I don’t love the term “celebrity trainer,” because most of my clients are not celebrities. But I’ve worked with quite a few.
By and large, they’re just regular people with irregularly cool and visible jobs. And sometimes those jobs require them to make dramatic and visible physical changes in a pretty short time.
Superhero transformations are less common than you’d think. For the most part, most celebrities have regular goals and train like regular people.
MOST. Then there are the outliers. The celebs who get a little crazy with it—either for a role, or for their own personal goals.
And my favorite thing about working with celebrities is even if you don’t work with someone doing the “crazier” stuff, you get to hear about it. And man, I have heard some nutty stories about people doing some seriously over the top stuff.
One such story is about Sylvester Stallone. Now, this story comes from someone on his staff, so it’s pretty reliable.
Apparently, Stallone is, to quote this person, “obsessed with his forearms; like obsessed.” Meaning he works them in his regular training routine, and on set.
But he ALSO trains them on set and has an entirely different workout.
It involves rotating weighted bars, doing wrist curls, and lots of squeezing. If you’ve ever been on a set of any kind, you’ve seen gaffer’s grips. They’re these massive clamp-like things that are used to hold lighting fixtures or wires or whatever.
Before he shoots and of his scenes, Stallone does his routine: rotates the bars, does the curls, and then goes to town with the gaffers grips, squeezing them over and over, firing off sets of 50 reps or more. He then walks in front of the camera with an insane pump, veins standing out in harsh relief under his skin.
This might seem a bit silly to some of you, but it’s actually a brilliant move.
It’s a little “illusion” many guys use to look like they’re in better shape than they are. Don’t have a six-pack? No worries, just do lots of curls and wear a tank top, and you look pretty decent. Pffft.
Kinda stupid, but it works…until you have to put on a jacket. Cover up those arms, and the illusion goes away.
It also works against you: if you have an otherwise great body, but you haven’t put some time into building your arms, most people won’t even realize you work out unless they see you with your shirt off That may or may not bother you, but it’s worth nothing.
He understands what many people don’t: your forearms are the only part of your body that are likely to be in public view most of the year.
Adding to that, it’s almost never inappropriate to show them off. Even at an office, it’s generally cool to roll up your sleeves. And when you do roll those sleeves and show off some roped out forearms, man does it look awesome.
I mean, just look at Stallone:
Just a guy in a regular shirt, walking down the street holding a newspaper. And with one glance, you can tell he’s strong, dedicated, and got a serious physique under there. Just from his forearms.
But, training your forearms isn’t just about creating the “appearance” of being in great shape. The truth is, it’s a really important piece of training that’s overlooked by a lot of people.
⁃ Strong grip, allowing you to pull more weight on things like rows and deadlifts, building muscle more easily.
⁃ Injury prevention, especially in the elbow joint (the most common place for tendonitis)
⁃ Greater activation in the upper arms and shoulders on exercises like curls, pull-ups, and pressing variations.
…except that they’re a notoriously stubborn body part to grow.
Growing a great set of forearms often requires a long, long time. Conventional wisdom has always been that if you want to build impressive forearms, you need a lot of reps, high frequency, and a ton of cumulative time under tension.
In short, the commonly held belief is that—like Stallone—you’d need to be “like, obsessed.”
What if I told you that wasn’t true? That with the right training method you could actually add serious size to your forearms in less than a month?
Well, good news, kids. You can.
First, both muscle groups have a low concentration of androgen receptors (AR). While this is a stumbling block for anyone trying to achieve hypertrophy via the use of anabolics, it’s also inhibitive for any natural trainee. Testosterone, natural or exogenous, still affects muscle growth, and the lower AR concentration makes the more difficult.
Secondly, both muscle groups tend to be somewhat stimulus resistant. Or, rather: they receive so much day-to-day stimulus from everyday day activity that creating excessive growth stimulus from overload is more challenging.
Now, there’s nothing we can do about the first factor; we can’t increase AR concentration. It is one of the many frustrating limitations of humanity. Alas.
The second factor, however, is something that can be addressed through training.
Because forearms get so much day-to-day volume—they’re involved in everything from biceps curls to texting—they typically respond best to exceeding high training volume.
The complication here is that the muscles are small, so load needs to be somewhat limited for flexion and extension exercises.
Very high. I’m talking sets of 30-50 reps. That allows you to overcome the stimulus resistance and create growth-inducing micro trauma.
That, along with some strategic changes to other training, will have your forearms growing in no time.
Here’s the workout. You can do it 2-4 times a week.
If you do split training, do it on back day, and after leg day. If you do full-body training, do it once after every workout, but reduce volume slightly.
A) Fat Grip Farmer’s Carry (Walk 15 steps with a weight that’s an intense struggle to hold. Use DBs or a trap bar.) – 4 sets
B) Plate Pinch Curls (Make a “duck” with your hand, and pinch two 10 pound plates between your thumb and fingers, and perform a curl.) – 4 sets of 15 reps per arm
C1) Reverse Wrist Curls – 3×35
C2) Wrist Curls – 3×50 (Alternate C1 and C2 for three sets each, and then move on to D.)
D) Weighted Wrist Rotation (external) – 50 per arm (Perform 10 with one arm, then switch. Go back and forth until you’ve done 50 per arm.)
E) Fat Grip Reverse Curl (Crush the bar in your hands the entire time.) – 3×40
There you have it. Now, give it a try next time you’re at the gym.
Okay, I know everybody loves to shit on supplements but I LIKE taking a pre-workout. Preferably a non-stim one, and one that focuses on muscle pumps. Improving your pumps via increased nitric oxide synthesis will support your strength, recovery, and improve your mind-muscle connection. For some options, check out this post with the best non-stim pre-workouts.