The Importance of Forearm Training
Fingertip push-ups aren’t a part of everyone’s training, but I find many gym rats under-train or flat-out-ignore strength training their forearms in general. The opinions of workout-aholics is usually along the lines of ‘using free weights is enough exercise,’ and this can prove problematic.
Problems of Underdevelopment
For mass-building training, it is necessary to exercise with the most amount of weight your muscles can handle. With extension exercises-such as chest press, tricep cable extensions, and the like-the practitioner often is able to move more weight than the wrist can handle.
What I’m trying to explain is best seen in an analogy to a chest press. If you max out, your pectorals and your triceps are able to move the weight a single rep. However, if you pay attention to your form, you would notice (in most cases) your wrists are bending backward to the point that the weight isn’t stabilized by the muscles in your forearms, but by your wrists not being able to extend any further. The range of motion is limiting the weight from falling back further, so the immensely heavy weight is being stabilized by straining the tendons and ligaments that move the wrist. Basically, the weight is light enough for your chest and triceps to handle, but too heavy for your forearms to stabilize; thus, the strain on your wrists can cause injury.
Common wrist issues that I’ve seen happen in the gym are along the lines of wear-and-tear. In these cases, every lift that jeopardizes the function of the wrist slowly abuses and loosens the tendons. Things like triangular fibrocartilidge complex and tendonitis occur with the repetition of poor movement, which the aforementioned analogy was an example of. Although it isn’t necessarily endemic for horrible injuries like TCFF and tendonitis to occur, wrist pains and sprains are prevalent in fitness and athletics; and these can be avoided or happen to a lesser extent if you amply train the strength of your forearms.
Underdevelopment can harm someone performing in athletics like Judo, baseball, football, etc., because they all depend on the stabilization and grip performed by the forearm. In judo, controlling your opponent derives from your strength and technique- and the control begins with the grip you have on your opponent. The power behind your swing in baseball depends on your forearms and grip’s ability to absorb the shock of the ball and follow through the force of the ball’s momentum.
A lot of athletics and other daily tasks rely on the muscles in the lower arms; so, it should be a vital component of all exercise routines.
Many programs and training regimen exist to improve dexterity, power, muscularity, size, and the aesthetics of forearms. Just like any other fitness goals, the training should reflect what you want to accomplish.
Exercising the forearm muscles is a similar process to exercising any other muscle group. For power, you target lower repetitions; muscularity (or muscular endurance) you would aim at a moderate amount of reps; and size is focusing on spot training your weak points (which is typically the inner forearm lacking size). However, the muscles of the forearm require more repetitions than other muscle groups. Just like leg muscles, there are a plethora of muscle fibers; and in order to train them all, a higher amount of repetitions are required.
So, the low end of the spectrum (for power lifting and training) is about 15 repetitions. The higher end, more strength and muscular endurance, is between 25 and 40 reps (working your way up from a certain weight at 25 reps, and completing more repetitions each training session).
Wrist, Forearm, and Grip Training- Defined
There is a division between wrist training, forearm training, and grip training under the category of ‘forearm training,’ and it is important to know the difference when creating a training program.
Wrist training revolves around stabilizing the range of motion the wrist has. Examples of these are leverage bar curls, barbell/dumbbell wrist rotations, and the like. These engage the muscles that support wrist, which can relieve some of the work from your tendons.
Grip training is important for judo players, weight training, and most athletics. Exercise that fall under this category engage the muscles and tendons that extend and flex your fingers. Grip strength can aid in exercise- such as rows, lat pull downs, and deadlifts- and other areas of your life, so it is important to create a routine that includes grip training.
Forearm exercises build muscular strength in brachioradialis, and the groupings labelled extensor muscles, wrist flexor muscles, and forearm flexors. These are responsible for the majority of movement in the wrist; and exercises vary from wrist-rollers to palm-up wrist curls. The perception of what most people label forearm workouts involve these exercises. They do perform a lot of what the forearm is responsible for, but it is important to involve the other methods of forearm training.
You should train you forearms everyday. If you find yourself becoming overly sore, switch up the kind of training you’re doing; for instance, work the extensor muscles MWF, and the flexor muscles TTHS. Eventually, you’ll want to work toward training the whole forearm everyday.
If you are hesitant or don’t want to dedicate a lot of time to forearm training, you can probably get away with training them 2-3 times a week.
Another useful piece of advice is to grab dumbbells with thicker bars, and get rid of straps or other grip-aiding accessories. These will help in a minor sense, and do not, in any way, supplement a real forearm workout.
In summation, forearm training is essential to fitness in its entirety. Forearm fitness can aid in prevention of wrist injuries as well as performance in athletics.
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