What is Grip Strength?
Grip strength is often thought of as simply hand strength. And while hand strength is definitely included, there are actually many other things to consider when thinking of grip.
First off, grip involves everything from the musculature near the elbow down to the fingertips.
It has to be thought of this way because many of the forearm and hand flexor muscles actually originate above the elbow, and anytime a muscle crosses a joint, it will in some way influence it.
As we move downward, the gripping muscles pass through the forearms, the wrists, and into the hands, fingers, and thumbs — and not only through the front of the forearms, but also the back of forearms.
This is important to remember. When we look at grip in this manner. We start to see that there are MANY movement patterns that are realized by the lower arm musculature.
As we train the lower arms. We must then remember to train all of these movement patterns in order to maintain a suitable balance between the antagonistic muscle groups, such as the flexors and extensors.
In fact, many cases of inflammation-related forearm pain such as tendonitis, tendonosis and epicondylitis can arise due to improper training of the forearm muscles or simply neglecting certain muscle groups or movement patterns.
Why Is Grip Strength Important For More Than Just Lifts?
If you’re interested in getting stronger, this is a no-brainer. It’s unlikely that you will ever have strong hands without a strong body. But there are lots of strong bodies out there without strong hands.
If you’re interested in decreasing body fat, lifting more weight during your workout means more calories burned.
Working grip exercises into your program can also aid in preventing certain pain syndromes from chronic inflammation to tendonitis, which is generally caused by neglecting certain muscle groups and overuse of others.
Also, through a process called irradiation. You may actually be strengthening other muscles from your wrist all the way down to your core with the most important being perhaps your rotator cuff muscles.
An easy way to feel this working is to hold your hand out in front of you and make a fist.
Now squeeze your fist as hard as you can and you should feel all the muscles in your arm and even your core tighten up as well.
To utilize this during your training squeeze the bar during exercises like the bench press and deadlifts to instantly lift more weight and protect your shoulders!
How To Improve Your Grip Strength
1. Hand Grippers
Using hand or torsion grippers is my favorite type of grip exercise and is easily one of the best ways to train your crush grip.
Actual hand grippers should be very challenging to close. Unlike the plastic ones that some of you may have seen back in the high school weight room.
There are many popular brands out there, a lot of companies are moving into the accessories industry, which you can purchase on Amazon, Ebay or on their website for about £10 – £20 each. These grippers come in a wide variety of tensions from 60lbs all the way up to the top which is a 365lb close!
You can train with hand grippers by going for repetitions and max close, or even holding a close for a set or max period of time.
I recommend starting with first learning how to properly set and close a gripper as training with them requires a certain level of skill and strength.
You should start off with 2-4 sets of 8-10 reps with a lighter gripper and work up from there.
2. Barbell Shrug
You can shrug a straight barbell, a trap bar, dumbbells, or even a machine to increase grip strength. But the barbell shrug is the exercise you should definitely incorporate into your strength and conditioning routine for better grip.
How to Do It: Hold a barbell using a pronated (overhand) grip at shoulder-width in front of your hips with arms straight.
Stand holding the barbell with your shoulders back and head facing forward. This is the starting position.
Keeping your arms straight, raise your traps and shoulders towards the ceiling. And pause for three seconds. Then, return the weight to the starting position.
When the weight gets heavy, you can use weightlifting straps to keep the bar from rolling out of your hands.
3. Plate Pinching (Pinch Grip)
This is done by setting up two or more plates smooth-sides-out and then lifting them off the floor in a pinch grip.
Common combinations include 4-tens, 2-25’s, and 7-fives. If you can pinch 5-tens, 2-35’s, or 8-fives, then you have an excellent grip. If you can pinch 6-tens, 2-45’s, or 3-25’s, then you are world class.
4. Lift heavy
Rather than training your grip with tons of light wrist curls for an endless amount of sets. Consolidate your workout and train your grip at the same time as the rest of your body.
By incorporate heavy deadlifts, pull-ups, and bodyweight rows, you can develop your entire arm, not just your grip.
Work on adding weight to rack deadlifts, a variation that emphasizes the top portion of the lift and allows for more weight on the bar hence a larger grip challenge.
For pull-ups and bodyweight rows, constantly challenge yourself by switching grips every few reps during a set.
By releasing and then grasping the bar, you’ll challenge your forearms to adjust and adapt to a variety of positions.
Also, don’t neglect exercises like walking lunges while holding dumbbells as they present a great opportunity.
5. Wrist Curls
The wrist curl is the most basic forearm flexion exercise. With the forearm supinated and a dumbbell in the hand, work from full extension (wrist open) to full flexion (wrist closed).
Move slowly and in control for 8 to 10 repetitions. Begin each set with your “strong” hand, and follow it with the “stronger” hand.
If you are moving 50 or more pounds in these sets, you could experience wrist pain. In such a case, consider switching to the Heavy Finger Roll, which can best be done with a barbell in a power rack.
For this exercise, you’d roll the bar down to the tips of the fingers, then back up to full flexion. Although not technically wrist flexion, it serves our purpose of training the muscles through a full range of motion.
7 Top Grip Strengthening Exercises
- Sandbell rows
- Sandbell snatch & throw
- Sledgehammer swings
- Tire flip
- Horizontal and vertical pull-ups and hang
- Farmer’s walk
- Hand grip strengthening device
The Grip Workout
Training forearms shouldn’t take up all of your time in the gym.
You can pick 2-3 grip exercises to perform 2-3 days a week. It should only take about 15 minutes at the end of your workout. It’s a good idea to wait until the end of your workout because your gripping muscles will already be activated and ready to go.
As far as frequency of training the forearms, this study shows no significant difference between baseball players who trained forearms 10 times a week and other athletes who trained their forearms three times a week.
This means you don’t have to train your grip muscles every day to see significant results.
Here’s a three-day grip workout split. Each workout should be performed in circuit fashion.
- Reverse Curl (top portion) 3 x 12-15 reps
- Standing Wrist Extensions with dumbbells 3 x 12-15 reps
- Farmer’s Carries with fat grips 3 x 100 – 200 feet
- Sled Pulls with a rope (backwards walk) 3 x 100-200 feet
- Brick Drop and Catch 3 x 10 catches each hand
- Hang on Pull-Up bar 2-4 x till failure
- Iso Deadlift Holds at Top 4 x till failure
- Farmer’s Walks with fat grips 3 x 100-200 feet
- Brick Drop and Catch (try using 2 fingers) 3 x 15 each hand
If you really want to make some progress, follow this workout schedule for 4 weeks. Each week you will try to increase weight, even if it’s just micro-loading (increasing the load with a 2.5 – 5 pound plate each week).
What this does is set you up with a periodization method which will increase the total weight lifted to increase strength and in turn, enhance your athletic performance.