How to Structure Forearm Workouts For Size and Grip
To most lifters my forearms look massive. While I downplay their size, my forearms measure around 15 inches. All things considered that’s pretty big; larger than most men’s arms.
I am often asked what I do to develop massive forearm size. So here’s the answer. Ready?
I don’t train forearms or grip, and I never will. Forearm training bores the snot out of me, and my grip strength is naturally strong. Most of you will never have to train forearms either.
If you think about it, when we lift, we are constantly performing grip and forearm work. Nearly every exercise we perform requires us to grip and hold a barbell, dumbbell, or a handle. If anything, our forearms get overworked as it is. Most of us will find that this continuous gripping and grabbing will lead to more than enough forearm size.
But then, we have the 5% that have awful grip strength, or naturally pathetic forearm size. They can’t build forearm size no matter what they do, or their grip strength is so weak that even moderate deadlifts and dumbbell rows are a major challenge.
Or perhaps… Perhaps you are just flat-out hungry for Popeye-like forearm size and completely insane gripping strength. Then this article is for you too.
What follows is a detailed look at how to approach forearm and grip training. Included is a sample workout. Understand that there are endless ways to structure workouts. So, if you don’t like the sample program contained in this article, don’t hesitate to try something new.
4 Types of Forearm and Grip Exercises
There are four main types of grip and forearm training:
- Static holds – How long you can hold an object, or support your own weight while climbing, doing pull ups, etc.
- Pinch grip – The strength you have between a finger (or multiple fingers) and your thumb.
- Crushing grip – This is the power between your fingers and palm.
- Wrist strength – Development of wrist strength also works to develop forearm size and power.
Static holds. Static hold strength forges the ability to hold a barbell without straps, support your own weight during pull ups, or to hold on to a dumbbell during rows or a machine handle while repping out.
Examples of static hold exercises include:
- Barbell static hold
- Dumbbell static hold
- Pull up bar hang
- Farmer’s carry/walk
Pinch grip. Pinch grip is something we use quite often in life, we are just unaware of it. Development of your pinch grip can also help with your static hold strength and your crush grip. There is an obvious synergy here. When you think of pinch grip, think of thumb strength.
Examples of pinch grip exercises include:
- Plate pinch (2 to 4 plates)
- Hex dumbbell lifts
- Barbell plate hub lifts
- Plate curls
- Pinch grip Reeve’s deadlift
- Kettlebell handle pinch holds
Crush grip. Think handshake strength. Development of your crush strength helps with static holds, and with forearm size.
Examples of crush grip exercises include:
- Hand grippers
- Tennis ball squeezes
- Sand in bucket crush work
- Thick bar exercises
Wrist strength. Wrist strength is an integral part of both pushing and pulling movements. A strong wrist will help to stabilize weight during a bench press and squat, as well as with cable crossovers and reverse flyes. Development of wrist strength also helps to build up your forearm size.
Examples of wrist exercises include:
- Dumbbell wrist curls
- Barbell wrist curls
- Reverse dumbbell wrist curls
- Reverse barbell wrist curls
Tiger Fitness Editorial Director Steve Shaw discusses how to train forearms and grip.
Building a Forearm Workout
I recommend training forearms twice a week. You don’t need a lot of work each day, just quality work. Tackle your forearm and grip strength work at the end of a training session.
I suggest three exercises per day. Your first workout of the week could be a pinch grip exercise, a wrist exercise, and a static hold. Your second workout could be a crush grip exercises, a wrist exercise, and a static hold.
Here is a sample schedule:
- Day 1 – Upper Body Workout A
- Day 2 – Lower Body Workout A + Grip/Forearm
- Day 3 – Off
- Day 4 – Upper Body Workout B
- Day 5 – Lower Body Workout B + Grip/Forearm
- Day 6 – Off
- Day 7 – Off
|Dumbbell Wrist Curls||3||15|
|Crush Gripper||5||Max Time|
|Barbell Static Hold||3||Max Time|
|Barbell Reverse Wrist Curls||3||15|
|2 Plate Pinch||3||Max Time|
|Farmers Carries||3||100 feet|