Frank "Wrath" McGrath knows how he'll be remembered. This walking, talking GI Joe's disregard for moderation has separated him from other competitors throughout his career. In a sport that can't seem to decide whether it prefers balance or extremity, he reminds us that history remembers the freaks forever. His prize for this brashness has been a number of body parts that could be picked out of a police lineup.
The most notable aspect of his professional physique is found hanging south of his massive shoulders. Thick, gnarly, and vascular to the point they seem inhuman, McGrath's biceps and forearms didn't just emerge from the womb that way. Genetics aside, he earned his freak status through years of seam-splitting hard work.
"There are people all over the world who train like crazy and want to have the best body parts. And if you're one of these people who, out of all these people, have the craziest—that's awesome," he says. "You don't just blend in. You're a freak. You should embrace it and go with it."
Playing to your strengths is one thing. Riding them to their full, bizarre potential is another. Here's how Wrath does it.
The Perfect Pump Day
Wrath trains biceps twice a week—a day heavy with triceps, and a light day with forearms. On his light day, he focuses on targeted isolation work and chasing the pump. He doesn't have to chase it far. Combining old-school free weights with some strategic cable work and a little improvisation, Wrath trains quickly and with purpose, blowing up his arms in no time.
On this particular day, he launched the assault with a bread-and-butter mass movement, the barbell curl, using the wrist-sparing EZ-curl bar. Taking some inspiration from Arnold, he pulled the arm blaster off the Fitness City wall. After pumping his biceps full of blood through his garden-hose-sized veins, he ditched the barbell and sought out further biceps isolation.
Creating a makeshift preacher bench out of an adjustable incline, Wrath began hammering one-arm dumbbell preacher curls. With a steady and deliberate motion, he emphasized the stretch and contraction of every rep, squeezing the muscle belly and focusing on those terrifying peaks.
His biceps wasted from precision bombing, Wrath used a veteran technique to transition from biceps to forearm training, attaching the rope to the low pulley and banging out some cable hammer curls. The change in grip brought the brachioradialis into play with every rep while still hitting his bis, allowing him to work the whole arm.
Forearms to the Forefront
With no juice left to wring from his grapefruit-sized biceps, and his forearms warmed up from the rope cable hammer curls, Wrath moved his focus to below the elbow. First, he performed multiple sets of behind-the-back barbell wrist curls, allowing the bar to roll down his fingertips and gripping hard as he flexed his massive meat hooks. Rotating his hips forward slightly allowed him to get a full range of motion without his backside getting in the way.
McGrath favors an intuitive approach to training, and today, his intuition told him to try out a whole new movement: the flat-bench dumbbell wrist curl. "I've seen a lot of people do them, and I thought I'd give them a try," he said. "They're actually a lot harder than I thought they'd be."
The weight moves a few inches at most on this exercise, putting the lifter at such an extreme disadvantage that Wrath found himself grimacing after one set with a 30-pound dumbbell. Particularly after the heavier barbell wrist curls, this movement guarantees a quick and intense pump.
Determined to let no portion of his forearm anatomy go undamaged, Wrath moved back to the low cable pulley to perform a few sets of one of his favorite exercises—the reverse cable curl. Using a straight bar, he cramped the outer muscles of his forearm into a gruesome contraction with each rep. Enough, right? Not quite.
Wrath's final exercise was also the simplest—and as those familiar with it will attest, the cruelest. "It's just a bar with a rope and a weight on the end of it, and you're just curling the weight up," he said of the wrist roller. "Not an easy exercise. Probably the best pump I got out of all the exercises I did today for forearms was that exercise."
The swollen web made by Wrath's veins told the story. Brutal in their archaic simplicity, the wrist roller is perhaps the ultimate way to make light weight feel heavy and let you know that you're done.
The Guns of Wrath Routine
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Do you even lift… forearms?
If you want forearms that deeply disturb your friends and loved ones, you'll need more than a weekly blitz like this. You also need to use your mitts the way they're meant to be used: to hold and carry heavy-ass stuff.
"I stopped using straps on a lot of things. There's some things I do, but only if I really need it, like some crazy heavy deadlifts or something," Wrath says. "I see people strapping up using dumbbells, other nonsense that you don't even need to use straps for. You're not using your grip at all. Like doing chin-ups with straps? I don't understand that."
It's a simple recipe: Strengthen your grip every time you train, and then absolutely murder it once a week. "A lot of people tell me they don't have forearms, and I say, 'Do you train them?'" Wrath recalls. "They go, 'No, I just do arms.' I'm like, 'Well, there you go.' You gotta train them." A plan, an open mind, and a high tolerance for pain are all it takes.