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!
Top 7 Ways To Increase Your Grip Strength
1. 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
2. Farmer’s Walk
Typically done with 2 dumbbells or kettlebells, Farmer’s Carries mean you stand up with the weights and walk a certain distance or for a period of time.
This adds motion to your grip, so not only are your forearms challenged but so are your core muscles, shoulders, and hips. Try walking 20’ and progressing to 40’ with heavy weights!
3. Squeeze the bar
According to Chad, the simplest and most powerful tool is one that we often forget.
Actively squeezing the bar with your hands during a set leads to greater grip activation and therefore more gains in grip strength.
Avoid letting the bar slide towards your fingers during a set. Instead, keep it locked firmly in the palm of your hand and wrap your thumb around the bar to hold it in place.
During a set, focus on squeezing the bar as hard as possible. By engaging your grip more during the exercise, you’ll likely find that your strength numbers will shoot through the roof.
4. Hanging progression
Head back to the monkey bars—but keep in mind that since you’re much heavier now than in your playground days, crossing them is an advanced move.
Each day, run through this series of moves until you reach the point at which you can’t hold on any longer: First, grip the vertical part of the bars with one hand and lean away from it.
Over time, move your feet closer to the bars so you’re loading up your hand and arm with more of your body weight.
Next, hang on a low bar with both arms, keeping your feet on the ground. Slowly begin taking away your support—lifting one leg, then both legs.
Once you can transfer your full weight to your arms, move to a higher bar and hang with your feet off the ground.
5. 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.
6. Wrist rollups
Duct-tape the end of a 5-foot piece of string or twine to a broomstick or PVC pipe (as shown). Wrap the other end of the string around a book, half-full water jug, or other 2- to 4-pound object.
Hold the broomstick parallel to the ground in front of you with your elbows bent 90 degrees, palms facing down.
Roll forward to wind up the string and bring the weight up to the broomstick, then back down. Repeat with palms facing up.
7. Fat Gripz
One of the best bang-for-your-buck pieces of equipment when it comes to grip training is Fat Gripz which can be used with any standard barbell, dumbbell or pull up bar.
Unless you are Andre the Giant your hands shouldn’t be able to close around the Fat Gripz, allowing you to train your open grip.
I recommend using them periodically since this grip trains fairly easily and without as much constant attention.
Once or twice a month add them your standard deadlifts and try doing both double overhand and alternating grip for heavy singles. They also work really well for chin ups and dumbbell rows as well.