We are reading this article courtesy of Michael Murphy
and Joe Roark's Iron History Forum
Parts One and Two are Here:
When I was in my prime, about thirty years ago a man could not call himself a strength athlete unless he possessed a powerful grip and terrific forearm strength. No matter how massive his shoulders were or how large his legs; if his grip and forearm strength didn't measure up to the rest of his body, he just couldn't successfully compete in weight-lifting, strength matches or tournaments because he was almost sure to be thoroughly defeated.
Nowadays a weight-lifter can get away to a certain point with a weak grip and forearms. The lifts nowadays don't call for a powerful grip or forearm to a very great extent. However, if one wants to take the time and trouble to develop the grip and forearms, you will be more successful in bringing the weight to the shoulders.
Years ago, a strength athlete had to be proficient in all sorts of lifts. Each lifter would choose a few of his favorite lifts, and his rival never knew what lifts he may have to make until the last minute. These lifts usually consisted of the following: -- the dead lift, the Jefferson lift, lifting thick-solid dumbbells, lifting barrels by the chins, pushing loaded wheel-barrows, curling thick handled dumbbells, lifting awkward objects and many others which called for powerful wrists and forearms.
Truly a good grip or handshake is a sign of a strong man. Wrist-pulling or wrist-wrestling as some may call it, was a favorite pastime of many strong men. When strong men of years ago met a gym, wrist-pulling competition quickly developed. Wrist-pulling called for a strong grip, and thus the forearm and wrist were developed.
The wrist itself is composed of bones, ligaments, and tendons. To thicken the size of your wrist it is necessary to develop the muscles of the forearms and hands. Many physical culturists, after doing their exercises for awhile, will give up all hope of developing their forearms. They usually are more than pleased with the results in developing their body, but the forearm, "Oh, these forearms! Why don't they grow?"
As you body-builders know, the forearm functions more vigorously daily than other muscles, causing a greater density of tissue. This makes the necessary breaking down process of old tissue more difficult. And as you know this breaking down of the tissues must be accomplished before growth of new and more muscular tissue takes place. Thereby enlarging your forearms.
The above is essentially the first explanation of building bigger forearms. Give them exercises, lot of exercises; the forearm can stand very much without strain. Just doing your exercises will not develop them, in fact, they will barely increase in size and strength unless you give these muscles (of the forearms) the fullest possible extension and contraction to achieve results.
Heredity plays an important part in forearm strength. Take for example my family. My father, brothers, and myself all have large and powerful forearms. It is claimed I have the largest forearms in the world for my size. My wrist measures 1-1/8 ins. and my forearms 15-1/2 ins. Yet those of my father and brothers were almost as large as mine. Possibly if they exercise them specially, they would have exceeded mine. My daughter, at the age of 8 years, was pulling wrists with practically every woman she knew, with results. At the age of 30 years, she pulled wrists with a powerful and large truck driver. He weighed 250 pounds, was 6 feet tall. While my daughter weighed 165 pounds and she put both his wrists down in no time. If you are lucky and have this inheritance, all the better. But if you haven't, your chances of developing them are almost as good. The road is harder, but, nothing succeeds like success.
Don't be discouraged if you have a small hand or wrist. That is no indication that you cannot develop large and powerful forearms. Thomas Inch, of England, is a good example of this.
"Strength Secrets" by Thomas Inch:
"Advanced Exercises" by Thomas Inch:
His hands are small enough to fit into women's sized gloves, his bones are small yet his arms are enormous. As I said before my wrist measures no more than 7-1/4 inches and was much smaller when I began. The small bones and wrist argument carries no water, forget it!
By applying the right type of exercise and plenty of it the forearms must develop no matter how stubborn the muscles may seem.
It is necessary to discuss for practical purposes the names of the many muscles in the forearm, the work they do and the muscles that associate with them in action. It makes dry reading, and as our space is limited, we shall eliminate it. Anyone interested enough can always obtain a book on anatomy of the body from the Public Library or other place.
The first thing to remember is that the forearm muscles require thorough contraction and expansion. Also it is better to specialize on them alone instead of trying to combine them with other muscle groups. It is all right with other muscles, but not in this case. Let us take for example the Two Arm Curl. It is true that the forearm acts as flexors of the elbow in assisting the biceps in the act of bending the arm. Still the biceps get most of the work, and as a forearm exercise it is it has little value. As I said before, concentrate on your forearms. If you like combining the forearms exercises with the biceps, make sure that the forearm gets most of the work. For those fans I have included a couple of exercises. But make sure to bend the wrist upon the forearm when doing them.
There is much equipment on the market that you can buy which will help in developing the forearms; but a present I suggest that you should forget about them and specialize in developing the forearms with what I will outline in this article. Later on, if you wish you can add to the variety of the apparatus.
Do not rush through the exercises; concentrate on what you are doing.
Exercise No. 1 - Practice Handstands Against a Wall.
As you get more efficient, learn to walk on your hands. All hand balancers that I have met have well developed forearms, and I myself being one, I know whereof I speak. About 10 minutes of hand balancing should prove sufficient.
Exercise No. 2 - The Reverse Curl.
A great forearm developer. Be sure to use your forearms only, and not your body in performing the movements. No swaying of the body is allowed otherwise most of the value of the exercise is lost. Perform the movements slowly throughout. Use a barbell about 20 or 30 pounds. Take an overhand grip knuckles to front, and curl the bar slowly to shoulders, making sure to bend the arm only at the elbow.
Exercise No. 3 - Another exercise which will help develop the muscles which lie close to the surface of the forearms is as follows. Take a light barbell about 10 to 20 pounds. Body perfectly erect. Bend your arms at right angles to the body, same as in reverse curl, but stop when arms are at right angles to body. When you have arrived in this position, relax your wrists allowing the weight to pull the hands downward, but still keeping forearms at right angles to body and rigid. Now, by the strength of the forearm only raise the hand back on the forearms so that the knuckles come facing upwards, performing a half circle. Relax wrist and repeat. A few movements of this exercise will bring your forearms into play. It is one of my favorite exercises.
Exercise No. 4 - Hold a pair of light dumbbells, 5 to 20 pounds at arms' length, shoulder level. Keeping the body rigid, circle your wrists only in all directions. This will help in strengthening your wrists.
Exercise No. 5 - The Zottman Exercise.
This is one of the best for developing the forearms. Stand erect, arms hanging at the sides. Take a pair of dumbbells, one in each hand. Grip dumbbells with palms of hands facing outwards. Bend the wrist inwards as far as possible. Now bend your arms at the elbow bringing the dumbbell to the shoulder. Your palm is now facing the biceps muscle. Rotate the wrist so that the palm faces outward again. Now slowly lower the dumbbell back to the side. As one arm comes down the other arm goes up, working in alternate fashion.
Exercise No. 6 - Take a pair of dumbbells about 20 pounds each. Begin to do the curl with palms up. When the forearms are at right angles to the body, turn the wrist around and finish the curl to the shoulders with the knuckles facing the shoulders. Then lower and turn again when at right angles finishing the curl with arms at the sides, palms up as at beginning.
Exercise No. 7 - A perfect exercise is as follows. Sitting on a chair in front of a table, place a dumbbell in the center of the table. Take hold of the dumbbell with an under grip; i.e. palm upwards. Now only allow the elbow of the arm which is to curl the dumbbell to rest on the table. Curl the dumbbell, keeping the elbow in the same position. Bring weight to shoulder; then slowly lower to starting position and repeat. At the beginning use a light weight and few repetitions. This exercise used to be a favorite among strong men of yesterday, and it is aa good way to test the strength of your wrist, forearm, and biceps. There were many powerful men who could curl 150 pounds. After practicing it for awhile, if you can use about a hundred pounds correctly you can consider yourself as possessing a strong, well-developed arm.
The exercises mentioned are sufficient to develop the forearms fully. Choose 3 or 4 of them and mix them into your schedule. For instance, one at the beginning, one in the center, and one at the end. The other 3 or 4 may be practiced on alternate workout days. This will help vary the monotony. You must choose a weight according to your strength. Don't use too much weight, but do the right amount of repetitions. Start by doing 9 repetitions, increasing by one every week until you do 15. Add 5 to 10 pounds and start back at 9, using the same system progressively. The course should take about 3 months. After competing it your forearms should show a fair increase, at least an inch, and probably more.
To help increase the size of your forearms faster, try this schedule of repetition once a week. Let us say you are doing the reverse curl, instead of doing 10 to 15 repetitions as usual, take a weight that you can handle comfortably, without straining; do 6 repetitions. Rest a minute, then continue by doing 5 repetitions, rest again, repeat this time doing 4 repetitions. and so forth until you are only performing 1 repetition. This schedule applies only to the forearms, when being specialized on. This will greatly help in breaking down the tissue, and increasing blood circulation to the forearms.
Other interesting exercises you can follow, after completing the course, are such, as lifting empty or full barrels of water by the chines only, lifting it from the ground to the knees and from there to the shoulder. Bending iron bars or horseshoes, lifting thick handle dumbbells or barbells. Tearing cards, telephone books, newspapers, in halves or in quarters, wrist pulling, finger twisting, lifting awkward objects, doing heavy dead lifts.
These are only few exercises that can be practiced to help develop the forearms. You should try to develop your forearms to twice the size of the wrists, although few have done it, your should use it for your goal, a well developed forearm should measure about 1.8 the size of the wrist.
Developing the forearms will give you a firm and warm handshake, which always leave a good impression of yourself among friends and in business. Try to cultivate this important habit. Never try so show your strength by applying all your strength into your handshake, it only goes to show that such people are ignorant and narrow-minded, thinking much of themselves.
So don't be discouraged, if you try hard enough on the right track as outlined you are bound to succeed. I have given you all the necessary information that is needed, now it's up to yourself
Enjoy Your Lifting!