Why Should We Strengthen Our Forearms?
The forearm muscle groups are often a neglected area for athletes and body builders alike. So often, the biceps, deltoids and other “glamour” muscles are the focal point of upper extremity development. However, forearm strength is vitally important to allow athletes to develop and maximise the exercises that target these glamour muscles, whilst also reducing the chances of injuring your upper limb! It is a necessity therefore that we devote some time to improving the strength in our forearms, hands and wrists. Grip strength is also incredibly useful in everyday life, often the weak point for strenuous upper limb tasks. Forearm power is also vital if competing in sports like climbing and martial arts.
Types of grip strength
There are three main types of grip strength: Support, Crush, and Pinch. There are other divisions and subdivisions and types of strength that blur the category lines such as bending strength, wrist strength, lever strength, open vs closed hand, dynamic vs static, crimp, etc but are generally more advanced.
- Support is how much weight you can statically hold. For example: holding a deadlift bar or fat grip handle.
- Crush is the movement that involves dynamically closing your hand, such as using grippers, grip machines, or barbell/dumbbell rollups.
- Pinch involves bringing your thumb and fingers together such as with a pinch block or hub pinch or a dynamic device like the titan’s telegraph key.
What Are The Benefits Of Forearm/Grip Training?
Grip training is an often neglected area that can provide huge benefits to your weight training regiment and general day to day life. In the gym having a strong grip will reduce failed deadlifts due to grip failure and eventually allow you to ditch the straps. Instead of hoping your grip keeps up with your deadlift, it is important to get your grip ahead of your deadlift and never have to worry about it in the first place. One of the main benefits is the ability to show off your newly found feat of strength. There’s no other type of strength that you’ll be able to show off more readily than grip strength, as well as more advanced feats of strength you can accomplish later on like tearing and bending things most people can’t even make a dent in. Of course, the most common reason people complete grip training is to attain big muscular forearms. The most visible of all the muscles you work so hard to build (along with the neck). The training and implements are also a lot of fun and can be combined with barbell/bodyweight training and are pretty easy and cheap to get a hold of (or build). If you have/go to a gym you have some of the basics already. Grip training is a lot more than just grippers (though the gripper is the most well known and actually one of the more technical strength exercises and can keep you busy for a long time). There are many aspects, exercises, techniques, and events to keep anyone interested, and we’ve discussed our favourite five of these below.
How Often Should You Train Your Forearms?
This varies greatly person to person, but beginners should slowly increase their grip resistance training, 2 times a week the first week or two; building up to 3 a week which should be sufficient for a long time until you become more familiar with your limits. The biggest limiting factor in grip training is tendon/ligament/finger pulley strength. These strengthen much more slowly than the forearm muscles, over the course of weeks/months and not days. This is yet another reason to start with a beginner routine to build up those tissues before getting into more joint stressing specializations like bending/block weights/plate curls etc.
Farmer walks are a well established and often considered the best forearm and grip strengthening exercise. A heavy farmer’s walk will adequately target your back, shoulders, and forearm muscles. The farmer’s walk is possibly the simplest exercise you can do. Just pick up some heavy weights, walk as far as you can and repeat multiple times.
Fat Grips are a simple yet extremely effective piece of kit that helps your target your forearms whilst completing your normal gym routine. you use them for anything involving dumb bells or bar bells. Though you'll likely have to do less weight than you normally would to start. For instance it will make deadlifting heavy weight quite a bit harder. A good way to start with them is using them for curls and farmers walks and working towards compound movements.
Deadlifts are well known for being the "king" of all exercises, and for good reason. Deadlifting is an essential exercise used for gaining overall muscle mass, core strength and stability. deadlifts work all the major muscle groups in your body and provide one of the best workouts possible without having to break the bank for tonnes of equipment. Check out the Defranco Fitness video for proper deadlift form. It is advised that prior to attempting a deadlift, you should seek a personal training / Physical Therapy session to ensure you have proper deadlift form.
The pull-up is what is classified as a closed kinetic chain (CKC) exercise (your effort moves you, rather than an open kinetic chain where your effort moves an object), which is safer and more functional than an open kinetic chain exercise. There are countless variations of pull-ups that will target different areas of your body, but you cannot complete a single pull-up without having some semblance of forearm strength. Pull-ups are a fantastic exercise for pinch grip training as you are forced to contract your forearms with great force so that you don't fall off! You can purchase a simple pull up bar that rests over your door frame here!
The Tyler Twist exercise is the latest evidence based exercise in the treatment of elbow tendonopathies such as tennis elbow. It requires the use of a Theraband Flexbar, which can be purchased here!
When performed correctly, the forearm tendons are stretched whilst a tensile load is also slowly placed through them.
How to do it:
- Grasp the Flexbar with your injured arm near to its base and extend your wrist.
- Grasp the upper end of the bar with your non-affected arm so that it faces away from you.
- Twist the bar with the top hand as you stabilise with the bottom hand.
- Hold both wrists steady as you extend both elbows in front of you. The wrist on your injured side should be extended whilst the other wrist is flexed.
- Slowly release the bar with your injured side, while maintaining tension with the uninjured side.
- The more twisting motion you can apply with your uninjured side to begin with, the better the resistance will be for the injured side.