To train or not to train the forearm is a hotly contested topic. Even the athletes who are the very best in the world at fulfilling their muscle growth potential are split on it. I have read of some bodybuilders that train their forearms in excess of twice per week, I have also seen statements from others suggesting they haven’t at all throughout their careers.
The muscles within the forearm are there to:
– aid in flexion (bending) and extension (straightening) of the elbow
– aid in supination (rotation so the palm of your hand faces up) and pronation (palm faces down) of the forearm
– provide strength when gripping an object
If you were to compare the muscles that make the forearm function to any other in the body, it would probably be the muscles that make up the calf (gastrocnemius and soleus). They are both relatively small groups of muscles and both support the structure of the distal limbs in a human skeleton.
However, when performing a leg movement (squat, lunge, leg press, leg extension etc.) the recruitment/activation of muscle fibres within the calf are minimal the large majority of the time. The calves are pretty much used to stabilise the joint.
When performing any upper body movement whatsoever, providing you are gripping or applying pressure through your wrist, the muscles within your forearm are firing on all cylinders. Not believe me? Then; try deadlifting for 15-20 reps…. what gives out first? Try a wide grip pull up for maximal reps…. what gives out first?
This is where I see an issue. I regularly see your average every day guy training them in the gym. Picking up a light set of dumbbells or the EZ bar and ‘wrist curling’ them over the edge of a bench. For a top level bodybuilder I would say yes… carry on…. as they clearly know a fair bit about building BIG muscle. But for the average guy….. DON’T DO IT! Your body will benefit far greater from squeezing in an extra two sets of deadlifts… or an extra three sets of barbell rows…. or two extra sets of push ups….. you catch my drift?
I know people see these bodybuilders in the gym and think ‘they know what they’re doing…. so I’ll copy them’, but what you have to remember, is these guys/girls have trained for years and years…. have done all of the ground work…. and are looking to change tiny aspects of their physique, whilst often training in excess of ten times per week. Your ‘average Joe’ certainly DOES NOT!
To further back up my point; have you ever seen a guy with a gigantic ripped torso and bulging upper arms with tiny forearms? I haven’t. Your forearms 99 times out of 100 will grow proportionally with the rest of your upper body…. even if using straps!!!!!!
To finish off; I have only ever trained forearms when rehabilitating an injury (currently with my elbow tendinitis). If you’re an ‘average joe’ looking to improve your body composition and build some lean muscle, then put the tiny dumbbells down, avoid those ridiculous looking wrist curls and go do something that will benefit you! If you’re a competing bodybuilder, then do whatever the heck you like, as you probably know what you are doing at this point.
If you have any questions in regards to this article then do get in touch!
Yours in health