Very rarely do you see someone with an impressive grip and large forearms who is not strong.
Over the years, we’ve received many requests for bodyweight training programs that build large arms, strong shoulders or a wide back.
Conversely, grip and forearm strength doesn’t receive as much attention. By default, the workouts are not as glamorous your typical “street workout” training montage, but remain crucial to the development of your strength.
Regardless of your training discipline, poor grip and forearm strength will hinder your ability to progress with bar or barbell-based exercises.
“Chair-ups” for improved grip and forearm strength
We saw the “chair ups” term coined back in January 2012 to describe an accessible forearm/grip workout that anyone can do.
As the name describes, you are using your forearm and grip strength to lift the chair off the ground while lying down. The challenge here lies within your mental resiliency, especially when you’re subjected to this level of time under tension.
Are you up for the challenge? (I’d be surprised if you weren’t.)
Chair-ups workout overview.
Want to have a forearm pump so strong that it would make Odin green with envy? Give the following a try:
Total exercises: 4 (performed in sequence with minimal rest)
Rest time: 1 – 2 minutes (after all 4 exercises have been completed)
Number of sets: 3 (completing all 4 exercises will be counted as a single set)
Total workout time: 15 – 20 minutes.
Exercise 1. Static hold with added weight (10 seconds)
The first exercise in the sequence is a static hold. To begin, you will place as much weight on the chair as you can handle for 10 seconds. A chair that’s heavy enough without added weight will also suffice.
This should be close to a maximal effort, and is not intended to be easy.
Useful cues: Look down, elbows stay on the ground, maintain core tension, short and sharp breaths, tough it out and don’t be a b*tch.
Exercise 2. Static hold without added weight (30 – 40 seconds)
The second exercise is the same as the first, except you remove the added weight and hold for 30 – 40 seconds. If you completed exercise 1 with heavy chair (no added weight), you’ll need to find a lighter chair to complete this exercise with.
If a lighter chair is necessary, make sure it’s accessible before you start your session to save yourself time.
Useful cues: Look down, elbows stay on the ground, maintain core tension, short and sharp breaths.
Exercise 3. Back and forth chair rocking (12 reps)
The third exercise involves rocking the chair back and forth, making sure your elbows stay on the ground.
As shown below, you will bring the chair towards you, then away from you in a slow and controller manner. The only movement should be from your wrists, and at no point should the chair touch or bounce off the ground.
Tempo: 2 seconds up (chair towards you), pause, fast down.
Useful cues: Look forward, elbows stay on the ground, maintain core tension, control the chair movement at all times, deep inhale and exhale after each rep.
Exercise 4. Chair “twisting” (side to side, back and forth)
By the last exercise, you’ll be certainly feeling forearm fatigue. Fortunately, your set is nearly over and you only have another 30-40 seconds to grind through.
The chair twisting exercise involves “twisting” the chair from side to side, and rotating it around in small motions using your hands.
This exercise helps to improve your forearm stabilization, and recruit more muscle fibers.
The faster your twist, the more muscle fibers you recruit, and the more difficult the exercise becomes.
Useful cues: Head up, elbows stay on the ground, maintain core tension, short and sharp breaths, don’t stop twisting.
If you’re unsure what on earth I’m talking about, skip to 2:33 in the embedded video at the bottom of the post.
And that’s it, you’ve completed your first set. Now rest for 1 – 2 minutes, and do it all again.
I promise you that by the end, your forearms will be burning like the flames of a thousand suns, as you discover a level of vascularity you never knew you had.
For more information, refer to Daniel’s popular video (>2M views) from January 2012.