Biceps and triceps are the backbone of superheroic-looking arms, but they’re not the only way to go. If you want your arms to look complete, then you also want serious forearm size and strength, too. In addition to that, strong forearm and grip strength is key as you get older.
A lot of training forearms comes from gripping items with intent, doing exercises such as, say, farmer’s carries and deadlifts, and really squeezing the bars and handles during those moves. But sometimes it helps to get a bit more focused forearm work, too, and that’s where the bottoms-up clean to rotation from Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., comes in. You’ll need a pair of kettlebells for this one. “And then it’s all control,” says Samuel. “Can you control the weight and own your forearm angle the entire time? Your forearms get no rest here.”
The reason for that is the bottoms-up kettlebell position. It’s easy enough to hold a kettlebell with the weight resting on your forearm. But holding a kettlebell upside-down, the bell overhead, requires fine balance and control from your smaller forearm muscles. “If your forearms aren’t fully perpendicular to the ground, the bells will tip,” says Samuel. “Maintaining that position takes work.”
Especially when you swing upwards while doing the clean. It’s an exercise in controlling momentum. “And we finish with forearm rotation,” says Samuel, “forcing that much more control during the motion.”
All of this gives your forearms little chance to rest, pumping them up and keeping your mind in the game, too. “This isn’t easy,” says Samuel. “Go lighter on this than you think because the balance component will catch you off-guard.”
It’ll ramp your heart rate more than you think too. “This is still a clean,” says Samuel, “so there’s more total-body here than you expect.”
- Start in tall kneeling stance, glutes and abs tight, holding two kettlebells at your sides, core and glutes tight.
- Hinge forward, keeping your core tight, then explode through your hips, driving the kettlebells upwards. “Catch” them with your forearms perpendicular to the ground, bells facing up.
- Control the bells, then rotate your hands so your palms face in. Rotate back.
- Lower and repeat. That’s 1 rep. Do 3 sets of 6 to 8.
The bottoms-up clean to twist is a perfect way to finish out an arm workout. You work with a lighter weight, and you fire up smaller muscles that you didn’t attack in your larger biceps and triceps work, says Samuel. But that’s not the only way to use it, either. “You can also use this as a warmup,” says Samuel, “ramping your heart rate and exciting your muscles for the challenges to come.” Either way, expect a forearm pump, and more mental challenge than you may be ready for.