About a year ago, I wrote an article named "Wrapping It Up", and was mainly a pro/con-thing for the use of wrist straps. My personal opinion is that the use of straps is Ok - as it allows you to be non-compromising with your back training - but that you should limit the use of straps for when it's really necessary. ANDâ€¦ Very importantly: If you choose to use straps, you must remember to train your forearms separately! Else you end up with poor grip-strength, underdeveloped forearms, and will surely not train very well the one day that you forget to bring the straps to the gym. It happens, sooner or later.
In fact, I would like to expand that as far as saying that everyone should include a forearm-specific exercise or two on their bicep-days. Why? To make sure that your forearms stay up to par with the rest of you, of course! Besides, anyone who is the least conscious about their looks knows that forearms are one of two features that are often on display, indicating physical power (the other one is the neck, which is virtually ALWAYS visible - which will be dealt with separately. Click here to view the article). Whenever you wear a T-shirt, tank top, or a shirt with rolled-up sleeves, you convey a clear message of physical power, which is usually to an advantage - even in your professional career! It's psychology - a physically strong person has an easier time getting the attention, and gets a natural respect by his peers.
There's no need to overdo it, but adding 2-3 forearm-exercises after biceps can do miracles if done continuously. Make sure that these are divided so BOTH sides gets their share of the action. Doing forearm-rolls with barbell behind the back is excellent to combine with reverse forearm-curl on a Scott-board, for example - and surely enough to stimulate growth, if taken to exhaustion for 2-3 sets. So, without further babbling: The essentials of my favorite forearm-blasters!
Forearm-rolls w/ Barbell Behind The Back - View Exercise
Use a power-cage and set the bars so that your barbell will only be inches beneath your fists as you stand straight (but not so high that the barbell actually touches the bars at the lowest point when you roll it out to your fingertips). Stand with a shoulder-wide stance, knees slightly bent, abs tense. Grip the bar behind your back, making sure to keep your shoulders in a natural and relaxed position. Let the bar roll down as far towards your fingertips as possible, without losing the grip. At the bottom, make a distinct turn and roll back up until your fists are entirely clenched around the bar again. In a fluent motion, continue the exercise by flexing your wrists back and up as far as you can, focusing on squeezing the bottom-side of your forearms. When you reach fatigue, do partials as far as you can to wring the last ounces of energy out.
Nautilus Forearm Machine - View Exercise
I don't know what the technical name for this machine is, so I usually call it the "Squeezer". The principle is simple - load on weights at the far end of a lever, grip the handles at your short end and put your palms against the non-moving handles (the handles are pretty thin, so gripping both is no problem) and start squeezing! Because of the lever-action, you won't be handling any major weights - it's like trying to hold an empty barbell with both hands one inch from the edge = heavy as hell, even though you could hold it with only ONE hand if you were to hold it in the middle.
This physics-lesson aside, what could possible go wrong with a machine like this? For one thing, it's easy to use the back and upper arms to pull the handles towards you instead of bracing your palms against the non-moving handles. It turns into a highly inefficient rowing exercise! To remedy this, I usually make sure to position myself as unsteadily as possible (!), crossing my feet behind the seat and leaning forward so that it'd fall flat on my face if the non-moving handles would come loose. If I'd try to cheat then, I'd tip forward and knock my forehead against the plates! Ummâ€¦ Make a note of that - make sure that your hands are clean and dry, so you don't accidentally slip and does just that.
Forearm Rolls Machine - View Exercise (Shown w/ DB)
This is an interesting machine, usually found in some dark corner of the gym where nobody ever dares to venture. What it is, is basically a metal-version of a slim rolling pin with a weight tied to it, so that for every round you roll the pin, the weights travel up an inch or two. Don't worry about any line for this machine - no matter how crowded the rest of the gym is, this baby is ALWAYS available! The reason for this is simple: This machine is unbeatable when it comes to dragging you into the pain zone of lactic acid, and for your information, the rest of the guys are either ignorant or afraid of it. However, if you're up for some serious training, you'll be miles ahead right from the start!
Another advantage is that it's excellent for supersets - when you've made one side of your forearms totally cramped up, you just start rolling the handle the other way, and you're frying the other side without having lost a second in the process! On a side-note, this is a good option if you're running low on time and only have so much to spend on forearms - blast each side of your forearms twice without pausing, and you're definitely good to go!
As for the execution: Stand comfortably and steadily, make sure to roll the bar through a full range of motion for each forearm before engaging the other arms. Keep the speed up, without cheating. On the way down (lowering the weight), make sure to resist the weight so you get a nice and controlled descent. If the weights clash when they hit the stack, you didn't do your job properly!
In part 2 we'll have a look at a couple of other painful, yet effective ways to get Popeye-like forearms.
Note: This Is Part One, Click Here For Part Two!