May 12, 2018 3 min read

It only seems natural to begin with a Popeye reference, he really set the bar for thick strong forearms as a sign of strength. Regular weight training and a steady diet of tins of spinach might be enough for some to build thick forearms if it’s in their genetic disposition, but for many others it’s going to take a bit of work. So roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty, cause building impressive forearms will take a months of training, but you will start to look great wearing rolled up business shirts.

High Volume Training

Like your calves, forearms are hard to grow. The lower sections of our limbs are composed of muscles with a higher volume of slow-twitch muscles fibres, making them particularly stubborn to grow. The forearms muscles are resilient, and need to be to be able to grip, pull and lift all day long. The last thing you want after a long day is to not be able to hold a fork while you eat dinner. Being resilient, they are hard to fatigue and require close, focussed attention. It’s true, that for some people doing exercises like deadlifts, rows and chin ups will grow thick forearms, but it really comes down to genetics whether or not that will happen. So if yours are lacking a bit of size, then start ending arm day with a few focussed forearm exercises to burn them out at the end of the session.

Pull Heavy

Having said that, increasing your pulling, rowing, deadlifting capacity will lead to building thicker forearms. Mix up the grip on your chin ups to hit both a supinated and pronated wrist position and go heavy when performing row variations. You should also mix your rowing grip so you are doing underhand rows and overhand wide and close grip rows. Doing this will build your back, as well as adding some size and strength to your forearms.  

Test Your Grip

One way to work your grip strength, and build the muscles in your forearms is by using thick bars, thick handled dumbbells and kettlebells. A thicker bar makes your grip strength work hard to hold onto the bar and so will burn your forearms out as you are doing biceps work. And if you are in the habit of using wrist straps when doing deadlifts and rows, try going without. Wrist straps will take away the workload put on your grip strength when doing those exercises so you miss out on some good forearm work. So go strapless, or only use them for those final few sets to hit your maximum lift. Most people rarely push their grip strength in everyday lift, unless you are a tradie or removalist, so building your grip strength can also just help in day to day life, and to get that deal sealing strong handshake.

Walk How a Farmer Walks

The farmer’s walk exercise might look simple and for many rural workers and tradespeople, it’s part of their everyday job. When done properly, the farmer’s walk will build muscle, and increase strength. They work your shoulders, back and forearms, testing your grip strength, and it is one of the simplest exercises you can do. You don’t need a spotter, or much else really. Just pick up the heaviest weights you can handle and walk with them. Then walk back again, and so forth. Think tall spine, keep your shoulders back and strong and walk like you are proud and have purpose. You might not see this exercise in your Instagram feed or being done in the gym very often because people enjoy finding new, fashionable exercises to do and one thing farmer’s walk aren’t is cool. You will kind of look like you are lost, trying to find the rack to put your weights back on. But they work, so give them a try. Get to work and keep it simple, it’s always the simple things that are most effective. Incorporate these tips into your training and have some patience. Your forearms might take a little while to respond but soon you will be wearing short sleeves everywhere.

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