Have you ever challenged yourself to get all your grocery bags from the car to the house in only one trip?
I do this all the time, which usually means I’m grabbing five or six bags in each hand. Whether you consider it laziness or efficiency, you can’t deny it requires some serious grip strength!
Grip strength is often perceived as something only men — not women — train. (When I was a kid, my dad had these blue plastic-handled grippers. I would try to squeeze them, but even with both hands, I still couldn’t make them budge.)
But developing a stronger grip is something we should all prioritize if we want to level up our training. In this article, you’ll learn exactly why grip strength training is important as well as six of the best exercises to help you develop your grip.
Grip strength is the measure of force and power you can generate from your forearms and hands. While it’s an easily overlooked component of training, it’s an integral part of strength development that significantly affects the results you can achieve.
There are three types of grip. The crush grip is the grip between your fingers and palm (think of squeezing something in your hand). The pinch grip refers to pinching between your fingers and thumb, while the support grip is a static move in which you need to hold the position for an extended period of time. All three types of grip can be developed.
You’re only as strong as your grip allows. If you have a weak grip, you may hit some plateaus in your training simply because your grip limits how much weight you can move and how many reps you can perform.
The better your handgrip strength, the more you can focus on your lifting technique and mechanics without compensation, which in turn can reduce your risk of injury.
Grip strength training also improves your connective tissues — the increased blood flow contributes to improved muscle function and adaptation to training. Grip strength (like strength training in general) additionally increases your bone density, especially through your wrists and elbow joints, therefore reducing your risk of injury to these areas. If you don’t condition your grip and forearm muscles for mobility, strength, and endurance, you may experience injury or chronic pain down the road.
Outside of its benefits in your training, grip strength can help improve the quality of your everyday life, from opening jars to shoveling snow to upping your tennis, baseball, and golf game.
There are six grip strength exercises I recommend including in your training program — and as you'll see, getting a good grip takes a lot more than wrist curls, stress balls, and grippers! Each of these movements and types of grip will help with a different aspect of your grip strength and ensure you’re continually challenging yourself.
One of the easiest ways to increase your grip strength is by including heavy barbell deadlifts in your program. Heavy deadlifts are my favorite functional strength training movement. In addition to working your crush grip, they target the major muscle groups of your posterior chain and core. (Plus, you can mix this movement up by using kettlebells or dumbbells.)
Bottoms-up kettlebell drills are a great way to not only strengthen your grip but also drill lat recruitment, shoulder stability, and overall full-body tension. Considering the inherent instability of bottoms-up holds, make sure to start with a very light weight.
Want to learn more about bottoms-up kettlebell training? Find out how to get started — and why it’s so beneficial — in this article.
The farmer’s carry with kettlebells is a great way to further challenge your grip strength and endurance. When done correctly, you’ll continue to learn how to recruit your lats and maintain core tension throughout the farmer’s walk.
Use a thick bar (e.g., axle bar, Fat Gripz) for some of your lifts to create a different stimulus for your grip work. Changing up your grip size will further increase the muscle strength in your hands and forearms and may help you break through plateaus.
The flexed-arm hang test is a common military test used to assess upper body strength, support grip strength, and endurance. You can use it as both a full-body bodyweight training tool and a self-test to measure the improvement of your grip and overall strength.
Working on your pull-ups too? Check out this step-by-step guide on how to perform a proper pull-up.
The plate pinch is a great tool for developing your pinch grip overall grip strength. You can progress it by increasing the weight or the time, or by incorporating plate curls (also called plate pinch curls).
You can add some grip strength training to your workout routine two or three times a week at the end of your sessions. Begin with one or two sets, and slowly increase the number of sets, the number of reps, or the length of time you perform the exercise as your grip strength increases.
Over time, you’ll start to see your grip strength paying major dividends in your overall strength and your training results!
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