From my experience improving grip strength is probably one of the most undervalued forms of training and one of the last things we think about during our training. It doesn’t matter how strong you are if your grip won’t support the weight you are trying to lift. You’ll be able to get to a certain level but will likely struggle to continue to surpass your goals if your grip fails before your get the chance to complete the movement intended.
Why improve Grip Strength
We associate strength with how much we can deadlift, the number of pull ups we can do or how much weight we can clean, when in actual fact all of these movements first start with the grip. Improving grip strength will help to achieve:
Improved Endurance – Improving grip strength will lead to increased endurance in movements such as pull-ups, toes to bars and muscles-ups, which we rely on on a regular basis in workouts.
Heavier Weights – Improving grip strength will lead to the ability to lift heavier weights, especially in movements like deadlifts, which in turn will lead to increased overall strength.
Injury Resistance – The stronger the grip and forearms muscles and connecting tissues become the less likely they are to get injured and if an injury does occur stronger muscles and tissue tend to usually recover from injury faster.
Sure you can use wrist straps to help you to lift heavier weights but in the long run this wont help in the development of forearm muscles and grip strength that will increase grip endurance and injury resistance and lets face it when you can deadlift twice your body weight without the aid of straps its a whole different accomplishment.
Grip Strength Training Exercises
There are many movements that can really help to increase your grip strength, the following are some of my favorites that I have found most effective.
You can do farmer carries with pretty much anything that you can pick up and walk with, if it’s heavy enough. I prefer two kettlebells for this exercise but it can just as easily be done with dumbbells or even suitcases. Pick up the weights, one in each hand and then walk as far as you can, make this challenging, you shouldn’t be walking for miles before you start to feel the effects. Farmer carries are an exceptional movement for training grip strength but at the same will really help to develop powerful legs, hips, core and back.
Hang From a Bar
This movement is really as simple as it sounds, get yourself on a pull up bar and hang on till your grip gives out, if you can hang there for long periods of time then develop this further by adding some weight through a belt or a dumbbell clenched between your feet or legs. You can mix this exercise up a bit by changing your hand position also, palms in or; palms out; alternate hand positions; or if you really want to challenge yourself try one handed or just using your fingers. This is’nt only a great exercise for strengthening your grip and increasing your grip endurance but it is also gives you a great stretch.
There are different types of grip strength, crushing grip strength, which is the grip you would use in a deadlift or to crush something between your fingers and also pinching strength the movement of power between your fingers and thumb. Plate pinches really help to develop the latter of the two, grab two weight plates place them together and hold them down by your side by pinching them between your fingers and thumb (start out with two 5kg plates and progress from there). Practice seeing how long you can hold them for before your pinch grip gives out.
Hex Dumbbell Holds
Hex dumbbells are the fixed dumbbells with hexagonal weights on each end, as opposed to your more standard circular weighted plates, the hexagonal shape makes them easier to grip and hold by the end. Pick up two Hex Dumbbells up by their ends (one in each hand) with the opposite ends of the dumbbells hanging vertically down by your sides and hold them for as long as you can.
It’s important not to overdo it on your grip training, especially as many of the more common CrossFit movements will also help to strengthen your grip, instead add this into your normal training 2-3 times per week.