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The muscles of the forearm are mainly about grip. Since they are about grip, they can be a limiting factor in strength development because if you can't hold onto something, you can't challenge it.
You depend on forearm strength for things like pullups, deadlifts, climbing ropes, and many other things in the gym and in life. We often neglect small muscle groups here (eg calves, forearms, biceps, triceps) because they get so much good use in compound exercises, but if the limiting factor in your deads, for example, is grip strength, you can work on it. After all, the mighty mighty deadlift is the best resistance exercise.
I do grip exercises regularly, but maybe not often enough. My forearms are skinny like Obama's. Good forearm strengtheners:
- Farmers Walks (with kettlebells or dumbbells, as heavy as tolerable). Squeeze that handle as hard as you can and stand up straight. It's a compound exercise, but grip is the limiting factor. To make it harder, wrap a towel around the handle and carry them by the towel.
- Those hand gripper things. Rogue Fitness sells them at all levels of challenge. People keep them on their desks for stress-relief. (Best way to use them is to squeeze and hold for 5-10 seconds.)
- Dumbbell or barbell overhand ("reverse") curls. Overhand curls are weaker than underhand curls. The curl at the top of ordinary underhand curls is all forearm stress too.
The muscles of the forearm are complex. These are just the posterior muscles - anterior muscles of forearm are below the fold:
barbell hold: load the barbell and hold at waist level for 20 seconds, repeat for 3 sets. To get a real burn use a thicker bar.
- or -
cap hold: I use a 5 lb. protein jar, with sand (completely filled with sand is much heavier than 5 lbs; I cannot hold a filled jar for long). It is just the right size for my fingers to barely grip the lid. Again hold for 20 seconds, repeat for 3 sets. I have several 1 lb ziploc bags filled with sand and put them in to the desired weight.
And don't use alternate grip on deadlift until absolutely necessary, and then learn the hook grip instead to maintain symmetry and reduce risk of injury to bicep tendon. I see people all the time using alternate grip from their first warmup set on up. That is not how you develop grip strength.