Forearms: Important for Hitters or Just for Show?
Baseball players have always been enamored with forearms. Many believe building their forearms is going to give them better bat speed, power, and create harder contact. They will perform endless rice bucket drills, wrist curls, and wrist rollers to build forearm strength. Hey, big leaguers have large forearms so it must be true, right?
…Or Maybe It Just looks good in the uniform?
The importance of doing extra forearm work for baseball players has been debunked by multiple studies. Researchers have found that performing extra forearm exercises showed no significant improvement in bat speed or exit velocities. (Szymanski, 2010)
This makes sense. The forearms are the last link in the kinetic chain to the bat. The wrists and forearms are not a force generator; they are basically just along for the ride. Your core/trunk and your legs are what create bat speed and power.
If your one of those kids that heads to the gym just to get his wrist curls and rice bucket drills in, but you can’t deadlift, squat, or RDL a considerable amount of weight, you are wasting your time. Your priority needs to be building your engine(core/legs). Don’t worry, you will still look good in the uniform. Big forearms are a byproduct of building a big, strong & powerful body. Consider this tweet from Eric Cressey:
SO SHOULD WE JUST NEGLECT FOREARM STRENGTH?
Short answer is no. Although it is the last link in the kinetic chain, it is still part of the kinetic chain, and if there is a weak link there will be a loss in power output. That being said, there is a right and a wrong way to train your forearms for athletic performance. An athlete only has so much training economy. Training time should be spent building the necessities- Strength, speed, and power(your engine). Lift heavy weights and build your engine; you will become a better overall athlete and your forearms will get stronger.
3 Exercises that will Build Forearm Strength
It’s called the king of all lifts for a reason. The deadlift is essentially a full body movement, but is especially good at developing the posterior chain- which is where your power comes from.
Deadlift, and deadlift heavy. You will get stronger, you will improve your bat speed and power, and if you’re lifting upwards of 300-400lbs your grip strength will improve.
This is kind of a piggy back to the deadlift. RDL variations should be a staple in any program for the same reasons. It hammers the glutes/Hamstrings which is what drives our power. Working up to a HEAVY set of 6-8 reps on an RDL is going to do a lot more for your grip strength and overall baseball performance than some rice bucket drills.
Farmer Carries offer a lot of benefits for a baseball player. They’re great for building a strong back, core strength (especially if you do offset variations), hip stability, and ofcourse grip strength.
An added benefit to the farmer carry is they do an awesome job of strengthening the rotator cuff. Any time you pick up a dumbbell or barbell and squeeze tight it will activate the cuff and your shoulder will pack itself.
If you’re not using carry variations in your training you should, You’re going to strengthen the posterior chain, increase hip and trunk stability, improve overall shoulder health, and your forearms are going to get really strong. What’s not to like?
Szymanski, D. J. , & DeRenne, C. (2010). The Effects of Small Muscle Training on Baseball Hitting Performance: A Brief Review. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 32 (6) ,99-108.
Szymanski, David. “Effect of Wrist & Forearm Training on BV.” Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, vol. 20, no. 1, 2006, pp. 231–240