearms hard, the Farmers Carry is largely a mental exercise - push through the pain and focus on each step.
Reverse Grip Barbell Curls
When curling with your palms facing away from you (as opposed to your palms facing you in a regular curl) you will be targeting your forearms and grip strength instead of the short or long head of your biceps.
Ensure you do not lift too heavy and begin swinging the way, if you do you'll be taking tension of your forearms and as such won't be growing your forearms!
How To Perform Reverse Grip Barbell Curls Correctly
Stand up straight while grasping a barbell with a shoulder width grip, elbows tucked in and palms facing towards you.
Curl the barbell up by contracting your biceps and moving your forearms, your upper arm should not move at all.
Curl until the barbell is at shoulder height.
Squeeze and hold this contraction for one second.
Slowly lower the bar back down until your arms are extended in front of you.
The dumbbell hammer curl utilizes a neutral grip making this curl variation far more forgiving on the wrists than the reverse grip barbell curl, while still hitting the forearms hard.
Stand up straight with a dumbbell in each hand, rotate your palms until they're facing inward (towards your torso) and tuck your elbows into your sides.
Curl the dumbbells up one at a time by contracting your biceps and moving your forearm, your upper arm should not move at all.
Curl until the dumbbell is at shoulder height.
Squeeze and hold this contraction for one second.
Slowly lower the dumbbell back down until your arm is extended in front of you.
Repeat with alternate arm.
"SJ, what's the point of hanging from a bar, shouldn't we just do pull-ups or chin-ups?"
Dead hangs are an exercise that literally everyone can benefit from, whether you're a mass monster, a committed CrossFitter or a weekend warrior...
And here's the best part - In terms of form they're extremely easy to perform and you can reap all the rewards of dead hangs with only 10~ minutes a week!
Chin-ups, pull-ups, muscle-ups, front levers, back levers, skin the cat... the majority of guys want to master these key exercises but fail to do so.
They go through the progressions of the exercise itself but they never go right back to basics.
In order to master pulling exercises you must first master hanging.
Rock climbers and gymnasts, two disciplines that require immense pulling strength recognise this and include a hell of a lot of hanging in their routines, be it from pull-ups bars, rings, rocks or hang boards - the benefits are the same.
Your forearms are under tension for the duration of your dead hang sets, I guarantee you when you're able to hang from a pull-up bar for 2+ minutes you'l never complain about having small forearms.
The pump, vascularity and growth I've noticed in my forearms cannot be compared to that of isolation exercises such a the reverse grip barbell curl.
How To Perform Dead Hangs Correctly
Begin with a pull-up bar.
Grasp the bar with a shoulder width (or slightly wider) grip with your palms facing away from your body (overhand grip).
Wrap your thumb around the bar.
Ensure your arms are at a dead hang (straight, no bend in the elbow) you should not feel any muscle engagement from your lats.
Relax your body while you hang for the desired amount of time - no swinging, no fidgeting. Focus.
Putting It All Together... The Forearm Workout
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, there's a couple of approaches you can use to implementing these exercises to build up your forearms.
You can perform 2 or 3 exercises at the end of training one of your major muscle groups once or twice a week or you can opt to perform a full forearm workout.
I've personally tried both styles of forearm training and have noticed consistent, steady gains with both.
Here's my recommend forearm workout:
Towel pull-ups - 3 sets - until failure
Farmers carry - 3 sets - max distance
Reverse grip barbell curls - 2 sets - 10 reps per set
Hammer curls - 2 sets - 10 reps per set
Dead hangs - 3 sets - until failure
BONUS Exercise - The Grip Crusher
Another popular and completely legitimate method to build upon your forearm size and overall grip strength are hand grippers.
You can use one of these bad boys while you sit on the couch if you wish, performing 4 or 5 sets of 8 - 10 reps two to three times a week will have you building up your forearms and grip swiftly.
Now, I'm not talking about a weak Walmart branded grip trainer, I'm talking about the gold standard of grip training devices, the Captains of Crunch... these guys have been around for in excess of 15 years and are hugely popular in powerlifting and bodybuilding circles around. I recommend starting off with one of their entry level grip crushers, regardless of how strong you think your grip strength might be (some of these are near impossible to squeeze).
Check them out here.