What's up, guys?
Jeff Cavaliere, ATHLEANX.com.
Today we’re talking about the forearms and we’re going to construct the perfect forearm
As always, we’re using science and anatomy to backup what we do.
If you want to put the science back into strength it takes one look at the forearms to realize
there’s a lot going on here.
There are a lot of muscles interplaying to create the different actions of the forearm.
It’s not just about wrist curls and wrist extensions.
As a matter of fact, if you’re doing your wrist curls like this, and your wrist extension
like this, you’re leaving some gains on the table.
I’m going to show you what you can do to improve those actions.
Then, of course, you’ve got to add to them.
Because there are different functions here of the forearm.
You could see that just by creating different movements of the wrist I could activate different
areas of the forearm itself.
If I did this – this is called owner deviation – you can see there are different areas
of the forearm that work to create that.
Same thing here.
If I were to go in the opposite direction, radial deviation, you can see a distinct area
of the forearm that creates that action.
We can also see if I involve just my wrist, I get a certain level of activation in the
forearm, but if I start to involve the finger flexors there is a whole other level of activity
that goes on.
If we go here, into pronation, we can see that we get a response on a certain area of
Why are we focusing on a couple of motions when we have to include all of them?
I’m going to make it simple for you, guys.
I’m going to include all the things we need to do in the right amount, and we’re going
to walk you through it step by step.
So, let me take you through each of the exercises.
And as always, in our perfect workouts I’m going to give you the sets and reps to do
the entire workout at the end.
Let’s start to construct this perfect forearm workout.
we’re going to start with these wrist curls and what to do instead because I know I’ve
probably raised some eyebrows when I said that this wasn’t necessarily optimal.
Doing your curls like this.
There’s a reason for that.
There are actually two.
The first is that we know when we start to fatigue that our bodies are masters of compensation.
They’re going to find a way to perform the movement, even if it’s not necessarily the
way you want to perform it.
So, if you start to fatigue and lose the ability to curl your wrist up, guess what happens?
Your biceps are in a perfect position to take over.
It’s not what we’re looking for when we’re trying to build bigger forearms.
The biceps are just trying to raise the bar up to do the job the forearms can’t do.
You might say to yourself “Well, I’ve heard that if I go behind my back, I could
take the biceps out of it and we can curl and perform these the right way.”
Not necessarily, guys.
You might even say if I go down to the bench – and I’ve done tons of these – that
this is better, too.
You can see the biceps are taken out of it here as well.
So, I’m on the right track.
Guys, you might be on the right track, but you’re on the right train because this is
not necessarily fixing the bigger issue here.
The bigger issue is: what happens in all of these gravity loaded exercises and variations
of the forearm curl?
We’re allowing, as we start to fatigue, the bar – maybe even purposely – allowing
the bar to sink down into these distal fingers of ours.
All the way down to the distal metacarpals.
That is a lot of load and I put an entire video on how that is the number one cause
of medial elbow pain that we deal with.
It’s how we grip the bar, it’s how we grip bars during rows.
But when we do forearm work it gets magnified because we tend to train our forearms more
regularly throughout the week.
Especially if they’re a weak point of ours.
We’ve been told we could train them three to four times a week.
What we have in all of those variations is the sinking of the bar into these distal fingers
That’s going to overload an stress that medial elbow, causing medial elbow pain.
Even if I do the reverse barbell curl you can see that I still have the same effect.
That bar starts to roll deeper into the fingers as I start to fatigue.
So, in order to counteract that, there’s a better way to do this.
And I do this right here with a cable machine.
You can immediately see I’ve bent my elbow.
I’ve taken the biceps out of this.
I’m now pushing away.
The other thing that’s happening here is, as I’m pushing away, not only am I getting
a more intense contraction of the forearm muscles that you’ll feel the second you
try this – you don’t have to use a cable either.
You can use a band.
The fact is, you’ll get a more intense contraction and as I push down with my wrist I’m allowing
the handle to sink deeper into the palm, as opposed to into the fingers.
This will take all the stress off the medial elbow.
If you were to do these three to four times a week it will allow you to train the forearm
curling function without having those detriments and those negative side effects that can go
right to your elbow, preventing you from wanting to train your forearms at all.
The perfect forearm workout would not be complete without carries.
You’re going to be doing a lot of them and there’s a reason for it.
The forearms also very much require to have endurance capabilities and have the capacity
to be able to grip and hold for a long period of time.
Not just because we use them constantly throughout the day, but we also know if, God forbid,
we were in a survival situation we’d want to be able to hang on and hold on for the
So, we’re going to train them with a set of carries in between every, single exercise
we do in this workout today.
Walk one lap around, come back around, do another set, and repeat.
When we come back to the carries, we’re going to end with the ultimate test of muscle
endurance in our forearms, the arm hang.
But for now, work your carries in between every set, on every exercise you do in this
Let’s move onto the opposite side of the forearm: wrist extension.
We know it’s critical.
We talked about, in the beginning, I said this isn’t necessarily the best way to do
There’s a reason for that.
We should know by now, when we look at the physics of the performance of this exercise
we know when the hand gets up to the top into full extension gravity is acting down through
the wrist, and there’s less force here than there is when gravity is acting perpendicular
to the wrist.
So, we’re taking tension off the forearm as we get closer to the top.
We could fix that by performing this standing.
If we do this standing – the other way we would want to do it is with this opposite
So, what I’ve done before, I’ve shown you guys, I’m extending this wrist back
on the right side to come up.
You can see that even at its peak into full extension I’m still completely perpendicular
to the force of gravity.
Meaning, my forearm is doing a lot of work to hold this.
Then I rotate the opposite side.
So, I start to go left, right, left, right.
What I do is, I want to work this in a ladder style because I have another opportunity here.
If I’m in this standing position I could work another muscle of the forearm, the brachial
radialis, that comes in here, into our forearm.
So, all I have to do to do that is a reverse curl.
So, I can go in a ladder format.
I can go one second here of roll, and then one rep of a reverse curl.
Two seconds of rolls, and then two reverse curls.
Three seconds of rolls, and then three curls.
I try to work my way up to a ladder as high as I can until I reach failure.
What do we do next?
Pick up those dumbbells, we do our carry all the way around, back to the spot, and we do
one more set.
Next up we have radial deviation and ulnar deviation.
For some of you guys, you’ve never even heard those terms.
I’m telling you, for a complete and perfect forearm workout you need to work on these
things because there’s a reason for them.
What we’re talking about – radial deviation and ulnar deviation – is how the wrist bends
in this frontal plane.
It’s not just about flexion and extension like we talked about.
It’s also being able to bend this way.
So, when we come toward the radius, the top side bone in our forearm here, that’s radial
Then we go down toward the ulna here, the underside bone of our forearm, that’s ulnar
You can see when I do radial deviation here, you see the activity of the muscles of the
So why are we not trying to train in that motion?
Even though it’s small, we need to work on it.
And you’ve probably seen people recommend things you can do for this before.
Like, using a sledgehammer.
And they hold the sledgehammer down at their side to work on radial deviation.
They lift the weighted part up in this way.
Now what we do is work on the way back.
For ulnar deviation we flip the sledgehammer around and we lift back that way.
Now, the problem is we don’t all have sledgehammers.
So, what do we do?
We can do something in the gym with a rope.
All you’ve got to do is take the rope from here, down to here.
Take one handle and stand up nice, and close.
Put your hand down at your side.
Now, because you can torque your hand off from the bottom here with a rope, we’re
going to go down like that.
So, we go from neutral, or a little bit of radial deviation, down into ulnar deviation.
Just like that.
Nice, and slow, and controlled.
You do a set of these, you walk around the gym with your carries, you come back, do another
Obviously, each arm.
Then we come back and rotate around this way.
Now when we’re here, we take the grip on top from here.
Now, we’re going to work radial deviations.
From here we’re going to push with the pinky side of our hand, down into that rope to push
the weight down and go into radial deviation.
You can see each time.
Push down through the pinky, there, and you get into radial deviation, and come back down.
So basically, this end is facing down toward the ground and then you want to end with it
facing out in front of you.
Again, guys, we work both sides.
We’re going to walk around the gym, as always, with another carry, come back, and move onto
the next exercise.
Now, supination and pronation.
Guys, this is not the way to do it.
You see people do this all the time.
You’re actually falling into pronation here and falling into supination because the weight
is spinning in your hand.
You’re not resisting that motion.
But we can do that.
once again, you go back to the rope to do this.
So now, if I wanted to get into pronation here what I do is hold the rope this way,
and now I’m going to use it again this way.
I’m pushing my fingers here into the rope to pronate my forearm.
Just like this.
From here, from a supinated position, turn the forearm over, push out with this finger
into the rope, and I’m getting that resisted pronation on every, single rep.
You can see that here on the underside of the forearm as it works, as I go down into
pronation from here, every rep.
What you want to do is work this to failure, and then of course, walk around the gym with
Now you come back and go the other way.
If I want to do supination here, what I do is take my hand out to the side and now I’m
going to go and try to turn this into the position facing out, back toward the machine.
You can see all the forearm supination here that takes place to get that there.
Now, we know that the bicep is obviously a supinator.
But it’s not the only one.
We’ve got a supinator muscle in our forearm that you can see working to accomplish this.
That’s what we’re trying to do.
I’ll tell you guys, these muscles aren’t ever trained in a way with resistance.
Especially if you were doing that dumbbell twirling exercise.
So, they’ll respond pretty quickly to this extra resistance to add size to your forearms.
So, we want to make sure we do that.
All right, guys.
Almost done, but we now want to work those intrinsic hand muscles that I talked about,
then we’re going to finish with that final test – that grueling hanging test – to
put those finishing touches on this workout.
Now we move onto intrinsic hand strength.
You’re probably wondering “Why does that really matter?
We’re talking about my forearm, Jeff.”
You saw in the very beginning here, the activation of our fingers dramatically influences what
goes on in our forearms because all of those tendons and muscle bellies run down through
the forearms into our fingers.
So, we want to work that.
The cool thing is, you can do it with a collar.
You probably think “Well, I don’t have those old rippers anymore.”
Yeah, you do.
You can take one of those collars from the gym and you can do your hand squeezes here.
What is that doing?
Well, it’s obviously taking these fingers and moving them from this straight position
here, into this flexed position.
So, we know we’re getting activation of the forearm.
But to integrate that, what I like to do is, I like to do sets to failure here, and then
once I’m done, back off.
Back off the tension because you’re not going to be able to do this if you hold full
You take it just a little bit of tension now, and then I go and move my wrist into extension,
and down into flexion.
Into extension, and flexion.
Extension, and flexion.
Flexion, being able to still hold some tension through here, gets very difficult because
of active insufficiency.
Once I shorten these flexors in my forearm it gets hard to maintain force through here.
But that’s what I’m trying to work on.
I’m trying to maintain the ability to contract and generate force, even in a shortened stated.
So, I have a little bit of tension.
I go back and forth into extension at the wrist and flexion until I can’t do it anymore.
So, it’s basically a drop set burnout.
Go failure on the squeezes, and then failure on the back and forth until you can’t control
You’re going to do that on each side, again, with your carry in between each one.
One last final, grueling test to put the finishing nail in this coffin, guys.
We’re doing the arm hang.
You guys know how much of a fan I am of the dead arm hang.
What we’re doing here is trying to hold on for as long as we can.
Now, in a good situation, fresh, 1:40 is a good time.
It’s a good, average time.
What I’m looking for here is, can you hold for one more minute?
Obviously, you’re going to want to start sliding out.
The bar is going to start to slide into your fingers.
Try not to let that happen for all the reasons we talked about in the very beginning about
not wanting that bar to slide into those distal fingers because of the stress it puts on the
Activate the forearms.
Try to gut it out for one, final minute at the end.
So, guys, there you have.
There is the perfect forearm workout.
As you can see here, all the sets, all the reps, all the techniques.
It’s not meant to be a five-minute forearm workout.
If you have problematic forearms, if you are suffering because you don’t have adequate
strength there, if you don’t have adequate size; you’re going to need to train them,
just like any other muscle.
That means you’re going to have to take ownership of this program and start incorporating
it into what you’re doing right now.
If you’re looking for a complete program that overlooks nothing in our training and
lays all these out step by step, so we make sure we’re hitting everything when you’re
supposed to; all our programs do that.
They’re over at ATHLEANX.com.
In the meantime, if you liked this series make sure you subscribe to our channel here
and turn on your notifications, so you never miss one of the videos in this series.
Let me know what else you want me to cover and I’ll do my best to do that for you in
the days and weeks ahead.
All right, guys.
See you soon.