Did you know that for most of the compound exercises – deadlifts, bench presses, and overhead press – most lifters will report that their grip strength fails before the working muscles? What is grip strength? According to Wikipedia, grip strength is the force applied by the hand to pull on or suspend from an object.
You might know grip strength better as how long you can hold during a pull-up or how much weight you can hold during a farmer’s walk. Grip strength can have a huge impact on the progress you make in your fitness program. Let’s review the reasons why you should focus on improving your grip along with how to increase grip strength successfully.
WHY SHOULD YOU INCREASE YOUR GRIP STRENGTH?
First, why should you bother with increasing your grip strength? Having a stronger grip can have ripple effect, providing a number of benefits throughout the rest of your fitness performance.
Stronger Lifts: Having a strong grip will allow you to hold, push, and pull more weight in the gym, especially with compound exercises such as deadlifts, rows, and bench presses.
Muscular Endurance: More grip strength equates to more hand endurance. If you’re able to hold more weight for a longer period of time, you’ll be able to increase repetition or seconds. This can increase the total volume for your program.
Reach Muscle Failure: Continuing with the point above, more strength and endurance ensures that you’ll reach muscle failure, not grip failure. As a result, you may see better gains.
Injury Prevention: A strong grip may help to prevent common injuries, especially in activities that require repetitive movements such as tennis. A strong grip supports shoulder stability and this will help to preserve function and health of the rotator cuff.
Aesthetics: One of the side benefits of grip training is developing bigger forearms, which can be a blessing for balancing out your arm size.
BEST GRIP STRENGTH EXERCISES
While not a comprehensive list of grip strengthening exercises, these are five of the best that you can start with right away.
Farmers Walk: Arguably the best grip strength exercise, the farmer’s walk requires you to carry a heavy pair of dumbbells for as long as you can with perfect form. We recommend using thick grips to increase the effectiveness of this exercise and for next-level gains. You should aim for a walk of 45 to 60 seconds to effectively target the forearms.
Plate Pinches: Use weight plates and face them between each other so the flat area is on the outside. Pinch the plates together and hold. Try to hold for one minute. Increase weight as your strength increases.
Thick Handle Dumbbell Holds / Hex Dumbbell Holds: Stand straight and hold hex dumbbells by the extremity. If you can't access Hex dumbbells, use thick handled dumbbells in your hands. You can use Alpha Grips to increase the thickness of the grip. Aim for a 45 to 60-second hold.
Thick Bar Hangs: Grab a thick bar pull-up bar, get your feet off the floor, and hold until your grip gives out. From workout to workout, try mixing your grip: palms facing you, neutral, mixed grips, etc. When you can easily hold for one minute, we recommend you to increase the bar diameter. Don’t have a thick pull-up bar? Use Alpha Grips!
Towel Pull-Ups: If you don’t have access to a thick pull-up bar or thick grips, you can use a towel. This is an extremely hard exercise and requires you to have impressive grip strength to execute. Put a towel on a pull up bar so half of the towel is on each side. Then grab each side of the towel with your hands and try to do a pull up.
OTHER WAYS TO INCREASE GRIP STRENGTH
Outside of the exercises above, there are other ways to increase your grip strength:
Stop Using Lifting Straps: If you think you’re doing your grip a favor by using lifting straps, think again. Lifting straps are an asset when you’re going for a new personal best and you’ve maxed out your grip strength. But make no mistake about it: For normal training, they aren’t doing you any good. The only way to improve your grip strength is to use it. Lifting straps take that away from you.
Thick Bar Training: If your gym has a collection of thick barbell or thick dumbbells on hand, you’re in luck for some serious grip strength training. Thicker bars have been used in old school weightlifting and bodybuilding gyms as a way to increase strength and explosiveness on lifts. Requiring an immense effort, thicker bars help to enhance your grip due to the unique challenge they provide. Want to know more about thick bar training? Check out our article on the benefits of thick bar training.
Alpha Grips: If your gym does not have thick bars, you can still reap the benefits with an attachment called thick grips. Simply slide an Alpha Grip on to any barbell, dumbbell and cable attachment and you’ll instantly convert it into a thick bar piece of equipment. Same benefits at a fraction of the cost.
DO YOU KNOW HOW TO INCREASE GRIP STRENGTH?
If so, what tactics do you use for a stronger grip? Are there methods we missed? Have a video of your grip strengthening routine? Tag us on Instagram so we can share it!