You enter the gym and you are intent on wrecking your arms today. You’re going to train biceps and triceps to complete failure. You’re going to start with free weights for triceps, brutalizing them with skullcrushers, behind the neck triceps presses, bench dips, and kickbacks. Then, you’ll attack that cable center and finish them off. Set after set of pressdowns and overhead triceps presses. You can’t move them anymore, but you’re just getting started! You return to the free weight area and grab a barbell (EZ or straight, your choice!) and begin biceps curls. After a few tough sets, you attack the dumbbell rack and work some “down-the-rack” curls where you exhaust the biceps over and over again with descending weights. After a brief four sets on the preacher curl bench, you head over to the cables, where you finish off the biceps with some sustained-tension concentration curls, both one- and two-armed. After a shower and a protein shake, you’re driving home with the pump of your life, almost smug in the fact that you just did everything possible to stimulate your arms to grow. Except for one thing: you forgot to train forearms.
You spent 90 minutes torturing your arms to grow, but then neglected a muscle group that is longer than your upper arm, and visible much more of the time! A single failure point for most upper body exercises, the forearms are a highly important muscle group. You, like many other bodybuilders in the gym who arrive with detailed plans for biceps and triceps, walked out the door without so much as a single set for them. This is unacceptable for two reasons. First, you are short-circuiting your bodybuilding goals. Your upper arms are going to become disproportionately large compared to your forearms. Judges will penalize you for it, and you’ll never fully display that “monster” look of thickness and power.
Tossing the aesthetics out the window, you’ll also short-circuit your gains in another way. As previously mentioned, the forearms are the single most common point of failure in upper-body movements. Deadlifts, rows, pulldowns, curls, and many other movements usually see their sets end because the forearms (and your grip) fail – not the muscle group being trained. This is highly unproductive, as we all know the most muscle gains come once we are able to train for failure. Therefore bodybuilders (and powerlifters) who neglect forearm training are fostering an environment where they’ll never fully train to muscular failure on many movements in the desired muscle groups – and therefore never make their potential gains.
Here’s a sample forearms routine to get you on your way. Use it once or twice per week according to your levels of soreness, and desired forearms development goals.
- Dumbbell Hammer curls 4 x 8
- Behind-the-back wrist curls 3 x 12 – 15
- Seated bench wrist curls 4 x 12 – 20
These three basic movements should be completed at the conclusion of your biceps and triceps training, and again on back day following your back routine, provided you don’t train arms for at least 2 days afterwards, so that the forearms will have time to recover.