Phonebooks…..Yes, they still make them. If you want the kind of for arm strength it takes to rip a phonebook in half, you’ve come to the right place. Before the digital age, if you wanted someone’s number you had to refer to a printed telephone directory. It was once quite a parlor trick to take the New York City telephone book and tear it in two.
Even if you don’t have a big phone book laying around, powerful forearms are pretty handy when you’re trying to open that stubborn jar. Here are 5 forearm workouts to help you tear a phonebook in half.
Pull-ups: A Great Compound Excercise to Build your Forearms
However, the overhand pull-up is a monster of an exercise. You need sufficient upper body and arm strength to perform even a single rep, so beginners should start simply by doing dead hangs. Perform a dead hang by grasping the pull-up bar with your hands facing away from you, a bit wider than your shoulders. Engage the shoulders – you’re not dangling, you’re hanging on, so don’t let your shoulders move out of the sockets. Bring your shoulder blades together as though you were moving them down your back along the spine. Don’t strain. Just maintain the hang with your shoulders engaged.
Dead hangs will build you up until you’re ready to do a full pull-up.
To do a pull-up, grasp the bar with your palms facing away from you about shoulder-width apart.
Pull yourself up to the bar to chin level, pause and let yourself back down again. Don’t drop back down – make it a measured, intentional motion.
If you’re new at doing pull-ups but have progressed beyond the dead hang, try negative pull-ups. Negative pull-ups are a simple way to start building your forearm and upper body strength. Start at the top of the pull-up position, and gradually lower yourself, counting to 5. Keep the shoulders engaged to avoid have the arms pull out of the shoulder socket. Come back to the top (use a stool or chair), and repeat. Below is a great video by the ArtofManliness.com that walks through how to do a pull-up.
Wrist Curls: Targeted Exercises to increase Forearm Strength
Wrist curls involve using a dumbbell. Select the weight that’s right for you, something lighter until you build up the strength for heavier weights. You don’t want to stress the wrist.
Sit on the edge of a bench or coffee table with your back straight and your legs spread a bit more than hips’ width apart. Reach down, grasp the dumbbell with your right hand. Your left hand should be bracing against the top of the left thigh. Bring the dumbbell to shin level, keeping your back straight.
Let the dumbbell hang in your fingertips and roll your wrist up as far as you can without straining. Repeat this for 10 reps and then switch to the other side. Below is a great instructional video that walks you through a proper wrist curl.
Towel Pull-ups: A Variation of the classic to Work Your Forearms
Tell pull-ups are a cheap and easy variation of the pull-up that really target the forearms.
To perform a towel pull-up, get a sturdy towel and drape it over the pull-up bar. Grasp each end of the towel and pull up, keeping your elbows and upper arms snug against the sides of your body. Pull yourself up until your hands are at your chest, then let yourself back down again.
Repeat until you hit the desired number of reps. Here’s another great video that walks through a towel pull up.
Rope Climbing: Build your Forearms While Having Fun
If there’s anything that will make you sweat, it’s rope climbing. Rope climbing may be the single best exercise for your forearms, upper body, and core. The basic rope climb can be done using a combination of the hands and the legs, shimmying up the rope using your arms and legs until you reach the top, then shimmying back down again.
Once you’ve mastered the two-handed climb, try climbing overhand without using the legs. Grasp the rope with one hand, haul yourself up, and bring the other hand up to pull yourself up further. Minimize use of the non-pulling hand. Continue climbing hand over hand until you reach the top of the rope. Bring yourself down again hand under hand.
Another variation to the standard rope climb requires two ropes. This one is not for the faint of heart. Set up two ropes so that they are about shoulder width apart. Grab a rope in each hand and pull yourself up between them. Alternate hands.
Pull up first with one hand and then the other, minimizing assistance from the non-pulling hand. Extra credit: Start this one on the ground in a seated position and pull up from there. You’ll increase the climbing distance and put extra intensity in the workout. Below is a great video by crossfit of the Rope Climb.
The Table Plank: An Unconventional Way to Build Forearm Strength
The table plank is a simple exercise performed from a seated position on the floor. It works not only the forearms, but the core, legs, glutes, and shoulders.
Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you, with your feet about hips’ with width apart. Place your hands behind you about six inches with your fingers pointed toward your feet. Bend your elbow slightly. Raise your hips into the air and extend your arms until your torso is parallel to the ground.
Do not lock your arms out. Hold the table plank for 5 seconds, lower yourself back down, and repeat for 20 reps. Gradually increase the time at the top of the table plank until you hold it for 10 seconds if you want a real burn. You’ll work the forearms along with the core, legs, glutes, and shoulders. Here’s a good example.
Spend a few weeks doing these exercises, then go and find a New York telephone directory and tear that thing in half!