The forearms are unlike any muscle of the body. For the better part of my first few years of lifting, I always worked my forearms really hard and often. It paid off for they grew to an enormous size; so much so that later in life they were integral in winning arm-wrestling championships (3-time Undefeated Britsh, UK and Western European Arm-Wrestling Champion): and, having them measured as being the largest documented forearms for the size of my wrist (8” wrist and 16” inch forearms, with the arm straight out and the forearm flexed; and, an astonishing 19” with them flexed 90 degrees to my biceps). I was but 12-14 years old at the time when I started training them, and the years were 1968-70. My first bodybuilding idol was Larry Scott, for Arnold had just come to the US and most of us on the East Coast didn’t know about Arnold’s domination in Europe and the fact that Joe Weider had brought him to America.
Larry Scott trained at Vince Gironda’s Gym and Vince was a real bodybuilding guru to many in the late 1950’s, through the 1960’s and beyond. Vince helped Scott win the first Mr. Olympia contest and Scott’s biceps/forearm look was very impressive for the time. I was determined to have great arms and my father was an inspiration also, as well as a genetic participant in my ability to wrist-curl a lot of weight at an early age. I can remember my younger brother Pat standing in front of me waiting to grab the bar when I had flexed my forearms so many times in one set I couldn’t hold on to the bar any longer.
In my quest for giant arms, I noticed that I could build my forearms to a huge size by doing a very unorthodox way. I ended up with the largest natural forearms for my wrist size, in the world.
What was it that made my forearms grow to enormous size? Contrary to popular ideology, I would pile a large amount of weight on the bar, sit down on the edge of a flat bench, pick up the bar, (or have the bar handed to me) and rest both forearms on my thighs. I had learned from a small obscure book written Olympic Lifter and trainer Bob Hoffman that when training forearms one should (A), never let go of an extremely hard grip on the bar and (B), add a towel wrapped around it to make the bar thicker. What? Yes, I would wrap I thick towel around the bar, tape it out at the inside collars and get my growing and strong hands around that thick bar and roll my wrist back and forth no more than 1-2 inches. So first of all, I would never let the bar go and let it roll down my palm and to the edge of my finger tips as almost every bodybuilder did (and still do). Also, I began to learn that, once I could do no more reps, (which was basically; starting position being the wrist being in a straight line with my forearms, and the end of the rep, was the wrist forced toward the belly of the forearm as much as possible); I would then pick up my heels with my calves—making the bar up higher on my knees, which made the bar slightly easier to wrist curl—this after doing at least 15-20 reps the aforementioned way. It was then that I would just squeeze in and out a tiny bit and in and out and in—merely millimeters, as many seconds as I could possibly stand it. I did not think of reps; I went until complete failure. I got into the habit of doing this until; at about the age of 15, I literally looked like Popeye. I had 16” biceps and 16” forearms, and if I flexed my forearms they were closer to 19”. People began looking at my enormous arms with an almost frightened look and couldn’t have been happier!
I soon began to “super-set” by doing a set of wrist rolls (curls for the ulna flexor, or the inside belly of the forearm as described above—to absolute failure!); adding a set of Standing Reverse Curls, with a cambered bar. I would go to failure on both and do two or three complete cycles, and I mean to tell you that those big things hanging down were so riddled with veins and so big that I looked big even to my massive father.
The key to the success for this is simple, but it is the difference between having mediocre forearms and not enough strength to handle heavy dumbbells and having massive, incredible forearms with enormous power. What you want to do is train your forearms two times in an eight day cycle. I rarely advise people to train any other body part more than once in an eight day cycle; however, in order to build up your forearms the recipe requires three ingredients: Intense concentration; an ability to stand great burning pain for extended periods; and, a willingness to do whatever it takes to make them grow, and in this case, it means training them twice as much as the rest of your body.
To ensure this optimal growth, wrap a towel tightly around the bar you are going to use (but be sure that you can get your hand entirely around the bar—it should just add enough so that the bar feels thicker and harder to squeeze, but not so large it is doubled in size). Pick a weight that you know that you can do 12-15 reps, while always squeezing, never letting the bar go below the spot where your wrist is even with your forearm (and never let your fingers relax—and no “false” grips). Squeeze from that beginning stage to the furthest you can pull toward the inner belly of the forearms and once you have done as many of these “full-reps” as you can, give yourself a lift, by putting your heels up by way of calf power and roll that bar back and forth, no more than an inch or so, as many times as you can do so until your forearms burn, then hurt, then feel as if they will explode!
About the author :
Paul T. Burke has a Master’s Degree in Integrated Studies from Cambridge College, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He is presently in a Doctorate Degree Program at A. T. Still University, and will be a Doctor of Health Education upon completion. Paul has been a champion bodybuilder and arm-wrestler; and, he is considered a leader in the field of Over-40 and Over-50 fitness training. You can purchase his book, “Burke’s Law,” A New Fitness Paradigm for the Mature Male, from his website, or the Home Gym Warehouse, call (800) 447-0008, or visit www.home-gym.com. ** His second book: “The Neo-Dieter’s Handbook,” A Guide to Finding Your Nutritional Root; Past, Present and Future, will be out in March, 2009 and his third book, “Burke’s Law II,” Reaching Your Muscular Potential through Musculoskeletal Designation (Book Surge/Amazon Publishing, 2013) will be available soon.
Contact Paul Burke: website www.paulburkefitness.com
Call Paul Directly: Toll free 855 308 2200