8 Ways to build great forearms (eliminate chicken limbs)

August 5, 2009 by  
Filed under The Fitness Bug

How to build strong forearm musclesThis is the muscle group I am most passionate about building. I don’t think there are as many chicken-limbed (arms) guys as there are chicken-legged guys, but I do know they exist in numbers.

The forearms and wrists are some of the hardest muscle groups to build muscle on. When I first started working out, it took me months before I started to see any real muscle gain results in my forearms. Unless the rest of your body is well developed or you show your body off often, wearing t-shirts without having strong forearms will lead people to believe that you are part of the (I really do have muscles…can’t you tell) club.

Your grip strength is extremely important and useful in so many ways.  The stronger your grip, the more weight and heavier weight you can lift and the longer you can keep the position. In a good portion of the more heavy pulling exercises, grip strength is the number one limiting factor. Believe it or not, the most effective forearm grip exercises are not the typical wrist curls you will see most guys in the gym do. You do get a real burn from these exercises and you can gain results from doing so. But the real problem with these exercises is that they don’t encourage practical body motions that we perform in our day-to-day lives. (Similar to some machines in the gym)

Below are some alternative techniques you can use to build HULK LIKE looking forearms, while performing movements that will allow your body to respond and  say ‘that movement makes sense… I’ll go with that’.

Bucket Of Sand

Get a bucket, spade and sand, which you can find at a home improvement store.  Fill the bucket with the sand. Then, you want to put your hand down far into the sand where you still have hand movement. Start moving your hand all over and tightening and loosening your fingers, essentially playing with the sand.

A few minutes of this and your will feel all the muscles in your forearm and the small muscles in your hand start to tighten and you will feel the burn.  Alternate hands a few times, doing this about 3 minutes or more per hand.

Tennis Ball

This method is often used by physical therapists and their patients for regaining grip strength after any type of hand, arm or shoulder surgery.  Common sense will tell you that if you are not trying to “regain” strength, you would be adding to the already existing strength you have. This is convenient as well because you can do it while watching TV. (Better than those hand grip things)

Barbell (A fave)

A former body builder I once knew taught me this. Try it… you will feel the burn!

Take your barbell with a moderate weight and set it on the stand just above knee level.  Stand beside the bar and reach down gripping the centre of the bar with one hand and lift the bar then let it go down below the stand and hold this position for as long as you can.  Your resistance is gravity and balancing the bar with one hand.

Weight Walk

Grab a pair of the heaviest dumbbells you can handle in each hand and walk with them until you cannot hold the dumbbells anymore.  You don’t have to limit yourself to dumbbells, you can use any other heavy object (try younger kids… they’ll enjoy the ride) that you can grip with both hands at the same time, say a couple of bags of dog food or something heavier in each hand.  You can also use the EZ curl bars and load them up to the capacity that you can handle.

Thick Bar

This is a common one. You will see most guys in the gym use this to get the grip strength they are looking for.  Using a thicker bar puts a very different kind of stress on the grip and forearms, giving you vast improvement.  There are many types of commercial grips that you can buy to add to your dumbbells even, but to make them thicker, you can wrap them with tape to gain the thickest size for your preference.

Reverse Curls

These are actual reverse barbell curls. This is the exercise that will put your forearms into fatigue mode real quick. Your grip will literally be the only thing keeping the bar from falling to the floor. (I have the power!)

Wrist Straps

I am only including this because this is a huge no-no when you are trying to develop your natural grip strength. As you know, the wrist straps serve as an assistant and this will hinder any progress you might be shooting for. It is okay to use them for the heavier lifts, but if you become dependent on them, you will not gain the grip strength and forearm development that you need.

Hanging

Just hang? Yes… just hang. Sounds easy, but don’t be fooled by this one. You can really only accomplish this as long as you have a chin-up bar (Stick one at the top of the door).  Grab the bar with your hands evenly apart and just hang there until you can no longer hang. What I mean is not just letting go when your hands get fatigued.  I am talking about hanging there until your fingertips are the only things holding you up and you literally fall off the bar because your hands have locked up with lactic acid. This will also accomplish a great upper body stretch.


All of the above exercises are pretty simple to perform. More importantly they encourage natural motion and will definitely catch a ladies attention when she grabs your arm 🙂

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Machines vs Free weights?

August 4, 2009 by  
Filed under The Fitness Bug

free-weights-vs-machines

This ongoing debate regarding free weights (low-tech apparatus) vs. machines (high-tech apparatus) for strength training never does seem to end. While each can help you build strength there are definite pros and cons for each. I have had experience with both, which I’m sure most of you have. But to answer the question on the superiority of free weights versus machines, it is first important to know what one’s goals are. I personally like to use free weights more, as i know they will give me quick results. My upper body I am not to concerned about when working out, but my lower body muscles take much longer to develop and grow, so using free weights works in my favor. Since every one is not like me, I will outline the pros and cons of both.

Machines

The most important component in any strength training program is safety. If you are new to strength training or if you are working out alone, variable resistance machines are your best bet. While machines can be a viable option for serious weight training, they are best for beginners, senior and recreational athletes.
For those that have injured your selves from working out incorrectly, variable resistance machines are preferred. They provide a more controlled motion and specifically isolate certain muscle groups. Machines also allow you to track progress and provide objective feedback while increasing the protective participation of the healthy limb or muscle groups.

To sum it up
Pros

  • Faster workouts – Ready to go stationary apparatus
  • Reduced risk of injury – Great for beginners (Doing it all wrong)
  • Easy to use – Self explanatory, no personal trainer
  • Useful when recovering from an injury – Isolate particular muscles, can maintain activity in your sport

Cons

  • Increased risk of pattern overload injuries – From repetition of working the same muscle groups
  • False sense of strength gain – (why i like free weights)
  • Mistaken sense of safety – Forgetting about common sense, not knowing your limits
  • Locked-in-place body movement patterns – Forces unnatural body motion

Free Weights

Free weights promote quicker strength gains and they require more balance and coordination than the weight machines. Free weights recruit more muscle groups than variable resistance machines, which tend to only isolate specific muscles.

Free weights are also more versatile than machines because they allow for more variations in range of motion, motions that we use day-to-day. Free weights require balance, and they tend to promote more activity of the joint stabilizer muscles. Finally, they are considerably less expensive than most of the machines on the market. You can perform a complete strength training routine with a few dumbbells, and a little imagination. (Home vs Gym)

However, free weights require the help of a spotter, and result in more injuries than machines. Careful instruction and training is necessary to master the art of free weight lifting. (Beginners… take it slow!)

To Sum it up

Pros

  • Increased use of stabilizing muscles – Abs, Erector Spinae and some leg muscles
  • Similarity with everyday activities – e.g. bent-over rows, bicep curls and step-ups
  • Improved balance – Ever tried using or incorporating an exercise ball?
  • Increased use of brainpower – Proprioreception (your brain tells the body where it is)
  • Convenient and inexpensive – For the traveler, the busy, the broke guy, home exercisers

Cons

  • Increased risk of injury when not using proper form – Make sure you know what you are doing
  • Decreased efficiency – i really do hate waiting for others to finish with the weights

Although i prefer using free weights for most of my workouts, an ideal training program should incorporate both free weights and machines on alternating training days. In order to get the most from both muscle strength gains and joint stability, you should focus on free weights for some exercises and machines for others.

The bottom line is that you should use the strength training equipment that suits your training needs, is safe, and is convenient. However, if you are comfortable using free weights like myself, you may see greater strength gains here than with machines.

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