Although they do not always receive a lot of attention in workouts, the forearms need to be trained. They do work in any movement that involves gripping, but specifically targeting the forearms with a few exercises can improve grip strength which is important for everyday uses such as carrying heavy objects or developing a strong handshake. Stronger forearms and gripping ability will also help in other areas of weight training by allowing you to grip heavier weights.
Forearm Curls (Traditional and Reverse)
When weightlifting specifically for the forearms there are two primary exercises: the forearm curl and the reverse forearm curl. There are different variations on these exercises that make them more difficult.
The traditional forearm curl is performed holding dumbbells in each hand or a barbell in a closed grip with palms facing up. The curling motion of this exercise trains several major muscles of the forearm such as the brachloradialis and superficial flexor muscles.
For the reverse forearm curl, the palms are facing downward and the wrist extends upward. This motion trains the extensor muscles of the posterior forearm such as the extensor carpi ulnaris and the extensor digiti minimi.
Using a squeeze ball, often referred to as a stress ball, is one of the most portable ways to tone forearm muscles. Most squeeze balls fit in the palm of a hand and are light in weight, often made of heavy-duty rubber with sand or dried beans inside. For a bodybuilder or power lifter, a tennis or racquetball ball can be used because they are stronger with less give. While traditional and reverse forearm curls work the major muscles, squeezing a shifting weight like a stress ball will work the smaller, stabilising muscles of the forearms.
Towel Gripping Exercises
Since the forearms are used in exercises for other body parts that involve gripping, they can also be trained at the same time as other muscles. The work placed on the forearms can be altered by gripping a towel or rope. These create an unstable gripping environment, much in the same way as doing an exercise on one leg as opposed to two. This unstable environment enhances the body's proprioceptive abilities, building both endurance and stabilisation in the muscles. One good exercise to try this on is the pull-up. Besides strengthening the forearms, this variation also allows the arms to turn during the pull up which is their natural motion. Other exercises that are good when performed with a towel are the bent-over row and lat pull-down.
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