How do I get really strong forearms

7 exercises to increase your grip strength - in 5 minutes a week (or less)

I used to smile at hand trainers and other tools that train the forearms.

Do you really have to train your grip strength?

Should you invest precious time in exercises that affect less than 5% of your body?

Yes you should.

You should exercise your forearms if you want to lift more weight on the deadlift or do more pull-ups.

Weak hands are one Show stopper - not only in training.

Tip: Do you like “Fitness with M.A.R.K.”? Then check out these 11 Unusual Fitness Books - And Why They're Worth HEARING.

Why you should exercise your forearms

"You are only as strong as your hands."
- Jason Kapnick, power lifter

I was 15 when I joined the basketball team.

The training was fun, after all, my two best buddies were on board.

But I didn't feel this inner burning sensation, which is true enthusiasm, until years later, when I discovered strength and endurance sports for myself.

It is quite possible that my small hands contributed to my search for another sport.

Anyway, the other boys could hold the basketball from above with one hand - I couldn't.

For a 15-year-old that can be an issue ...

Today the little hands don't bother me anymore. They just mean one thing:

If you have small hands, you need more grip strength to be able to hold a weight.

For many people, hand strength is the weakest link in the chain. Often it is the reason that progress in certain exercises falls by the wayside.

Forearm training brings you advantages in many areas of life:

  • A strong handshake. Whether we like it or not, others judge us by our handshake.
    There are people whose handshake feels like a dead fish. The first impression goes in this direction: implausible, unreliable, maybe even greasy and weak.
    But when the person you shake hands with gives you a pleasant, firm squeeze and looks you in the eye in a friendly manner, then it looks confident, reliable and trustworthy.
  • More stamina. The stronger your hands and forearms, the longer you can hold a weight. This means that you can do more repetitions in training and carry heavy shopping bags or crates home with ease.
  • More quality of life. Grip strength is a good indicator of quality of life, especially for people of advanced age. Studies show that people who can hold on tight remain independent into old age and live longer
  • Better protection against injuries. Strong muscles, eyes and joints are more robust and therefore more resistant to injuries. And if you should have injured yourself, trained connective tissue regenerates faster and you are back on track sooner.
  • Exercising with heavier weights. More grip strength allows you to do heavier training. This is especially true for pulling exercises like deadlifts, barbell rows or pull-ups. If you can rely on your hand strength during training, you will become stronger faster, you can train more intensively and achieve your goal more easily (regardless of whether you are looking to build muscle or lose fat).
  • More sexiness. Last but not least, strong forearms are simply sexy. With men anyway. And with women too.

Perhaps the strongest argument for forearm training:

The time required is minimal.

5 minutes a week is enough.

Do not you think? Wait a minute, I'll show you ...

What is grip strength?

"What you cannot hold, you cannot lift."
- Jason Kapnick, power lifter

If you understand by grip strength, how tight you can grip, then you are correct. Because grip strength includes hand strength.

But it is more than that.

All the muscles in your forearm are responsible for your grip strength - from the elbow to the fingertips. (Some of these muscles even start just above the elbow.)

They run on the front and back of the forearm, over the wrist and hand, down to the fingers and thumb.

These muscles can perform a variety of movements via the joints. Much more than just a firm handshake.

You should know these 5 movement patterns if you want to train your forearms:

  1. To squeeze. You grab something and lock it in your hand, with the force coming mostly from your fingers rather than your thumb. Think of the cross and shoulder raises, barbell rows, snatches or pull-ups. Or training with a hand trainer.
  2. Pinch. In contrast to squeezing, when you pinch, you bring your thumb into play. For example, if you bring two weight plates together and lift them up with one hand and hold them there.
  3. Open hand grip. You open your hand and hold something mainly with your fingers. For example a basketball (if you have bigger hands than me). Another example: Training with thick dumbbell bars, e.g. Fat Gripz.
  4. Stretching fingers. The extension of the fingers is the opposite of squeezing. Like stretching a rubber band as far as possible with your fingertips.
  5. Strength in the wrist. The wrist has a stabilizing function for the fingers. It can exert force in all directions and thus become stronger in all directions. Prominent exercises: wrist curls, wrist extensions, lateral raises, etc.

Perhaps during training you will find that your dominant hand is noticeably stronger. This is not unusual. Scientists found that the difference in strength between right and left is around 10% for most people

According to another study, men have about twice as much grip strength as women

If you are a woman, feel free to show that studies are not always right.

This shouldn't be a problem with the following exercises ...

7 exercises that train your forearms and increase grip strength

"Grip strength training is one of the easiest and fastest ways to get stronger."
- Pavel Tsatsouline, fitness coach, author and sports scientist4

As with any muscle group, there are almost infinite possibilities when it comes to forearm training.

Here are 7 highly effective exercises that you can incorporate into your strength training without spending a lot of time and on a tight budget.

The focus is on the type of grip strength you need for the 6 basic movement patterns.

Exercise forearms # 1 - Farmer’s Walks

The Farmer’s Walk is a classic strongman exercise. It's an excellent way to train your core and forearms.

In addition, Farmer’s Walks challenge the entire body, especially the back, shoulders, hips and legs.

Required equipment - Farmer’s Walk

Depending on the diameter of the handle, I use 50-60 kilo dumbbells. In gyms, however, the limit is often 40-45 kilos.

If you're lucky, your gym will have a trap bar or (if you're very lucky) Farmer’s Walk dumbbell bars. Then you're fine.

Otherwise you can also equip two barbells with weight plates - preferably shorter versions than the Olympic 2.20 m format. This variant is more demanding in terms of coordination. It is best to start with little weight.

Correct execution - Farmer’s Walk

Starting position:

  • You stand upright and with body tension.
  • The shoulder blades are contracted and drawn down.
  • You carry a weight in each hand.

Execution:

  • Walk in small, controlled steps for about 20-30 meters.
  • Maintain good shape and body tension while doing this.
  • Your hands continue to grip the bars tightly without letting them slip to your fingertips.
  • No “cheating” by “resting” the weights on your sides.

The following video shows the correct execution of the Farmer’s Walk. If you understand English, you will also get another good explanation of the exercise.

Exercise forearms # 2 - Static one-arm hang

The static hanging on one arm is the starting position for the one-arm pull-up.

You leave out the pull-up, instead you hold this position for as long as possible.

I like this exercise so much because it does not compress your spine - unlike in a farmer’s walk, deadlift or rowing - but relieves it.

If heavy deadlifts or squats are already on your training plan twice a week, your spine will thank you if you put less weight on it on the remaining days.

Required equipment - static one-arm hanging

Correct execution - static one-arm hanging

  • Get into the starting position for a regular pull-up by hanging on the bar with both arms.
  • Loosen the grip of the stronger Hand and hang on to your weaker arm as long as you can.
  • You want to keep some tension in the shoulder joint and upper arm of the load arm (i.e., don't let yourself hang like a wet sack).
  • Then switch sides and do the one-arm hanging with the stronger side.

Tips:

  • If your body vibrates too much, you can hold onto the power rack or door frame with the other arm for stabilization, depending on where you are doing the exercise. (If so, please make sure that the load arm can hold most of your body weight.)
  • It doesn't matter if you can't hold out for long at first. If you stick with it, 30 seconds are definitely manageable.
  • If you are not yet strong enough to hold yourself with one arm at all, do the static hanging with both hands first.

The video shows the correct execution of the one-arm hanging.

Workout Forearms # 3 - Warmup sets of deadlifts and instep-grip rows

Most people use the double grip on the heavy deadlift because it gives them a better grip on the barbell.

When you switch from the double grip to the instep grip, you are noticeably demanding more of your forearm muscles.

When it comes to heavy deadlifts, there is basically nothing wrong with the double grip.

I got the following trick from Bret Contreras:

Use the instep grip for warm-up sets. In this way you train your grip strength without spending additional time.

The idea is that you train with the instep grip for as long as possible. Only when you can no longer hold the weight do you switch to the double grip.

You should also use the instep grip for as long as possible when doing a bent barbell row.

You can experiment with the different types of grip while rowing. You quickly notice that you can move more weight with the comb grip because it puts less pressure on your forearms.

If you want to train your forearms, you should use the instep grip whenever possible during pulling exercises.

Workout forearms # 4 - Static hold after the last set of deadlifts

I already mentioned it: The instep grip requires more grip on the deadlift than the double grip.

However, that does not mean that you cannot train your forearms with the twist.

And so.

Equipment Required - Static hold after the last set of deadlifts

Correct Execution - Static hold after the last set of deadlifts

  • Perform the heavy deadlift as you normally would.
  • As soon as you are through with the last rep of the last set, hold the weight in the upper position as long as you can.
  • Here, too, you can pay attention to body tension, tense your buttocks and keep your spine neutral.
  • Do not put the barbell down until it either slips out of your fingers or you begin to bend over.

I hold the barbell for about an additional 10 seconds when I want to work out my forearms.

Workout Forearms # 5 - Weight Plate Pliers

Perhaps you have already carried several weight plates with one hand when loading the barbell.

Then you know that it takes a lot of strength to pick up the weight plates.

It gets really tough when you try to hold more than two discs with one hand ...

Required equipment - weight plate pliers

  • 2-3 weight plates (same weight, preferably with a smooth surface)
  • 2x 5 kg or 2x 10 kg discs are a good entry-level weight.

Correct execution - weight plate pliers

  • Place the two weight discs between your feet.
  • Grab it with the fingers and thumb of the weaker hand.
  • Lift up the weight plates and hold them for as long as possible.
  • Switch sides.

The following video shows the execution.

Workout Forearms # 6 - Thicker Bars

Bodybuilders and strongmen who want to train their forearms have been using this trick for a long time: They increase the diameter of the barbell.

The demands of an exercise increase dramatically with the bar diameter, because you need a lot more strength in your forearms.

There are also special dumbbells with an extra-large bar diameter - but you can only find them, if at all, in special powerlifting studios.

A couple of Fat Gripz, which you simply put over a barbell or a couple of dumbbells, are the simplest variant. This will make the barbell a lot thicker.

The following video shows the Fat Gripz in action in inverted rowing.

Exercising Forearms # 7 - Captains of Crush Gripper

Most strength athletes own or at least have seen a gripper. You hold it in the palm of your hand and squeeze it together.

Because hand trainers were often of poor quality, the manufacturer Ironmind developed the “Captains of Crush Gripper” .5 almost 20 years ago

The handles are made of aircraft aluminum and connected with a steel spring.

Captains of Crush Grippers enjoy cult status in the weight training scene, there are specially organized competitions and even a fan song.

You can now get Captains of Crush Gripper in 11 different strengths from around 27 kg (“Guide”) to 166 kg (“No. 4”).

Equipment Required - Which Captains of Crush Gripper should you start with?

For an effective forearm training, one or two grippers of medium hardness are sufficient:

  • For most men the “Trainer” with almost 45 kg resistance is the right entry-level model. Anyone who can deadlift over 160 kg can use the “No. 1 ”start.
  • Most women It is best to start with the “Guide” (27 kg resistance) and switch to “Sport” (36 kg) with increasing strength.
    Another tip: like deadlifts and pull-ups, gripper training does not leave your hands completely without a trace. If you have soft skin and want it to stay that way, you should probably avoid this type of training.

By the way, you can leave the two strongest models on the store shelf with a clear conscience: The “No. 4 ”have defeated just 5 people worldwide to date, at“ No. 3 ”there are more than 150.

Training planning - Captains of Crush Gripper

For the forearm training with a hand trainer, exactly the same principles apply as for training with weights.

With flu, I recommend training based on the principle of myofibrillary hypertrophy. The focus here is on grip strength and less on making your forearms more massive.

You also want to avoid getting your forearms too tired.

You can do the following routine every day if you want:

  • 2-3 training sets with a 90+ second break or spread over the day.
  • 5 reps per set is ideal, but you can also do fewer reps and more sets.
  • Go with it Not failure, but end the set when 1-2 repetitions are still possible.

I was surprised how quickly I got stronger this way. By the end of the first week of training, I had around 20% more grip strength.

And there is something else ...

Correct execution - Captains of Crush Gripper

  • Start with your weaker hand.
  • Hold the gripper in one hand so that you pinch the handles between your fingers and the palm of your hand.
  • Squeeze the gripper as much as possible - ideally enough so that both handles are touching.

Tips and Tricks - Captains of Crush Gripper

  • Resistance: It's okay if you can't get the gripper fully compressed just yet. You can develop this power quickly. However, if you hardly get it moved, switch to a lower model.
  • Support: If you can't close it completely yet, you can use the other hand or one leg to help with the last piece. This increases the training intensity.Use this technique carefully and only when you are already “in training”. After all, you don't want to overload your muscles, tendons and joints.
  • Active break: I have my “trainer” and “No. 1 ”gripper when working near me. So I can use a short break from work well for a training set.
  • Competition: The Captains of Crush Grippers are a nice gift for fitness enthusiasts and are ideal for small office contests. For example, there are few men who are the “No. 1 ”fully compressed.
  • Literature: If you want to go deeper into the subject of “training grip strength and forearms”, you should take a look at the book “Grip Strength” by the Austrian Robert Spindler (unfortunately only available in English so far).

Before you learn how to best incorporate these exercises into your training plan, you might ask yourself the following question.

Are pulling aids an alternative to grip strength training?

Sometimes readers ask me about pulling aids with which you can bridge your forearm muscles and thereby move more weight.

When we talk about functional strength and look good naked, I take a simple approach:

I consider pulling aids to be unnecessary in most cases.

I like the idea that your muscles are so evenly trained that you can do without aids such as pulling aids or weightlifting belts.

If you use aids to short-circuit individual muscle groups, you risk increasing existing imbalances.

In my world, it rarely makes sense to keep adding weight when the forearms are still too weak to hold it at all.

Of course, there are exceptions that prove the rule.

For example in powerlifting. The weightlifting belt has a permanent place there. But other weights are also moved and the objective is different.

Another example is one of my coaching clients who used pulling aids for a limited period of time because we were working on two weak spots: his back AND his forearms. For some back exercises he used these pulling aids, albeit in a well-dosed manner. In addition, there was targeted forearm training.

Since the back is no longer a weak point and his forearms are strong enough, he again dispenses with the pulling aids.

In the next section you will learn how to integrate the seven exercises presented into your training program.

Perfect Forearm Workout: How Often Should You Exercise Your Forearms?

Now you know 7 simple but effective ways to train your forearms.

How you integrate them into your weekly training program is just as important as the exercises themselves.

If these six muscle building exercises are already part of your training routine, you are already training your grip strength. The foundation is in place.

Therefore, you don't want to overdo it with the additional forearm training.

It happens easier than you might think.

There are people who haven't had grip strength training on their radar for years and then suddenly want to conquer tons of pounds with just their forearms.

This can backfire in two ways:

  • First, it can tire your forearm muscles so badly that your pulling and deadlifting performance will suffer.
  • Second, you run the risk of injury.

So it is a good idea if you proceed gently.

I have had the best experiences with the following approach:

  1. Adjust handle: Instep warmup sets on the deadlift (see Forearm Training # 3) and static hold after the last set (see Forearm Training # 4).
    Time required: less than 30 seconds per week.
  2. 2-3 sets of forearm training 1-2 times a week: Pick one or more of the exercises presented (forearms training # 1-2 and # 5-7) that you want to perform after your training and "fill" the 2-3 training sets with them. A good option is 1-2 sets of gripper training and then 1 set of one-arm hanging, weight plate pliers or farmer’s walks.
    Time required: 4-10 minutes per week.
  3. OPTIONAL - Additional training with Captains of Crush grippers: If you enjoy it, you can do 2-3 sets with the grippers on the other days of the week, as described under # 7. You should avoid muscle failure and take longer breaks between training sets so that your muscles do not tire.
    Time required: 0-15 minutes per week.

The bottom line is: If you have little time left, you don't even need 5 minutes - per week. If you want to accelerate more, you can train your forearms with the gripper every day.

That's it!

Conclusion

The forearms are often underestimated because they are such a small group of muscles. Wrongly.

It's like this: What you can't hold, you can't lift. No matter how hard you train. You are only as strong as your hands.

You now know 7 effective exercises that train your forearms. You know a way to incorporate these exercises into your workout without overwhelming your forearms.

The time required is minimal: each of us has 5 minutes a week.

Since I've been training my forearms, my forearms have become noticeably stronger. With pull-ups and deadlifts, grip strength is no longer the limiting factor it used to be.

In this life I will probably no longer be able to hold basketball with one hand from above.

But that's okay.

Question: What is your experience? Did you also lack grip strength with pull-ups and deadlifts? Perhaps you've already found a way to exercise your forearms? If so, how do you train? Your experience not only interests me, it also helps the others to stay tuned. Write a comment.

  1. Ratanen et al .: Midlife Hand Grip Strength as a Predictor of Old Age Disability. JAMA. 1999; 281 (6): 558-560 [↩]
  2. Sasaki H, Kasagi F, Yamada M, Fujita S. Grip strength predicts cause-specific mortality in middle-aged and elderly persons. Am J Med. 2007; 120 (4): 337-42. [↩]
  3. Bassey EJ, Harries UJ. Normal values ​​for handgrip strength in 920 men and women aged over 65 years, and longitudinal changes over 4 years in 620 survivors. Clin Sci. 1993; 84 (3): 331-7. [↩] [↩]
  4. See: http://youtu.be/b0RLk6hUYds. Retrieved on April 25, 2015. [↩]
  5. Wikipedia.org: Captains of Crush Grippers, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Captains_of_Crush_Grippers. Access: April 25, 2015 [↩]

Category: Fitness with M.A.R.K., muscle building Tags: fitness, fitness equipment, gym, fitness training, weight training, strength training, strength exercises, muscle building training, training, training theory, training plan, exercises, exercises with body weight, exercises without equipment, workout