The muscles that run along your forearms control movement at the wrist and they’re recruited during most upper body strength training exercises. For example, during biceps curl, they prevent your wrists from collapsing backwards and during bench press they hold your wrists steady while you grip the bar. More isolated exercises are needed if you’re interested in building size in your forearms, however. Apply muscle-building principles to maximize your workouts and gain size in your forearms as quickly as possible.
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To thoroughly overload the muscles in your forearms, do three to four sets of each exercise. Each set should include 12 to 20 reps. Your muscles respond to high-volume workouts that consist of multiple sets of higher repetitions by increasing in size. Select a weight for each exercise that causes your muscles to reach fatigue before they come to the 20th rep. If you can do more than 20 reps of any exercise, it’s time to kick up the weight. Otherwise, you won’t be breaking down the muscles adequately to stimulate muscle growth.
Little Rest Between Sets
After a couple sets, your forearms will become tired and swollen as fluid rushes to the area and you may be tempted to rest for longer periods in between sets. You want to keep the rest periods short, as this helps promote muscle-building. Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist Jim Smith recommends waiting just 90 seconds before jumping into the next set.
Select a wrist curl, reverse wrist curl and hammer curl exercise to include in your forearm workout. Wrist curling involves bending your palm towards the inside of your forearm against resistance and curl exercises include seated barbell wrist curl, standing cable wrist curl and dumbbell wrist curl. Reverse wrist curl, or wrist extension, involves bending the wrist so that the back of the hand moves towards the forearm. Exercises for extension include standing reverse wrist curl with an ez-curl bar, dumbbell reverse curl and the wrist roller. Hammer curl is done by holding a pair of dumbbells down by your sides with your palms facing the sides of your thighs. Bend your elbows to bring the weights up to your shoulders.
Incorporate your forearm circuit into your schedule three days per week and on nonconsecutive days. If you’re working the forearms on the same day you’re doing other upper body exercises, fit them in at the end of your workouts. The circuit will leave your forearm muscles fatigued and you don’t want that to limit your performance during other upper body exercises like biceps curls or lying triceps extensions. Avoid working your forearms multiple days in a row, because it’s during the recovery days that the forearm muscles will heal and grow.