Why do we need grip strength you ask? If you’re a lifter or athlete it should be apparent – you can hold onto heavier things, for longer. Like when you’re deadlifting on that last heavy set for the day and you feel the bar slipping out of your hands? Yeah we don’t want any of that – we want our grip to be on par with the larger muscle groups so it doesn’t hold us back.
Lifting aids like straps or chalk work to compliment grip strength but should not be used as a crutch alone. Working on your grip strength in combination with using straps should skyrocket your lifts, and also help in athletics where your grip is important like in any racquet or stick sport, football where you tackle and grab with your hands, and many forms of martial arts, climbing, combat sports – the list goes on.
Presenting to you now I have 5 great grip strength exercises useful to build a killer grip. In a nutshell there’s two grip strengths we want to build – the crush grip between the hands and the palm, and the pinch grip between the fingers. The crush grip is intuitively useful to build to develop muscles that hold a barbell or weight, but the pinch grip also works to make each individual finger stronger which I the end contributes to the crush strength as well.
Your 5 new grip strength exercises
With each presented exercise I’ll identify what type of grip you’re working and what applications it’s most useful for.
This is an intuitive and great exercise to not only develop your grip strength but also your grip endurance which is important for those heavy pulling days. It’s not often you’re reaching for lifting straps on the early sets, but the later sets as the day goes on.
Farmer’s carries can work your crush grip, and your crush grip endurance by having you hold onto a weighted object be it a dumbbell, plate, barbell, duffle bag filled with sand, while you walk, jog, or sprint a distance.
It requires grip strength to squeeze and hold the bag, and you’re also going to be working your lats, back, and legs in this full-body exercise focusing on grip strength.
Variations for this exercise include varying the weight, distance you move, thickness of the handle/grip that you’re holding, and holding objects in one or both hands.
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This is one of my favorite training exercises, and probably the one with the most options for variation. You’re going to be hanging on a pullup bar which can work your crush or pinch grip depending on how you grip the bar, and also work on your endurance again. You’ll also be using your lats a bit depending on how you hang.
This exercise is so great because of the minimal equipment needed – hell you could even hang from a tree for all I care. The variations for this include:
- Hand width – Vary how far apart your hands are to work different parts of your hands and forearms.
- Over or under – Using an overhand or underhand varies your grip and is transferable to an over/under deadlift position as well.
- Bar thickness – Hanging on a pull-up bar that’s thicker or thinner will work your grip differently.
- Your grip – Thumbed or thumb-less grip allows you to choose between focusing more on crush grip or pinch grip
Hand grippers have been around for a long time and I really like using them because they’re easy to transport and use to work on your grip wherever you go. Train your grip using grip strengtheners on the train, at school, at work, at your desk, before bed – anywhere really!
- Vary the resistance of your gripper
- Do higher or lower reps to vary your workout
- Mix in squeezes where you squeeze and hold for a set amount of time
This is probably the most basic form of working crush grip, and is great for developing your grip to hold onto the bar when it gets real heavy. The convenience of this exercise is what makes it so great, plus grip strengtheners are pretty cheap.
This is the most transferable exercise to barbell exercises because guess what? You’re using one! Load up a barbell with weight and hang on to it for as long as you can. Vary the weight, how long you hold, your hand width, overhand or underhand, and mix it up. This is easy to mix in with your workout when you’re already around barbells and weights. Think of it as a stationary farmer’s carry
Plate/dumbbell Pinch Holds
Finally ending with a more pinch grip focused exercise you can either pinch plates between your fingers and hold them for different times, different amount of weight, or use dumbbells and hold them vertically with the weighted ends gripped between your fingers.
It does seem logical to only focus on crush grip but the fingers are highly responsible for the force your crush grip exerts so I would recommend including a plate pinch or dumbbell hold into your workout to focus on the fingers individually as well.
Grip Strength Final Notes
In the beginning it was hard for me to work grip training into my routine because I felt it would fatigue me too much and negatively affect my other lifts. It’s not always easy to work in but the benefits are huge. If you’re relying on straps to get you by, it’s time to start developing your grip so when you DO use lifting straps (I’m not against them) then the straps are improving your maxes, not just catching your grip up to the rest of your body.