As any gym rat will tell you, “Curls are for the girls.” Translation: Biceps are a largely useless muscle that men exercise only to impress ladies.
But turns out we’ve been wrong all along, gentlemen. A recent MEL investigation reveals that while we’ve been wasting time working on our upper arms, women have been honing their gaze further down our limbs. That’s right, dudes, women are really into your forearms.
But if you’re a millennial man, odds are you have puny, cuckboi fores. (Yeah, I call them fores.) Forearm strength is directly related to grip strength, and a recent study out of Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina found that men in their 20s today have decidedly weaker grips than their counterparts 30 years ago. This is largely because the modern man does less manual labor than his forefathers. Indeed, we tend to associate a nice, beefy pair of fores with blue-collar guys like mechanics, carpenters and lumberjacks.
Even gym-going bros tend to neglect their forearms. L.A.-based personal trainer Tony Joo says men tend to focus on their chest and abs (understandable), and that trainers don’t emphasize forearm exercises because they don’t burn lots of calories. “Forearm exercises aren’t popular unless you’re, like, an arm wrestler or something,” says Joo, with some puzzlement.
So while you may never have beefy Popeye fores, or the sinewy arms of baseball legend Honus Wagner, you can develop the kind of well-sculpted lower arms that will garner some upvotes on the /r/forearmporn subreddit.
Below are the best forearm exercises. [Insert masturbation joke here.]
From the Comfort of Your Desk (or Couch)
Forearm strength is grip strength, notes Josh Brown, a personal trainer in West Hollywood. “Forearms are often overlooked because many don’t understand the importance of grip strength and the role it plays in lifting stamina—that is, until you’re training your back and realize you can’t hold onto the weight anymore,” Brown says.
But there are ways to build grip strength that don’t involve going to the gym. In fact, you can do them from the comfort of your desk. Buy a vise grip and go to town on it during your work day. Or if you want to seem like less of a lunatic, get a tennis ball and just squeeze the hell out of that sucker at your desk all day long.
If you’re the weight-lifting type, however, there’s a host of exercise you can do to build your forearms.
Any exercise that test the limits of your grip—where you have to strain to simply maintain your grasp on the weight—will build your fores.
Farmer’s carries are perfect for this. The exercise involves holding some heavy-as-shit dumbbells or kettlebells at your side, and walking around until they nearly slip from your fingers. If you’re a real badass, you can do this with barbells, which are harder to balance and add another degree of difficulty.
Reverse Bicep Curls
These are just like normal bicep curls, but with your grip reversed—palms face away from you, as opposed to toward you.
This will likely feel awkward at first, and you’ll almost certainly not be able to lift as much as you would with a standard bicep curl. That’s because the change in grip activates your forearm muscles so much more. As YouTube fitness personality Scott Herman says below, “Your forearms are gonna be on fire while doing this exercise.”
Dumbbell Wrist Curls
Grab a pair of relatively light dumbbells and kneel down next to a bench, Brown says. Hang your wrists over the edge of the bench, and with your palms facing toward you, curl only at your wrists and rotate the dumbbells toward you. “Then slowly release back down and allow for a proper negative contraction,” Brown says.
This is an old school exercise that requires a special piece of equipment, but doing it will give you a kung-fu grip the likes of G.I. Joe.
A wrist roller is a small bar with a weight hanging from it from a rope. Hold the roller in front of you with your arms fully extended and parallel to the ground. Then roll the bar, wrapping the rope around it and gradually lifting the weight from the ground. Then slowly turn the bar in the opposite direction, unwrapping the rope.
If you don’t know where to find a wrist roller, you can easily make one of your own. Just saw off the end of a broom handle, drill a hole through the center of it, run a rope through that and tie a weight to the other end. Do a few sets every day when you wake up and before you go to bed, and you’ll soon have forearms like Bruce Lee.
Well, okay, maybe not, but at least you’ll look great with your shirt sleeves rolled up.