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Curls for Complete Forearm Development

7308-nat2Q: Are hammer curls and barbell wrist curls enough for complete forearm development, or do I need to include reverse wrist curls also?  

A: It all depends on how fast your forearms develop. Reverse wrist curls work the extensor muscles on the tops of the forearms. The extensors also develop from doing hammer curls, so you may not need to do two exercises that work the same area of the muscle.

Reverse wrist curls are one of the best exercises for isolating the extensor muscles of the forearms because they don’t involve the biceps or brachialis muscles to complete the movement. I like using exercises like hammer curls and reverse curls to build the brachialis.

If you are training heavy using lots of barbells and dumbbells, you may not even need to work your forearms directly. Mr. Universe Mike Mentzer had some of the freakiest forearms of his generation, and he never trained them. Of course, Mentzer also had some pretty freaky genetics when it came to forearms and calves; most of us won’t be that lucky.

I’ve always built my forearms with my delt and back work. When I use heavy weights on moves like barbell upright rows and dumbbell lateral raises, it puts a lot of stress on the forearm extensors as well as the delts and traps.

Similarly, when I train my back, the flexor muscles of the forearms are also working very hard. Exercises like wide-grip chins, pulldowns, barbell rows, T-bar rows, dumbbell rows and deadlifts will build up your grips and develop your forearms—if you can avoid using straps.

Focus on using the basic, compound movements with barbells and dumbbells, and don’t use the wrist straps unless you absolutely have to. Train your forearms after your biceps workout, and include one exercise each for the extensor and flexor muscles. If you want to isolate the extensors, feel free to add the reverse wrist curls to your routine.


Editor’s note: John Hansen has won the Mr. Natural Olympia and is a three-time Natural Mr. Universe winner. For information on his exciting new program, The MP6 Cycle Training, check out his Web site at www and become a memeber. To attend the Natural Olympia Fitness Getaway, go to Send questions or comments to [email protected]
.com. Look for John’s DVD, “Natural Bodybuilding Seminar and Competitions,” along with his book, Natural Bodybuilding, and his training DVD, “Real Muscle,” as well as his new DVD “Natural Bodybuilding Seminar and Competition” at his Web site or at Home Gym Warehouse,  IM


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