- Why Grip Strength Matters and How to Build It
- Crush Grip
- Support Grip
- Pinch Grip
- Forearm Training for Grip Strength
- 8 Grip Strength Exercises For A Stronger Grip
- Why Is Grip Strength Important For More Than Just Lifts?
- 5 Types of Grip Strength Exercises
- Top 8 Grip Strength Exercises
- Strong and Functional Grip: 7+ Simple Ideas for Grip Strength Exercises without Equipment
- Hold On For a Bigger Deadlift
- THUMBLESS MIXED-GRIP FAT-BAR PULLING
- THE FLAT PLATE LIFT
- THE LIFTING STRAP HOIST
- So How Will This Help With My Deadlift?
- Author Bio
- Did what you just read make your day? Ruin it? Either way, you should share it with your friends and/or comment below.
- 1. Stop encouraging weakness.
- 2. Train your grip often.
- 3. Lift heavy.
- 4. Use grip builders.
- 5. Squeeze the bar.
- The Best Ways to Improve Your Grip Strength
- The Best Kit to Build Grip Strength
- How to Improve Your Grip Strength
- 5 Easy Ways to Improve Grip Strength
- 1. Stop using straps
- 2. Use thick-handled implements
- 3. Choose the right curling exercises
- 4. Squeeze the bar as hard as you can
- 5. Farmer’s Walks
- 5 Exercises that Increase Hand Grip Strength
- Improve hand strength with these exercises
- Dobrosielski recommends these five exercises to improve hand strength:
- Flex and Extend
- Wrist Curls and Reverse Wrist Curls
- Mid Row
- Modified Push-up
- Modified Plank
- The Muscles You Need for a Super-Strong Grip
- True Grips for Strength
- Get a Firmer Grasp
Why Grip Strength Matters and How to Build It
Grip strength is your hands’ ability to be mostly responsible for the proper execution of a movement. Grocery shopping, carrying your children, doing laundry, and shoveling snow all require grip strength.
Virtually every sport also requires grip strength, including rock climbing, baseball or softball, tennis, golf, hockey, lacrosse, wrestling, obstacle course racing, powerlifting, and CrossFit.
An athlete’s level of grip strength can make or break performance in these sports. There are three types of grip strength: crush grip, support grip, and pinch grip. The forearms, biceps, hands, and fingers all play a role in developing a better grip.
Here’s how to improve your grip to be a better athlete and chore-doer.
Crush grip is the ability to squeeze something between your fingers and palm (like this favorite piece of ours). You use crush grip when shaking hands, climbing ropes, traversing monkey bars, swinging a bat/stick/club, holding a heavy barbell or dumbbell, and grappling.
Try these moves for increasing crush-grip strength (and don’t forget to take a strength training class with Aaptiv right after).
Equipment Needed: tennis ball/stress ball
How to Do It: Hold a tennis ball or soft foam stress ball (like these) in the middle of your hand using your four fingers (not the thumb). Clench your fingers into the ball and then release. Do these hand clenches 50-100 times per day to improve grip strength.
Equipment Needed: spring-loaded grip trainer
How to Do It: While seated or standing, grab one spring-loaded grip trainer such as IronMind Captains of Crush or Harbinger Grip Strength System in each hand. Or you can just use one grip strengthener in one hand at a time.
Squeeze the grip strengthener as much as you can, trying to make a closed fist around it. Hold the squeeze for two to three seconds and then release. Do three sets of ten reps per hand.
Equipment Needed: towel, water
How to Do It: Soak a kitchen or gym towel under water. Holding the towel horizontally, twist the towel to remove the water from it. Keep twisting until it can’t be twisted anymore. Now, soak it again, and twist your arms in the other direction. Dry the towel out three times in each direction for three rounds.
Equipment Needed: sturdy overhead structure, towel
How to Do It: Hang a towel over a pull-up bar, and grab one end in each hand. Hang from the towel and then pull yourself up until your chin is above your hands. Beginners can hang from the towel for as long as possible.
Support grip is the ability to hold on to an object or hang from an object for an extended period of time. Carrying groceries, laundry, or shopping bags and doing pull-ups all require support grip. Do these three exercises to increase your support grip.
Equipment Needed: sturdy overhead structure/pull-up bar
How to Do It: Grab a pull-up bar (this has the best reviews) using a double overhand grip (palms facing the bar). Hang from the bar with your arms completely straight for as long as you can.
Beginners should aim for 10, 20, 30, and then 60 seconds. More-advanced grip trainees can bend their arms at 90 degrees and hang for one to two minutes.
Equipment Needed: two dumbbells (men: 30-50 pounds in each hand; women: 20-30 pounds in each hand)
How to Do It: Stand holding a dumbbell in each hand at your sides with palms facing each other. Keeping your shoulders back and head looking straight ahead, walk forward for 30-40 yards. Turn around and walk back to your starting point. That’s one trip. Do three total trips.
Equipment Needed: one 5-gallon plastic bucket (available at Home Depot, Lowe’s, and other hardware stores)
How to Do It: Fill the bucket with 50-70 pounds for men/30-50 pounds for women of kettlebells, sandbags, sand itself, rocks, or dumbbells. Squat down and grab the bucket with both hands, lifting it off the floor and toward your chest.
Readjust the bucket so that it’s tight and high against your chest with your left hand under the bucket and right hand grabbing the left wrist. This is for people who are stronger with their right hands. Left-hand-dominant people will do the opposite. Beginners should walk 100 meters for three trips, taking breaks as needed. Eventually, try to walk a total of 400 meters for one or two trips without any breaks.
Pinch grip is the grip strength between the tips of your four fingers and the thumb. Rock climbing, throwing objects, carrying sandbags, and opening the lids of jars all require pinch grip. Try these two moves to build this specific skill that transfers to the other types of grip strength.
Equipment Needed: one 10-pound weight plate and/or one 25-pound weight plate
How to Do It: Place a 10-pound weight plate on its side on the ground. It should be balanced standing up. Squat down and grab the plate with only the fingertips of your right hand.
Without the plate in your fingers, it should look like you’re sprinkling salt. Stand up with the plate between your fingers. Then, squat again to place the plate back down on its side on the ground.
Do ten reps with the right hand, and then switch sides. Advanced-grip athletes can try a 25-pound plate.
Pinch Grip Transfer
Equipment Needed: one or two 10-pound weight plates
How to Do It: While standing, hold one weight plate at your side in your right hand with a pinch grip (fingertips of all five fingers). Raise the weight plate in front of you so that your right arm is straight in front of your chest. Now, grab the plate using a pinch grip with your left hand, effectively transferring it from hand to hand. Lower the plate to your left side while in the pinch grip position. That’s one transfer. Do ten transfers for three sets.
Forearm Training for Grip Strength
Targeting your forearm muscles will help increase all three types of grip strength. While compound moves such as the deadlift and overhead press incorporate the forearms, it’s essential to single out the forearm flexors (muscles that close the hand) and extensors (muscles that open the hand) to build a better overall grip. Try these two moves to improve general grip and get stronger forearms.
Dumbbell Wrist Curl
Equipment Needed: 10- to 20-pound dumbbell
How to Do It: Hold one dumbbell in your right hand, and sit on a bench, box, or chair. Rest your right forearm on your right thigh, and let your right wrist bend back over your right knee so that the weight hangs down.
This should look like the dumbbell is rolling out of your right hand, but don’t let the weight drop—just let it roll onto the fingertips. Now, flex the right wrist and close your hand over the dumbbell, curling it back toward your thigh using only the wrist.
That’s one rep. Do ten reps on each side for a total of three sets.
Reverse Barbell Curl
Equipment Needed: E-Z bar or straight barbell
How to Do It: Grab the bar with a double overhand grip. Your wrists, shoulders, and arms should be comfortable. Keeping your elbows tight against your body, curl the bar to chest height, focusing on using the forearms to raise the weight. That’s one rep. Do three sets of ten reps.
Your grip strength will come in handy as you work to build up muscular strength with regular weight training. Add a few grip strengthening exercises to your week to help build accessory muscles required for lifting weights and sculpting your muscles.
Now that you have a ton of grip strength, it’s time to move to strength training workouts. View them in the Aaptiv app.
8 Grip Strength Exercises For A Stronger Grip
When it comes to strength training, building a strong grip is possibly one of the most neglected areas. In fact, in most cases it isn’t trained at all.
What you might not realize is that grip training does much more than provide you with a firm handshake, forearms like Popeye, and help you open that pickle jar.
The truth is that little bit of grip training goes a long way. It can pay huge dividends on all other areas of strength and fitness. For starters, poor grip strength is a hugely limiting factor when it comes to other exercises such as deadlifts, pull ups, lunges, rows, bench etc. When your grip strength improves, the rest of your lifts will follow suit.
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!
5 Types of Grip Strength Exercises
There are several types of grip exercises that all train different muscle groups. Here, we will go over the most basic types of these exercises:
- Crush Grip: crushing is the action of closing your hand around something and squeezing. This would be what you do every time you hold onto a dumbbell.
- Pinch Grip: pinching is the action of holding onto an object and squeezing with just your fingertips and not letting it drop. It can also be the act of pinching something together with just your fingertips (eg pinching a clothes pin….do people still use those?).
- Supporting Crush Grip: this is the act of supporting an object with a crush grip where you support most of the load with your fingers. Common examples are carrying a dumbbell, deadlifting or even carrying your grocery bags by the handle.
- Open Crush Grip: this is when you are using a crush grip but your fingers don’t quite touch or overlap. Fat bar or awkward object holds are great to train open crush grip. The real life carry over here would be an easier time opening jars (among other things) when your fingers are spread open. Having a strong open crush grip really comes in handy!
- Hand Extension: this technically isn’t a grip exercise in every sense of the word but it trains from the synergistic muscles to the ones you use for grip. This keeps a healthy muscle balance in your hands and wrists, which aids in preventing injury and overuse of those muscle groups. They will also help your actual grip strength improve!
Top 8 Grip Strength Exercises
Here are my 8 favorite grip exercises to use along with the type of grip they challenge:
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. The most popular brand seems to be Iron Mind’s Captain of Crush grippers, which you can purchase on Amazon or on their website for about $20 each. These grippers come in a wide variety of tensions from 60lbs all the way up to the #4 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 Holds
This is easiest to set up in a squat rack with the pins set just under where you would lock out a deadlift. The goal here isn’t to deadlift up the weight, rather to hold onto it, so a couple inches is totally fine.
Grab the bar with a double overhand grip at about shoulder width and then stand tall (e.g. deadlift lockout stance). The goal here is to hold for time and depending on your experience, 5-10 seconds will be perfect for most trainees. 3-5 sets should be more than enough to start!
3) Farmer’s Carries
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!
4) Towel / Rope Pull Ups
These do wonderful things for your grip and if your gym doesn’t have a towel service you can pick up a couple dish towels on the cheap. Simply drape the towels over a standard pull up bar, grip them tight and perform your regular sets of pull ups. They will be challenging at first but your grip will improve by leaps and bounds!
5) Plate Pinches
For pinch grip I usually recommend plate pinches, so all you need are two plates that are flat on one side that you can pinch together for time (flat side out). Starting out, pinch two 5lb plates for 30 seconds for a couple sets. If that gets too easy, then move up to two or even three 10lb plates.
6) 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.
7) Hex Holds
Hex dumbbell holds are another great way to challenge your open grip, provided your gym has hex style dumbbells. If you are serious about grip training you can purchase just the heads of the hex dumbbells from York (which they call ‘blobs.’).
All you do is hold the head of the dumbbell for 30 second holds. A couple sets is all you ‘ll need.
8) Band or Sand Hand Extensions
As I mentioned before, these aren’t grip exercises per say, but they will go a long way towards preventing injuries as well as strengthening your actual grip.
Band extensions can be done by placing a band around all 5 fingers (or even a couple at a time) and extending your hand outward for reps or for time. You can buy professional bands for this, but I recommend just using the thick band you get on a crown of broccoli, a thick rubber band, or even one of those rubber bracelets people wear.
Another great hand extension exercise can easily be done with a bucket of sand. Simply insert your hand with your fingers closed Karate Kid style and then extend your hand open against the pressure of the sand.
In my own personal experience, grip exercises have been the simplest addition to my strength training program and have yielded some of the greatest benefits across the board. It is always important to remember that you are only as strong as your weakest link. If that is your grip, why not start there!
Strong and Functional Grip: 7+ Simple Ideas for Grip Strength Exercises without Equipment
Strong and functional grip: 7+ Simple Ideas for Grip Strength Exercises without Equipment
If you’re looking for some unconventional ways to train your grip that require little to no equipment, we got something for you. These ideas are for strength trainees who either want to change up their old routine or do something different outside the gym. These are also suitable for people who prefer to work out from the comfort of their home.
There are two types of grip strength that you want to train. Power grip is for when you use your whole hand to grab, hold or twist something. Precision grip is used when you perform tasks that require a lot of effort from your fingers like playing guitar or typing.
You train your power grip for strength and power while precision grip is for agility and dexterity. In other words, you can think of power grip as a picture and precision grip as little details in that picture. If you want to know more about the two types of grip, check out this article here.
With that being said, let’s dive into the important stuff, shall we?
Seven plus simple ideas for grip strength exercises without equipment.
1/ Newspaper crumple:
All you need for this exercise are those newspapers that appear in your mailbox every week. Grab one corner of the newspaper with your fingers and start crumpling it up until it becomes a ball. After that, give it a couple of good squeezes. At first, it will feel easy but your fingers and forearm will start to burn after the second newspaper. Switch hand and start all over again. Rinse and repeat until you have a good pump in your forearm.
Bonus: this exercise is good for warming up before doing some serious grip training.
Grip type: power and precision grip.
2/ Cast iron pan wrist rotation:
You will only need a cast iron pan for this exercise. Grab the handle of the pan and have your arm formed at a 90-degree angle with your body while holding the elbow close to it. Then, rotate your arm externally until the pan is parallel to the floor. Bring the pan back to the starting position and rotate it internally until the pan hits the parallel position again. Do 8 – 12 reps if you want to build grip endurance. Cast iron pans come in different sizes so if you want to add some intensity and build grip strength, simply do this exercise with a bigger size pan. Nevertheless, we recommend starting at 5 reps and 8” pan size then slowly work your way up. This is to prevent golfer’s elbow in case you progress too fast.
Bonus: You can actually do some wrist curls with the cast iron pan. Great way to work those forearms without investing in expensive equipment.
Grip type: mostly power grip. You also strengthen your wrist as a result of the rotation.
3/ Grip a rock:
This exercise is great if you happen to go on a hike. Simply find a rock somewhere near a creek or river bank. Now you have to find the one that will give you a bit of struggle while gripping it. If it is too easy, find a different rock. When you find the right one, hold on to it for as long as you can. You will start to feel the burn in your fingers and forearm. Switch hands and do the same thing. After you’re done with that rock, find a different one that meets the criterion above and repeat the process. Different rocks have a different shape and weight thus will challenge your grip in their own way. You will end up training every muscle in your hand, wrist, and forearm.
Don’t underestimate these rocks. They will give your grip a hard time!
Bonus: Great way to add some fun to your cardio workout. Do it with a friend and see who will drop the rock first.
Grip type: power and precision grip.
4/ Crush an apple:
Yes, literally crush an apple with your bare hand. No equipment needed. Zero. Zilch. Nada. However, choose the one that will go bad soon. Save the good ones for later. Fruit is necessary for your recovery.
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Doing some Grip Strength Training with a Apple . I’m focusing a lot on my crushing Grip in my Training . Try it out for Your Self . Post the video and tag me in it . #GripStrengthTraining #AppleCrushingChallenge .
Bonus: A manly way to discard bad apples.
Grip type: power grip.
5/ Bucket walks:
You need two buckets for this exercise. Fill them with sand first to about halfway then see if you can handle the weight. If you can, start walking with two buckets until your grip cannot handle it anymore. Add more sand and do some more walking until you fill up the two buckets to the top. You can also wrap a towel around the handles to add more girth to it. As a result, your grip will work extra hard to hold onto the handles. When you’re done with the sand, you can start adding rocks instead. That will add more intensity to your workout. If you don’t like the buckets, you can opt for a pair of cinder blocks. You don’t have the option of adding weight to them though.
A bucket full of rocks. Good luck with that!
Bonus: This exercise has all the benefits that farmer’s walks have to offer but with ready-to-use household tools. Better yet, you can do some wrist curls and reverse wrist curls with the buckets. Kill two birds with one stone.
Grip type: power grip.
6/ Swing on a monkey bar:
If a little kid can do it, you can do it too. A playground can be a good place to make some serious gains. Start by swinging across the monkey bar. To make it more challenging, you can do a pull up after every swing. Rinse and repeat until your grip is fatigued. Another thing you can do is to wear a weight vest if you happen to have one. That will add another layer of difficulty on top of the swing and pull up.
Bonus: This exercise requires no equipment at all. You only need your body and a playground. By doing the swing, it also works your whole body coordination as well.
Grip type: mostly power grip. A bit of precision grip when your forearm is fatigued and your fingers have to do more work.
7/ Dead hang:
While you’re at the playground, add some dead hangs after you finish with the swing. Start with two hands and hang for as long as you can. Then hang with just one hand. Switch hand and repeat for as long as you can. This exercise will work your entire arm. Want to make it more difficult? Wrap two towels around the bar then hold onto it. Repeat the same process as described above with one hand hang as well. To make it even more challenging, simple wrap more towels to add some girth. That will really work your grip to the max.
Bonus: By hanging your body, you will end up stretching your upper body. Your shoulders including the scapula will greatly benefit from this. In fact, it will help with your overhead press. Another thing is that the exercise will also decompress your spine from the previous training where it was compressed by heavy loads.
Grip type: power grip and precision grip.
Other interesting ideas for grip strength exercises without equipment you can try.
• Arm wrestling: Challenge your strongest friend to an arm wrestling match. You will know if you need to train your grip more or not. Arm wrestling will work your entire arm. You will have to recruit every muscle fiber in your arm if you want to beat that strong friend.
• Rock climbing: Rock climbers have the best grip in the business. Need we say more? This is also a fun activity to challenge yourself and make new friends.
• Thumbs wrestling: Just kidding!
To conclude, you can do these exercises anywhere you want, at the park or from the comfort of your garage gym. They don’t require any equipment at all. The most that you need is some household tools and your bodyweight to build a strong and functional grip.
Grip strength is not only crucial for weight lifting but also for everyday life. It can prevent problems such as medial epicondylitis a.k.a. golfer’s elbow. This issue can cause pain and discomfort for many people, ranging from professional gamers to baseball players. They can go through all the physical therapy sessions they want but until they address the real crux of the problem which is their grip strength, the pain and discomfort will continue to plague them.
So train hard and smart. Above all, enjoy life and have fun.
Guest Post: Thinh Phan, Professional Freelance Copywriter, specializing in eCommerce.
Thinh is the chief copywriter at Thinh-Can-Write Creative Studio. A Vietnamese iced coffee addict. He enjoys strength training, breakdancing, and MMA. He’s a huge advocate of Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength program.
Hold On For a Bigger Deadlift
The issue is the equipment. Specifically, barbells and dumbbells are shaped to place minimal stress on the hands when training. A one-inch barbell is designed to be as small as it can be without digging into the palm or fingers. Any bigger and it’s harder to hold onto. A public demand for comfort has led to a narrowing of handles over the years, but that, in turn, has led to a weakening of the hands.
So, it won’t be very useful for me to simply tell you to abandon lifting straps and gloves, or to hold the bar for a beat longer at the top. Instead, I am going to share a few new ways that will actually improve your hand and wrist strength. Work these exercises into your routine and you will find that no longer does your grip fail you on a big pull, and as an added bonus, it will translate to more usable strength outside the gym.
THUMBLESS MIXED-GRIP FAT-BAR PULLING
Eliminating the thumb and placing more stress on the fingers and wrist will translate directly to more hand strength. Deadlifting with this grip — called the “monkey grip” — will train the arms as much as the hips and back. You will need a thick bar or a pair of the ever-popular slip-on grips. (There are a number on the market; the most popular are Fatgripz, the Manus Grips, and the Iron Bull grips. It won’t really matter which you choose for this movement.)
Place your thumb on the side of your index finger, turning your hand in to a flipper. Now set up on the bar with one palm facing you and one facing out in a mixed grip. You will find you have greater bicep and forearm loading here, too.
This is not something I would recommend you attempt at your 1RM deadlift on day one.
This is a grip-specific accessory movement, so use it on your back-off sets with more modest poundage. As you get stronger, you can work up very high weights as your wrist and fingers develop. You will be surprised at the feeling you find in your arm from shoulder to wrist the next day.
THE FLAT PLATE LIFT
How often have you had to lift something off the floor that wasn’t analogous to the familiar height of 45’s on a bar? Most objects we have to pull off the floor have a lower center of mass and more awkward shape than an easy-to-grip barbell. Related to barbell deadlifting, this will be similar to pulling from a significant deficit.
You will need a loading pin and two very secure locking collars. Start with a small, thin plate or two and then load a few heavier plates on the loading pin, and finally lock down the apparatus with the collars on the top. Straddle the load, slide your fingers underneath both sides of the bottom plate, and lift it up a few inches. Be careful when you set it down to do it evenly so as to not crush your fingers.
This is the ever-feared combination of round-back lifting with bent arms that will supposedly destroy your spine faster than a side collision…and it’s also the exact same lift you are doing every time you lift a box off the floor. Let’s face it, lifting a 500-pound barbell off the floor is way easier than a 120-pound 36” X 36” box. The leverages are very different, so the joint positions are very different as well.
The plate lift gives you a similar starting position as stone lifting. Most people do not have access to stones, which is a shame, so try this one out instead.
Stay with relatively light weight, but you can expect to move some big weights sooner than later. You can become very strong in this position with some practice. For perspective, several (normal sized!) men in my facility can lift a 400+lb stack of plates.
THE LIFTING STRAP HOIST
It’s en vogue these days to bash lifting straps and people who use them, but that’s nonsense. Straps have their place. Even if you don’t use them, I will share with you an excellent lift that gives you a reason to keep a pair tucked in your gym bag.
Note from TG: I concur on the straps comment. They do have a time and place. I discuss that HERE (scroll to tip #5).
Load some weight on a bar and choke the straps onto the spots where you typically grab it. Position yourself as in a deadlift and grab the straps. This will put you in a neutral grip, with a very tight fist. From here simply hold on and stand up. How simple it that?
This type of lift will train your hand in the fully closed position, which is deceptively challenging. Most people have not trained any of their pulling motions with that tight of a grip.
So How Will This Help With My Deadlift?
A fair question. Slip these movements in to your training for a few weeks and you will find your fingers, wrist, and hand will get stronger fast.
One side effect of adding these in is a far greater volume of pulling weight off the floor, and that is likely a good thing for you. If you are not accustomed to using several types of pulls, it maybe best for you work in just one extra movement per week. For those who are used to doing work, throw them all in and use your better judgment for load and volume.
I will leave you with one specific tip with regard to your normal deadlifting practice. You may have already heard this, but if not it will be more valuable than anything more complicated: Start out your deadlift days with a double overhand grip.
Continue using that until you have to go to a mixed grip. Over the months and years — in addition to a few simple grip drills — you will develop an industrial strength grip.
Adam T. Glass is a world-class grip athlete and heads training at The Movement Minneapolis. He keeps a blog and training log at http://www.adamtglass.com/ and recently released a comprehensive grip training DVD titled Industrial Strength Grip.
The types of grips are so many: Overhand, underhand, hook, false, alternate, wide and close. Today we are going to know every style and what is it useful for.
Overhand is when your palms are facing away from you when gripping the bar. Overhand grip is used typically when doing back exercises like chin ups, lat pull down or barbell row and it is also used when doing bicep exercises like reverse curls. When using the overhand grip you are also working the wrist extensor muscles (muscles on top of the forearm) especially when doing reverse curls.
Underhand grip is when your palms are facing towards you on certain exercises. Underhand is used mostly when doing bicep exercises such as barbell bicep curls and reverse grip chin-ups. It can also be used to do back exercises such as reverse grip barbell row and underhand lat pull down. The only down side to using the underhand grip when doing back is it does get the biceps pretty involved when lifting the weight.
Hammer grip is mainly used when doing bicep curls but may also be used when doing chin ups. Hammer grip is when the palms of your hand are facing each other. When using a hammer grip the wrist extensors are involved a lot more due to how the wrist is positioned. The only negative aspect with hammer grip is if you have weak wrist extensors they will fatigue before your biceps. Therefore do hammer grip as last exercise in your routine.
Alternate grip is when one hand is under and one hand is over (usually strong hand over weak hand under.) Alternate grip is rarely used in the gym but is primarily used when doing deadlifts and maybe chin-ups. The theory is when using an alternate grip (especially with the deadlift) is that the trainer can lift a lot more weight.
The false grip is a pretty common grip mostly when doing bench press. I don’t know why trainers tend to use this grip due to the fact that it is the most dangerous grip to use. Normally when gripping the bar with bench press you wrap your thumb around the bar and rest the bar in the palm of your hand. A false grip is slightly different, instead of wrapping your thumb around the bar you rest your thumb along the bar (like your giving a sideways thumbs up.) The danger with this is that there is nothing stopping the bar from rolling off the palm of your hand and land on your chest. I recommend using a false grip on machine exercises only.
Hook grip is used mostly when doing power cleans, snatch and maybe when doing deadlifts. To do a Hook grip you wrap your thumb around the bar and with your index, big and ring finger you pin your thumb to the bar. This helps hold the bar in place when doing power exercises like the clean and jerk. The only negative aspect of the hook grip is if you’re not used to it then you will probably end up losing a lot of skin off your thumb at first.
A wide grip is a grip that is wider than shoulder width. When using a wide grip for a bench press you are minimising the amount of tricep involvement and maximising the chest involvement. When doing a wide grip bicep curl you are involving more the inner (short) head of the bicep. Wide grip chin ups involves a lot more bicep than lats. It all depends on what you want to do and what your goals are.
When using a close grip (like the wide grip) you are using slightly different muscles. Close grip bench press minimises chest involvement and maximises the tricep involvement. Close grip lat pull down minimises back and maximises bicep and wrist extensor involvement. Close grip bicep curl works the outer head of the bicep more than the short head.
As you can see there are so countless different styles of grips to become familiar with once working out in the gym. I hope this article has given you a few pointers on what they do and what exercises they are worthy for and what the differences are.
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Author: Matt D’Aquino
Having muscular forearms isn’t just beneficial for giving a firm handshake. Building up your grip strength is imperative for lifting more weight in the gym on powerful moves like pull-ups and deadlifts. Hence, building a stronger grip translates to building more muscle all over. Many guys working in the gym, however sabotage their grip strength either by masking their weakness with tools like straps or just avoiding it all together and relying solely on machine-based work that neglects to challenge the forearms. Building a superhuman handshake requires more than just a few wrist curls at the end of a workout. Incorporate the following tips into your routine for sleeve-busting forearms.
1. Stop encouraging weakness.
Using tools like wrist straps and other grip aids in the gym put a band-aid over a weak grip. Rather than challenging your grip to become stronger, using those tools actually encourages your body to rely on help and may actually make your forearms weaker. Put aside your pride for a few weeks and lift slightly less weight that you can actually hold without help. By improving your grip strength, you’ll be able to lift more weight and challenging your entire body with a greater stimulus for growth.
2. Train your grip often.
Your grip is something that you can and should be training every day. Chad Howse, trainer and owner of ChadHowseFitness.com, adds that every time you’re in the gym pulling or lifting anything is an opportunity to train your grip. Incorporate pulling and lifting in every routine. The repetitive stress will cause a quick jump in grip strength and will immediately help to further develop your forearms. Slide core exercises like farmer’s walks that employ your grip in at the end of a workout for both a midsection and forearm finisher.
3. 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 for building a strong grip.
4. Use grip builders.
Towels and a variety of other tools like Fat Gripz can be added to your workout for an added stimulus. While adding weight to the bar is usually enough progression on your grip, these tools can help to amplify your results by increasing the strength demand. Try wrapping a towel around a bar or handle on any exercise to increase the thickness of the hand hold. Squeeze the towel while performing the exercise, but just be aware that you will likely need less weight than usual do to the added challenge. Similarly, hanging from two towels while doing pull-ups turns what may otherwise be a simple exercise into torture for a weak grip.
5. 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.
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The Best Ways to Improve Your Grip Strength
A firm handshake doesn’t just give make a good impression – it can also indicate how healthy your heart is and how long you might live.
A four-year study of more than 140,000 adults in 17 countries found that every 11lb (5kg) decrease in grip strength over the course of the research was linked to a 16% higher likelihood of death from any cause, a 17% higher risk of dying from heart disease, and a 9% and 7% higher risk of stroke and heart attack, respectively.
The research, published in The Lancet, added that grip strength was a better predictor of cardiovascular disease than blood pressure, and noted a strong correlation between grip strength and cardiovascular disease even when results were adjusted for other factors that can contribute to heart disease, such as age, smoking and lack of exercise.
“My favourite grip-strengthening move is a thumbless overhand preacher curl,” says Dan Yeomans, two-time Welsh physique champion. “Load an EZ-bar with a weight you can perform 15 standard preacher biceps curls with, but hold it with a thumbless overhand grip. Raise the bar, squeezing your fingers hard. Hold the top position for two seconds, then take three seconds to lower it back to the start. Do three sets of 12 reps.”
Rope climbs are a phenomenal way to challenge your grip while also building a strong upper body, but you can also make minor tweaks to regular gym moves. “Swap half your pulling exercises in the gym with rope variations,” says functional fitness expert Andrew Tracey (wayofthenomad.co.uk). Use the rope attachment instead of the metal handle for rowing moves – and even pull-ups. “As well as a bigger range of motion, you’ll get an added grip challenge and the harder you grip, the more muscles you engage in your forearms, biceps and deltoids.”
Try to get out of the gym too. “A weekly climbing or bouldering session will develop your finger strength and make workouts more fun and varied,” says Tracey.
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The Best Kit to Build Grip Strength
Looking for gym kit that’ll help you strengthen your grip? One thing you don’t want is wrist straps, which are designed to let your grip off the hook. “If you must use them, save them for the final, heaviest deadlift set or your grip will limit your potential for strength gains,” says Tracey. He recommends these three grip-enhancing bits of kit for one session a week to activate your forearms and crush the life out of your workout.
How: Slip them on dumbbells for curls and presses.
Why: “These transform standard dumbbells into fat ones, doubling the amount of work your forearms have to do to hold on,” says Tracey. “You’ll have to reduce the weight at first, but you’ll be able to lift way more in the long run.”
How: Attach them to an overhead bar for chin-ups and pull-ups.
Why: “These spherical grips test your finger strength – another common weak link – and give you similar benefits to bouldering. Use them for the first couple of sets before your fingers tire,” says Tracey.
How: Use them on barbells for biceps curls and overhead triceps extensions.
Why: “These force you to squeeze them shut around a dumbbell or barbell handle, so they’re more versatile,” says Tracey. “Use them for hammer curls and you’ll add a wedge of muscle to your biceps.”
How to Improve Your Grip Strength
There are three major types of grip strength you can improve:
- Crush: This refers to how strong your grip is using your fingers and the palm of your hand.
- Support: Support refers to how long you can hold onto something or hang from something.
- Pinch: This refers to how firmly you can pinch something between your fingers and thumb.
- Type of grip: crush
- Tools needed: towel, water
How it’s done:
- Run a towel under water until it’s wet.
- Hold each end of the towel so that it’s horizontal in front of you.
- Grip the ends and move each hand in opposite directions so that you start to wring water from the towel.
- Wring the towel until you can’t get any more water from it.
- Soak the towel again and move your hands in the other direction so that you work both types of crush grip.
- Repeat steps 1 to 5 at least 3 times.
- Type of grip: crush
- Tools needed: stress ball or tennis ball, grip trainer
- Put a tennis or stress ball in the palm of your hand.
- Squeeze the ball using your fingers but not your thumb.
- Clench as tight as you can, then release your grip.
- Repeat this about 50–100 times a day to see noticeable results.
- Type of grip: support
- Tools needed: pull-up bar or strong horizontal object that can hold your weight
- Grab onto a pull-up bar with your palms and fingers forward over the bar (a double overhand grip).
- Lift yourself up (or lift your legs) so that you’re hanging from the bar with your arms fully straight.
- Hold on for as long as you can. Start with 10 seconds if you’re an absolute beginner and increase your time by 10-second increments up to 60 seconds as you get more comfortable with the exercise.
- Once you’re comfortable holding this one, challenge yourself by bending your arms to a 90-degree angle and hold on for up to 2 minutes.
- Type of grip: support
- Tools needed: dumbbells (20–50 pounds depending on your comfort level)
- Hold a dumbbell at both sides of your body with each hand, with your palms facing in toward your body.
- Looking straight forward and keeping an upright posture, walk about 50 to 100 feet in one direction.
- Turn back and return to where you started.
- Repeat 3 times.
Pinch grip transfer
- Type of grip: pinch
- Tools needed: 2 weight plates (at least 10 pounds each)
- Stand up straight and hold one of the weight plates in your hand, pinching the edge with your fingers and thumb.
- Move the weight plate in front of your chest, maintaining the pinch grip.
- Grab the weight plate with your other hand using the same pinch grip and remove your other hand from it, transferring it from one hand to the other.
- Lower the hand with the weight plate down to your side.
- Raise the hand with the weight plate back up to your chest and transfer the weight plate back to the other hand with the same pinch grip.
- Repeat this transfer 10 times, 3 times a day, to see results.
- Type of grip: pinch
- Tools needed: 2 weight plates (at least 10 pounds each)
- Lay two weight plates on the ground flat. Have a raised bench or surface handy.
- Lean down and grab the plates with your right hand between your fingers and thumb, so that your fingers are on one side and your thumb’s on the other.
- Stand back up and hold the plates in your hand for 5 seconds.
- Lower the plates down to the raised bench or surface, then lift them up again after a few seconds.
- Repeat 5 to 10 times, at least 3 times a day, to start seeing results.
5 Easy Ways to Improve Grip Strength
One of the most common physical weaknesses we see in clients that come to UP is poor grip strength.
This is especially prevalent in clients who have previous training experience and have become increasingly reliant on straps and other grip aids over the years.
The problem with direct grip training is it isn’t sexy. Nor is it considered a worthwhile investment when the goal is body composition, and you only have one hour to train.
However, consider these three benefits improving your grip strength can have:
- Increased strength on pulling movements – If your chin up, row and deadlift strength jump, your back development by default will follow suit.
- Increased functionality – There are not many physical qualities more ‘functional’ than a strong, vice-like grip. Picking things up and carrying them in normal daily life will become easier. Plus, you’ll have a firmer handshake, which commands respect.
- Men and women with a strong grip tend to have a longer life span – Multiple research studies now support this, even after taking age, sex and body size into account.
The best way to improve grip strength is to blend it into your normal training, so you don’t think of it as extra work. Here are the top five ways to do so:
1. Stop using straps
This is the easiest and simplest way. Removing straps from all pulling exercises will immediately increase the demands on your grip. If you’ve become reliant on straps, the best way to do this is to stop using straps for all your warm-up sets, and then gradually wean off them in your work sets.
Your grip will need time to catch up with your pulling muscles, but you should reach a point where thir use is limited.
Straps do have a place, but like any other tool, they shouldn’t be abused. Saving them for only your very heavy deadlift or rowing sets is best.
2. Use thick-handled implements
If you walk into our UP gyms, you’ll see our famous fat grip rotating Watson dumbbells. There’s a reason for this.
The benefits of thick-handled implements are vast, from improving mind-muscle connection to enhanced shoulder stability. They also tax the fingers, hands, and wrists in a way no other device can, and in an extremely time efficient manner.
It works best for upper body pulling, pressing and curling exercises. If you don’t have the luxury of using Watson equipment, an excellent alternative is a pair of Fat Gripz.
3. Choose the right curling exercises
A simple trick to work on your grip without adding exercises is to make sure your arm training includes a variant of a reverse or hammer curl.
To make this even more effective, use a thick grip.
Reverse curls, in particular, will work the wrist extensors greatly, and as you fatigue, your grip will receive a great workout. The key to doing reverse curls properly is to keep your wrists straight throughout. If you go floppy in the wrists, you’ll lose the benefits.
4. Squeeze the bar as hard as you can
Whichever exercise you do, and whatever your goal, you need to actively squeeze the bar as hard as possible. Whilst it sounds simple, it’s amazing how few trainees do it. And the problem is, they’re leaving potential gains on the table.
When you do this, you’ll be more stable in your lifts, be able to exert more power and lower your injury potential. By squeezing your grip hard, you create an ‘irradiation’ effect whereby your inter-muscular coordination improves, and your body will function better as a single unit.
Try this when you next bench press. On your first set, perform it as you would, with normal tension in your forearms. In your second set, try and break the bar with your hands to the point your knuckles turn white. We can guarantee you’ll lift more, with better contractions and in a safer manner.
Remember, each time you use this, you’ll be training your grip!
5. Farmer’s Walks
This form of loaded carry is the most popular ‘strongman’ exercise we use at UP.
If you want a stronger, more developed back, do farmer’s walks. The truth is, very few exercises can tax the entire body the way farmer’s walks can. It’s versatility as an exercise means it suits any goal, whether it’s fat loss, hypertrophy or strength.
You don’t need specific, farmer’s walk equipment either. Simply grab two heavy dumbbells and take them for a walk. The key cues to remember are: shoulders back and down, stand tall and engage your core.
For grip, it goes without saying you shouldn’t use straps. You can vary the time you walk; either short and heavy or longer and lighter. Both work and the key really is to keep it varied.
There are many more ways to work your grip, such as crushing grip tools, lever bar work, and plate pinching. However, the purpose of this article was to show you how you can integrate grip training into your workouts without having to spend more time in the gym.
For anyone looking to improve their grip strength, these five methods can be implemented immediately and will deliver great gains.
Caution: your hands and forearms may be sore for a few days!
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5 Exercises that Increase Hand Grip Strength
Improve hand strength with these exercises
That pickle jar has become your nemesis. The last time you tried to wrestle it open, it won. And your sandwich went pickleless. Such small, simple tasks depend on hand and wrist strength. “Hands are the key to many of our daily activities,” says Cris Dobrosielski, a consultant and spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise and owner of Monumental Results. “Hand strength provides the ability to function and be independent while performing a variety of daily tasks from doing lawn work to, yes, opening pickle jars.” At his San Diego training facility Dobrosielski works with many seniors, and he sees how some are frustrated because they can’t perform everyday tasks, such as opening cans with a manual can opener. “Having stronger hands means being able to interact and play with your grandkids,” he says. “That means everything from putting together toys to lifting kids in and out of shopping carts. Strong hands give you confidence and freedom.”
Dobrosielski recommends these five exercises to improve hand strength:
Flex and Extend
Make a fist and squeeze as hard as you can; hold for two or three seconds. Then open your hand and extend your fingers as long and as wide as possible. Do three sets of five to 10 reps.
Wrist Curls and Reverse Wrist Curls
Grab a light dumbbell, about 2 or 3 pounds. Sit up straight in a chair and drape your wrist off the edge of your knee, palm up, while holding the dumbbell. Flex your wrist up, using only the wrist, not any other part of your arm. Do three sets of 10 reps. Turn your wrist over, palm facing down. Flex the wrist upward again for three sets of 10 reps. Repeat on your other arm.
Securely attach a resistance band to a stable object, then step back with your arm extended in front of you, holding the band until tension just begins. Pull the band back toward your body, bringing your elbow by your rib cage. Do three sets of 10 reps on each arm, gradually increasing resistance on the band as your strength increases.
Start on your hands and knees, with your toes raised off the ground. Your back should be long and flat and your arms slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Then press into the ground using your arms, chest, and shoulders to get back up to the starting position. Do three sets of five, with a goal of eventually doing three sets of 15.
Start on your hands and knees, with your back long and flat. Walk your feet back, eventually getting on your toes. Keep your back flat, not arched or rounded. Hold the position for five to 10 seconds while keeping your midsection stable. Return to the starting position; hold for 30 to 60 seconds. Do three sets of five to 10 seconds, working your way up to three sets of 20 seconds.
In the niche sport of competitive gripping (yes, you read that right), few feats are as impressive as the double-plate pinch hold with two old-school York Barbell 45-pound plates.
Plate pinching sounds simple: Set a pair of 2-inch-thick plates on their edges (smooth sides out), pinch them between your thumb and fingers, lift them to waist height, and hold. But in practice? The plates’ surfaces challenge even the fittest guys.
It’s a challenge you should try (but start with modern 5s): A large study suggests a link between weaker grip and higher risk of cardiovascular disease and early death. Plus, a weak grip is an invitation for injury.
A strong grasp can also help you lift more and rack up gym PRs. “Often it’s your hands that limit you when you lift,” says Jedd Johnson, a five-time North American Grip Sport champ.
Want to hone a viselike grip? Here are four ways to do it.
1. Crush It
Whenever you pick up a weight, squeeze the bar as tightly as you can. Actually, “crush the bar to a pulp,” says Pavel Tsatsouline, CEO of StrongFirst. Amp it up by squeezing your nonworking hand on single-arm moves like dumbbell rows.
2. Get Fat
Find extra-thick barbells, dumbbells, or handles for all your deadlifts and pulling exercises. Don’t have a fat bar? Find a towel and wrap it around a standard bar to make it more difficult to grasp. The larger bars—which are roughly twice the thickness of a standard bar—force you to squeeze harder to get a secure grip, so relatively light weights feel heavier, Johnson says.
3. Hang Out
For manlier mitts, strength coach Dan John recommends adding this simple challenge into your workout once a week: Do a pullup and then hang on the bar for 30 seconds. Without letting goof the bar, repeat until your grip fails or you can’t complete a pull-up. Ten reps translates into five-plus minutes on the bar—and proof that you have a badass grip.
4. Mix It Up
Your brain’s motor cortex puts to work more than 30 muscles just to control your hand. To strengthen all that sinew, think outside the barbell. “Towels hanging from the bar, thick ropes, and PVC pipes all place a different demand on your grip,”says MH fitness advisor DavidJack. Each week, do at least three sets of towel pullups or chinups, PVC drags or carries, or pulling exercise variations with ropes.
The Muscles You Need for a Super-Strong Grip
The muscles on the back of your forearm work together in order to open your fingers and extend your wrist backward.
- Train Them: Spread and open your hands as wide as you can while bending your wrists back. Hold for 30seconds. Rest; then repeat.
The muscles on the pinky side of your lower arm help grab and grip: key actions in nearly all sports.
- Train Them: Do wrist curls or any of the challenging moves below.
These help your thumb pinch toward your fingers, and they don’t get much love in most gym workouts.
- Train Them: Plate pinches.Start with two 5-pounders, smooth sides out. Work up to a 60-second hold.
The smooth-sides-out plate pinch is a gold standard of grip strength, but it’s not the only way.
- Struggling? Turn the smooth sides of the plates inside and hold; you’ll still train your thenar muscles, but it’s slightly easier.
True Grips for Strength
Use a mixed grip to handle heavy loads.
On lighter sets, use a conventional double-overhand grip. But on your heaviest sets, use a mixed grip—one palm facing you and the other facing away. This keeps the barbell more secure throughout the move. Each set, switch it up (so the hand facing you now faces away) to avoid repeatedly twisting your back in one direction.
Wrap your thumb; skip the monkey grip.
While the monkey grip (fingers and thumb on the same side of the bar) is sometimes advised for shoulder comfort, it makes you more liable to drop the bar. Always wrap your thumb around the bar and focus on the distance between your hands. Keep your forearms perpendicular to the floor when the bar touches your chest.
The hook grip may not be the best here.
Stick to a standard double-overhand grip, with your thumb outside your fingers, wrapping your fingers tightly. Elite powerlifters may tell you to use the hook grip (wrapping your fingers around both your thumb and the bar) on snatches and power cleans. If you’re not a powerlifting beast, you might want to reconsider.
Put your hands just outside your hips.
This one is all about hand placement. To determine your optimum hand position, hold the bar in front of your thighs, extend your thumbs so they point toward each other, and shift your hands so your thumbs just touch the sides of your legs. This will enable your knuckles to rest outside your shoulders when the bar is at your chest.
Can’t grab the bar? Use your wraps.
You want the bar across the front of your shoulders, using an overhand grip. If that causes shoulder, elbow, or wrist pain, just tie wrist straps or ropes to the bar, grab the ends, and then lift your elbows high beneath the bar. This will allow you to grip the bar even if you have mobility limitations.
Keep your hands loose and relaxed.
You may not bethinking about your grip when you go for a run, but you should be, says ultramarathoner Adam Chase, author of The Ultimate Guide to Trail Running. Avoid clenching your fists when you run, and focus on keeping your hands relaxed and loose, minimizing forearm strain and conserving energy.
Get a Firmer Grasp
- Squeeze a kettlebell by its sides as if you’re trying to deflate a basketball. Hinge forward and do rows. Do 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps.
- Drape a towel over a bar. Do chinups or pullups, one hand grasping the towel, the other the bar. Switch hands each set. Do 4 sets of 4 to 6.
- On kettlebell shoulder and floor presses, hold the kettle-bell with the weight pointing up. Do 3 sets of 10 to 12.
Andrew Heffernan, C.S.C.S. Andrew Heffernan, CSCS is a health, fitness, and Feldenkrais coach, and an award-winning health and fitness writer.