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Since 3 Dec. '02

High Intensity Forearm Training
By: Dennis B. Weis
(Author of Mass!, Raw Muscle and Anabolic Muscle Mass)

The arms are beyond doubt the most impressive of muscle groups with most bodybuilders. Just look around the gym next time you train, and you can't help' but notice that more time and effort is placed upon their development than on any other muscle group. It isn't so strange then that a physique champion (amateur and pro alike) will most generally choose a majority of arm poses when in a contest or before the camera.

If you carefully study the arms of leading physique stars you'll notice that their forearms start to broaden and thicken immediately above the wrist and continue to thicken right up to the elbow. Developing an impressive set of "guns" doesn't just include high peaked biceps and thick horse shoe triceps. You must have complete arm development and that includes the forearms as well. Just put on a 3/4 length sleeve shirt and you'll see what I mean. If you have been spending too much of your workout on upper arms, hoping to get those magic 18 inches on the tape, and not enough on the forearms then they (the forearms) will show an obvious lack of size.

Many bodybuilders pay little or no attention to forearms training and this is a big mistake (as is leg training with many people). If you will dedicate part of your total arm training effort on the fore- arms you will be pleasantly surprised at how much more impressive the upper arms will look as well. The forearms are like the calf muscles, in that if you don't have the development you must work hard and long to get it! If you already have decent forearms, by all means don't hesitate to improve them, for they can often make the difference you are looking for.

What I propose is that you specialize on some intense forearm work with a couple of select training techniques utilizing four different exercises. Since I have no knowledge of what your current total body training regime is all about, you will have to decide where to structure the forearm training techniques into your program. Personally I would never do forearm work prior to doing exercises where gripping strength would be compromised (Deadlifts etc.) or where wrist strength integrity would be endangered (Bench press etc.). Equipment Needed: Barbell & Dumbbell(s), Flat exercise bench wooden or concrete beam block, Wooden dowels, 1/4-inch rope, snap link and plate holder.

With regard to selecting the appropriate training technique for the development of the forearms, "True" or Compound Super-Sets (two exercises performed within the same muscle group) are one of the best training strategies. With two different exercises, you can perform one right after the other, with no rest between them. This is a superb way to get the 'pump' that is so difficult to achieve in the forearms.

To accomplish this purpose, I suggest the two following "True" or Compound Super-Set plans. "True"Super Set/Plan A Decline barbell wrist curl(s) with palms up and the Wrist roller are the select exercises for this plan. Do the Decline barbell wrist curl first. Set up the equipment by placing a 10-inch wooden block or concrete beam block under the legs of one end of a flat exercise bench. Straddle the bench facing the low end. Reach down and grasp a loaded barbell with a 6-inch hand spacing (under hand false grip, thumbs under the bar). Adjust yourself so that elbows and back of forearms are pressed into the padded surface of the bench. The back of the hands are extended off the edge of the bench at its lowest point. To hold your elbows securely in place, press on them with the inner part of your thighs. Lean your upper body forward until the angle between the biceps and forearm flexors is less than 90 degrees. Use a fairly loose grip on the bar (squeezing the bar maximally rather than loose can cause the tendons crossing the wrists to tighten to much and thus does not allow the wrist to flex through a complete range of motion) and contract your forearm muscles and curl the hands upward as far as possible. Pause for a 2 second count at the peak contraction. Slowly, lower the hands downward so that they extend below the plane of the edge of the bench surface. Repeat the sequence as described for 10 to 15 repetitions. Immediately, without a rest-pause do the Wrist roller-forearm builder.

For those of you not familiar with this device, it is a round piece of wood (called a dowel) which varies in length from 11 to 20 inches and is generally 1 to 2-inches in diameter with a hole drilled through the center. One end of a length (30-40") of a heavy abrasion-resistant cord is inserted through the hole and knotted or tied. A snap link and plate holder (optional items) is attached to the other end of the cord. Barbell plate(s) are then added for resistance, grasp the wrist roller device with both hands (spaced 4 to 6 inches apart) with either an over (pronated) or under (supinated) grip. Be sure to vary these two grips from set to set or workout to workout for a slightly different effect on the forearm muscles. Beginning with the weight on the floor and the cord completely unwound, extend your arms fully in front of you at approximately shoulder level. Support the wrist over a rail, dipping bar or bar on a squat rack etc. This will keep the shoulders from tiring before the forearms. Assuming a pronated grip, begin winding the cord onto the wooden dowel (like a windlass or winch) by alternately rolling the knuckles forward (clockwise) with each hand, until the weight touches the dowel. Tense the Forearms Tightly for a brief second and then begin turning the dowel counterclockwise, slowly unwinding the cord all the way down (alternately rolling the knuckles back with each hand) till the weight touches the floor. Continue turning the dowel counterclockwise and wind the cord all the way up and then back down (turning the dowel forward). Without hesitation continue turning the dowel forward again winding the cord all the way up and back down, turning the dowel counterclockwise etc. Stop!!! Generally commercially made Wrist roller devices come in only one diameter, so there is very little variety in this aspect of the exercise. You can add to the thickness of the dowel by wrapping athletic tape around it or you could have a woodshop make up a couple more dowels of varying diameter (3 and 4-inch etc.) as I did. Use a different one each workout. Depending if you have small or large hands, reduce or increase the diameters by a 1/4-inch so that you can comfortable facilitate the curling action of the wrists. The two described exercises: Decline barbell wrist curl (1 set "x" 15 reps) and winding the cord all the way up and down 3 times constitutes one "true" Super-set. Perform two, three total "true" Super- sets but never more than five for a feeling of fullness in the forearms.

"True" Super-Set/Plan 8 Another productive compound super-set for the forearms is the Barbell reverse curl (E-Z curl or straight bar etc.) and the One Dumbbell wrist curl with upper arm parallel. The Barbell reverse curl is done by grasping a barbell with a 16-inch (or shoulder width) hand spacing with an over hand grip with the thumbs over the top of the bar. Stand upright and make sure your elbows are close to your sides and your upper arms are in line with the plane of the upper body. With the bar touching the thighs, flex at the elbows and bring your forearms upward till they are parallel to the floor. Lower and repeat for another half-rep. Then do a full rep from the start position (at the thighs) and curl the bar all the way up to your upper chest and lower back to the start position. Alternate two half-reps to one full rep Barbell reverse curl till you have completed 10 full reps and 20 half reps. Next do One-Dumbbell wrist curls w/upper arm parallel. This exercise can be done on the declined (20-30 degrees) bench used in the previous plan A . Straddle the bench and place the forearm on top of the thigh, with the hand (holding a dumbbell) and lower part of the wrist extending off the end of the knee. The unusual thing about this exercise involves the upper torso. It is twisted slightly to bring the shoulder of the working side closer to the wrist. Continue leaning forward and to the outside until the upper arm of the curling hand is parallel to the floor, or as near as parallel as you can make it. Remain in this position while you perform the One-dumbbell wrist curl. Concentrate strongly on the movement. Dropping the shoulder and upper arm forward and to the side, puts the forearm in an unusual position too. You'll notice a much stronger effect on the inner part of the arm and quick improvement in the "gooseneck" formation when you contract the fore- arms. Do enough reps for a good burn in the muscle.(10 - 15 reps).

The two exercises as described constitute one "True" Super-Set. Perform a second "True" super-set, but with this slight difference on the Barbell reverse curl only. Take the barbell at the top contracted position and lower it slo-w-1-y till the forearms are parallel to the floor. Hold this position for three to five seconds; then without any body momentum reverse curl the weight back up to the top position (this is your starting position, rather than the previous one in the first super-set, where the bar was handing at arms length, touching the thighs) and immediately perform a second half-rep. Next do a full rep all the way from the top contracted position to the bottom and back up. Continue doing a ratio of two half-reps to one full rep till you have again completed 10 full and 20 half reps. Finally do a third "True" super-set doing the Barbell reverse curl (in the middle 3/5 range of the movement) in double-weight drop fashion by doing 10 reps, drop the poundage 10-pounds, without pause do 10 more reps, drop 10 more pounds, without pause do 10 all out reps. On the One-dumbbell wrist curl w/upper arm parallel use a poundage you can get six reps with then immediately use a poundage which is 60 percent less and do 20 more reps. Do this with each arm. It is a good idea to have two dumbbells loaded and ready to accomplish this. Example DB = 100-pounds x 6 reps, DB = 40-pounds x 20 reps. Note: Plan A or B - Rest-pause 45 seconds between "True" Super Sets only. Train the forearms two or three alternate days per week, alternating plan A and B "True" Super-Sets for variety. The 'technique-emphasis' on each and every rep should be slow and very exacting.

You'll soon go beyond the two plans I've mentioned here (perhaps expanding to Tri-Sets; Barbell reverse curls, Wrist roller and Heavy Hammer II Leverage Bar) with continued hard work. I'm sure you'll be pleased you decided that forearm development is important. Good luck future champion.

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