On any given week, I train between three and twenty men in my kettlebell classes. They ask lots of questions. And they try to ask certain questions without actually saying them out loud. For instance, if someone wants to know what the best arm exercises are, they usually mean “How do I make my arms seriously huge?”Or they will ask how they can make their arms stronger, when what they are actually asking is “How do I make my arms seriously hyoooooge!!!!”
I am good friends with a couple of guys who have some of the strongest forearms in the world. The more I have interacted with the two of them, the more I have noticed that their arms look big because:
1. They are big
2. Their forearms are big
The reason that their forearms are big is because their forearms are strong. Jedd Johnson and Adam Glass are both steel benders and world class grip competitors. Over and over, they have both said that the key to getting bigger is to get stronger. And also to make every area of the body strong, not just the parts we like.
When I decided that I wanted stronger (and bigger) arms, I realized that I had severely neglected my forearms. I had really never given them any thought.
My forearm strength training
In the last year I have increased my forearm strength training a lot. I have focused on three exercises and slight variations of each.
You hold a weight plate with your thumb looped over the top, and the other four fingers open against the back of the weight. Now, holding your wrists in that locked position, do curls, without momentum, and bring the plate to about the level of your chin. This video I shot is not great quality, but it will give you a visual on plate curls.
Sledge hammer levers
This involves taking a sledge hammer and holding it near the end of the handle, or at the very end if you can manage it. The hammer can then be manipulated and lowered in various direction with radial and ulnar deviation. Levering hammers can be done seated, standing, with two hands or one. Get creative and experiment. Here’s a video of Slim the Hammer Man, whose leverage feats impress me more than anyone:
I recommend starting with a light hammer! I began with a lowly 8 pounder from Home Depot.
This is simply performing a military press with a kettlebell, except the kettlebell is upside down, gripped by the handle. The grip strength required will be immediately apparent. A man who has no trouble pressing a 24 kilo kettlebell may struggle mightily just to hold that same bell in the rack position, upside down.
I can currently bottoms up press the 48 kilo kettlebell, aka The Beast. It took quite a while before I could even clean the dumb thing in the bottoms up position. But once you can do it with a certain weight, as long as you keep revisiting the movement, you’ll have no trouble maintaining the forearm and grip strength required to hold it there.
Most guys who focus on their arms neglect the forearms and triceps, focusing primarily on the biceps. Bigger forearms will make every other part of your arms look better. And there’s no downside to getting stronger, no matter which part of your body you’re working on.