hy the hell are so many guys taking up a bench performing wrist curls? Scientists have yet to find an explanation for this phenomenon, but the dominant theory has something to do with their lack of a girlfriend: the longer they’ve been single, the more wrist curls they do. And let’s face it, the guys are normally 60-plus lbs overweight, implying that forearms are the least of their worries, but still, with all that work and time—I’ve seen guys do an entire workout consisting of nothing but wrist curls—they should possess huge, bone-crushing forearms, not the flaccid, veiny toothpicks connecting the hand to the elbow that they possess.
Unlike the bottom extremities, which are designed to move mass—body mass—forearms are designed to stabilize the wrist while gripping (well, the brachioradialis also helps twist the forearm and aids in elbow flexion), they are not built for performing an endless succession of wrist curls. The heavier the object in the hands and the more difficult it is to hold, the harder the forearms work and the bigger they get. Big forearms require holding massive weight and making it difficult to hold that weight. That’s it.
My single favorite tool for forearms, designed to make holding weight more difficult or balancing more precarious, are thick bars. The average handles for all the equipment in the gym are 1 inch in diameter, where as thick bars range from 1.25 inches to 3 inches and sometimes greater. For reference, the ends of an Olympic bar are 2 inches in diameter. As the diameter of the bar increases, pushing exercises, like bench, require more forearm strength for control and pulling exercises, like rows, require more strength to hold the handles. With thick bars, every exercise hammers the forearms, forging them into works of art—chiseled, thick, muscular works of art.
But if you’re like me, you train in one of the huge brand-name gyms whose only goal is to squeeze every last penny from their members while offering ever decreasing quality equipment and service. They sure as hell aren’t going to buy 10,000 dollars worth of thick bars no matter how much the members may benefit. That leaves one option: find adapters to turn 1 inch bars into thick bars.
One of the half-dozen or so solutions is Fat Gripz™. These little gems fit on just about anything—dumbbells, barbells, pull-up bars, cable attachments, kettlebells—and converts the bar into a 2.25 inch grip thick bar. I use them on deadlifts (obviously not with heavy weight), chin ups, curls, and rack presses. They make setting up under the bar a little cumbersome, so I have yet to try them with any real weight for benching or shoulder press, although the rack presses are a good simulation for bench.
Besides filling my forearms with enough blood to rupture a cow’s stomach, Fat Gripz™ also decrease the pressure on my hands during heavy rack press. By creating a greater surface area for the palm, the hand can’t twist during the movement and expose the nerves of the carpal tunnel to excessive pressure. For someone with years of cycling in their past—like me—this is a life saver. Sometimes, after heavy benching with a 1 inch thick bar, I can’t close my hands from the sharp, stabbing pain in my hands. It passes after a minute or so, but I still need to stay focused throughout the movement to prevent my hands from getting out of alignment on the bar. With Fat Gripz™, no concentration is required; you can’t help but keep your hands in the right position.
On pressing movements, Fat Gripz™ also increase nervous activation in the shoulders, thereby training shoulder stability, from the extra control necessary to keep the elbows positioned directly beneath the wrists. The difficulty holding the large diameter grip and keeping it centered in the palms demands absolute positioning of the elbows directly beneath the bar and, therefore, absolute steadiness from the shoulders.
I highly recommend buying a pair. They run about $40 from Amazon.com and seem to be indestructible (as a test, I pinched one between the supports in a power rack and a bar loaded with 405…it didn’t leave a mark, indentation or have any noticeable effect and I can’t even tell which one it was). They also come in any color you desire, as long as you desire blue.
Fat Gripz™: now you too can have forearms like a trucker without the trucker gut.