Many gym-goers think they have it all figured out when it comes to lifting weights. You most likely spent a great deal of time crafting a well-rounded routine that targets all your major muscle groups. A closer look at your arm routine probably reveals plenty of moves to work your biceps, triceps, and shoulders, but if you’re not taking time to focus on your forearms, you’re seriously limiting your potential. Bodybuilding.com explains while many of the moves for your upper arms work the lower part to an extent, you really need to do some exercises that target these muscles specifically. Weak forearms prevent you from realizing your full potential for lifts like the bench press, because they act as a support system for your upper arms.
Even guys who aren’t after the glory of lifting the most weight at the gym need to incorporate some lower-arm training into their routine. Sports like rock climbing, wrestling, baseball, volleyball, and golf all demand strong forearms. Developing these muscles will also come in handy when dealing with a stubborn pickle jar.
Before you start throwing new moves into your routine, you need to be a bit strategic. STACK says you should group forearm exercises at the end of your weight program, because tiring this area too soon will cause all of your other lifts to suffer. As for the exercises, these five are some of the best out there. Incorporate these moves into your routine, and you could start seeing bigger gains and a better golf score.
1. Plate tosses
There are a number of different moves that go by this name, but we’re focusing on the version that works each arm separately. Because you’ll be using one hand at a time, make sure you start with a manageable weight so you don’t lose control and drop the weight on your toes. Muscle & Fitness likes this move because it’s great for building strength and explosiveness.
To perform the exercise, stand in an athletic stance with your knees slightly bent and your feet about shoulder-width apart. Hold a plate in front of your waist with one hand. Drop the weight, then quickly move your hand down to catch it in the same spot. After 10 repetitions, switch sides, and aim for three to four sets.
2. Dumbbell rotations
It’s not always the buffest golfers who are best. Having a massive upper body won’t mean anything if you don’t have strong forearms to match. Golf Digest says these lower arm muscles are what enable you to transfer the power you generate to your club and, ultimately, the ball. One of Golf Digest’s favorite moves to help build this area of your arms is the dumbbell rotation. Keeping your upper arms and elbows against your body, raise your forearms so they are parallel to the floor. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with the ends perpendicular to the floor. Rotate both of your wrists left until the dumbbells are parallel to the floor, then return to the starting position. Complete eight to 12 repetitions, then reverse the movement to your right. Repeat the exercise one more time on each side.
3. Barbell wrist curls
It doesn’t do you any good to have strong arms, but limited mobility. In addition to building strength, Muscle & Fitness says incorporating barbell wrist curls into your routine can help improve your flexibility. That’s good news for anyone who enjoys sports, since staying limber is crucial to moving around with ease.
While most guys perform this exercise mindlessly, you’ll get a lot better results if you move at a controlled pace. To get into position, sit on a bench and rest the backs of your forearms on your knees, allowing your wrists to dangle. With your palms facing up, grip the barbell in both hands and curl it toward you, using just your wrists, as far as you can. Once you reach the top, squeeze for a second, then slowly lower back to the starting position. Men’s Fitness recommends three sets of 12 to 15 repetitions.
4. Farmer’s walk
While many forearm exercises focus on using light weights and targeted movements, you’ll also get good results from a heavier load combined with an isometric move. Think of how challenging planks can be. Your core starts to burn even though you aren’t moving, and you can apply the same principle to your forearms with a farmer’s walk. The best part about this exercise is you don’t need any special equipment. Though it works with dumbbells and kettlebells, you can also fill up some buckets or use any set of heavy objects you can carry by a handle. Just make sure you’re going for something quite heavy.
Grip the handles of your weights of choice in each hand, lift them off the ground, then walk 100 to 200 feet before setting them back down. Men’s Health suggests completing six to 10 repetitions with one minute of rest after each. Remember, the weight should be heavy. By the end of your last repetition, your forearms should feel very tired.
5. Towel pull-ups
This move is extremely challenging, so those who can’t do regular pull-ups will need to build their strength a bit before attempting it. Life by Daily Burn explains how to perform this move properly. Instead of gripping the pull-up bar, sling a towel over the top. Grip one end in each hand, then perform pull-ups as you normally do. As you reach the top, you’ll need to move your head to the side to avoid a nasty bonk. There are no rules for repetitions or sets for this exercise, so just go for as many as you can. Because these are so difficult, you might want to make towel pull-ups your last strength exercise for the day.
As you improve, you may find you need more of a challenge. Livestrong.com says you can easily intensify your effort by opting for a longer towel, since it’s more unstable. Whatever type of towel you decide to use, just be sure it’s strong enough to support your full weight. Kitchen rags are not a good choice.