Forearms are almost identical in structure to the Gastrocnemius muscles but they do have some interesting differences.
First, they are also comprised of red muscle fibre, tendons and ligaments. This means they require the same high reps as do the calves in order to stimulate growth. High reps of course mean lots of pain.
The pain in the forearms is similar to calf pain but is much easier to bear. In addition a good forearm workout fills one with a feeling of power unlike working any other body part. I guess it’s all that concentrated blood down close to the end of the limb. Something akin to a Medieval War Weapon like a Ball and Chain. It’s almost as if you could swing those iron forearms through brick walls with impunity.
In order to really get the feeling of power of which I am speaking, not only the forearms must be gorged with blood, but muscle covering the wrists must be engorged with blood.
How good it feels to sense this raw power. Vince used to have swinging doors separating the locker rooms from the workout area. You know the kind I mean. The kind where Matt Dillon would stomp up the wooden sidewalk burst through the doors and challenge the outlaw to get out of town.
Vince had these same type of doors which we had to go through to get to the drinking fountain between sets. As our forearm workout progress we would begin to bang our way through the “swinging doors” to get our drink of water. Before the tight pump really settled in, there might have been some slight bone shock, but as the workout progressed things changed. The doors would fly off our “hams” as if our forearms were great balloons. If almost felt as if we could literally batter our way through ways using our pumped forearms as battering rams.
Many trainers have neglected putting much emphasis on their forearm development. Bill Pearl was one notable exception.
When I first visited Bill’s gym he was still located on Melrose in Los Angelos. I was looking forward to meeting Bill as he had been a source of inspiration to me for years. It was with a little nervousness I approached the actual occasion of meeting someone of his renown.
Bill greeted me in his normal quiet manner. He was wearing a three quarter cut off sweat shirt. He was much bigger than I thought he would be. The size of his shoulders and chest under his sweatshirt made me light headed with awe.
Then I noticed those two swollen hunks of meat laced with pencil sized veins hanging out of his sleeves. I’m sure my mouth dropped open.
Before I said “Hello, How are you; nice to meet you”, or anything of proper social grace, I blurted out, “Where did you get those forearms”.
Bill a little taken aback at my unabashed adulation mumbled, “Oh I work forearms regularly”.
“Self consciously, I found myself tugging at my short sleeve shirt, trying furtively to create a covering to hide my miserable excuse for forearms.
“Here’s the bench we use to work our forearms”. Bill pointed out.
Bill’s voice and the word, forearm, snapped me out of my trance and I began to focus my eyes on the bench in front of me. It was a funny looking thing only about twelve inches by twelve inches. It was heavily padded with two identical parallel indentations running the length of the Bench. It looked as if to 110 millimetre Howitzers had been nesting on it.
I stole a quick glance at Bill’s forearms and I could see whose big guns had crushed that high density rubber padding into permanent deformity. “How much weight do you use on forearms, Bill”, I heard a high falsetto voice coming from my throat ask, promising myself that on the next question I would shoot for a lower octave.
“About two fifty for wrist curls,” Bill said as he reached up to scratch his ear.
I couldn’t decide whether he meant two fifty pound dumbbells or could he actually mean he used 250 lbs on a barbell. I drew in my breath, lowered my chin and prepared to ask for further clarification. Before I could get out the question, my eyes settled on the belly of Bill’s forearm as he scratched away the itch on his ear. Along this huge mass of flesh was a series of veins running up from the elbow to the wrist. The center vein stood out like a piece of rope liquorice. With my eyes riveted on that pulsing channel of life, I heard that same embarrassing squeaky voice say, “Do you mean 250 lbs on a barbell?”
“Yeah, about 250 lbs or so on the Olympic set”, Bill said as his eyes swung to catch mine still drinking in the vein symphony on his forearm. I was beginning to get a little concerned that he would put gaping, drooling mouth together with high falsetto voice and come up with, “I’m afraid this guy is crazy.”
Actually, nothing of the sort happened, Bill realized I was going through the first throes of a love affair with forearms. Bill was very helpful and supplied me with everything he knew about forearm training. I took everything back to Vince’s gym for experimentation and further testing.
Through the years my love of forearm work has never dimmed and I have learned lots of things which can make or break a forearm program. Let’s cover a couple of those details now.
First as mentioned earlier one needs a small twelve by twelve bench heavily padded to avoid any extra pain caused by poorly padded benches. If the bench is about 14 inches high it’s possible to use the Olympic Bar without the 45 lb plates hitting the ground with the wrists fully extended. If the bench is much higher than this, it makes it difficult to get the heavier weights into position to do the wrist curls.
Whenever I see an article in the Muscle Magazines showing someone doing forearm work and they are straddling a standard workout bench and their thumbs are wrapped around the bar, rather than underneath it, I know they are just posing for the camera. I know they haven’t really gotten in to forearm training.