The Setup

In his classic Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding, Arnold Schwarzenegger warned you not to use straps for your pulling exercises. But you’ve been wearing them for years anyway and now your forearm and grip size and strength are lagging behind, just like Arnold said they would. It’s time for some dedicated forearm training to make up the difference and pay homage to the Austrian Oak. With this circuit, along with some simple and inexpensive grip tools you can make – and use – at home, you too can look like you work for a living, even if you don’t.

The Solution

When it comes to grip strength, you need to develop three separate but equally important abilities. First, you need to be able to grab things and hold onto them. Next, you need to be able to grab things and crush them. Finally, you need to be able to pinch things between your thumb and fingers – your “pincer” grip – and both hold onto them and crush them. Whether you want to develop size in your forearms or “grab cloth and hang on” when making a tackle in football, strengthening all three of these qualities will serve you well.

To strengthen your crushing grip, use a wrist roller and a good gripper – the steel ones strongmen competitors use, not the ones you’ll find at your local sporting goods store. For your holds, use a fat bar. If your gym doesn’t have one, fold two towels to an identical width and wrap them around a barbell so it’s thick enough to be difficult to hang onto in a standing position without touching it to your body. For your pincer grip, start with 15-20-pound hex dumbbells held for time, and work your way up. To perform, place the dumbbells on the floor vertically and pick them up by the head and hold.

You’ll either need to purchase a wrist roller – most gyms don’t have them – or make your own. To do this, have your local hardware store cut a 16” length of 1½” PVC pipe. Bore a hole through the middle, tie a knot in a piece of cord and string it through. Attach a carabiner to the end of the cord and you’ve got yourself the best forearm developer on the market for under $5. When performing the actual exercise, lean your forearms on something at chest height – one spotter bar of a power rack is perfect for this purpose – so your shoulder strength doesn’t become a limiting factor.

The Workout

Exercise                              Sets         Reps          Rest

Fat Bar Hold                           2         Max Time     90 sec

Hex Dumbbell Hold             2         Max Time     90 sec

Grippers                                  3         To Failure    60 sec

Supported Wrist Roller         2         Up/Down     90 sec