Every time a dumbbell, barbell, or cable attachment is gripped, the forearms are put to work. The sheer act of tightening your hands around the fixed structure engages the muscles. Now, take into account when you add additional weight (sometimes a lot of additional weight) into that formula, you really start to understand why forearm exercises are so important to your workout. If you have ever been working out and felt your forearms burn so much you had to let go of the weight, then this is for you. Before we focus on that though, let’s review exactly what goes on with these muscles.
When the hands are gripped tightly around an object, there are two groups of forearm muscles in use; the flexors and the extensors. The flexors are on the inner portion of the forearm and mainly get used when the wrist is drawn toward the body. The extensors are located along the outer portion of the forearm and used when the wrist is pulling away from the body. When the wrist is in a neutral position, both muscle groups will be used in securing the weight. Aside from the forearm exercises that isolate these specific muscle groups, there are other ways to exhaust the strength of the forearms.
By focusing your efforts on increasing forearm strength, one can experience a boost in their ability to lift larger amounts of weight. This can be particularly true with exercises that are executed while using substantial weights amounts like lat pull-downs, deadlifts, and hammer curls. You may be asking how exactly forearm exercises impact these lifts and the answer is simple: muscle fatigue.
If your forearms and underdeveloped, the strain of holding a heavy weight will wear down and exhaust the forearm muscles. Once the muscles become exhausted, it is painful to continue holding the weight as lactic acid builds up from the muscles desperately trying to create the required energy to remain in the contracted position. This feeling is comparable to the burning that is felt in the thighs and calf muscles when doing sprints.
The best approach to dealing with this burning sensation is to focus on very specific forearm exercises. These should be performed with the goal of achieving a high amount of repetitions, not huge amounts of weight. High repetitions will increase muscle density, allowing for greater muscular endurance. A lot of people do not enjoy doing these targeted exercises but it is necessary in order to advance the other aspects of one’s workout.