Grip strength is one of the most overlooked elements of strength training and fitness. It is not just for strong men who are trying to bend nails in half or crush hand grippers rated at over 300 lbs. of force. Think about how important your grip really is.
It doesn’t even have to involve a Michael Bay inspired care chase scene ending with your car flying over the edge of a cliff and you jumping out at the last moment and pulling your self up the ledge while your car explodes into a fire-ball of pure awesomeness…(grip strength is pretty important there)…
What about opening jars (see Skinny Arm Rob Lowe), carrying bags, holding onto objects, turning doorknobs, or working with your hands all day, etc. What about playing sports like tennis, golf, baseball, wrestling or even badminton? While your grip strength may not be the biggest cofactor in the success of your sport, it may play a big role as a limiting factor. Having a weaker grip can even lead to debilitating chronic issues such as tennis or golfers elbow.
Tennis and golfers elbow can be caused by skewed strength ratios between the muscles involved in movement at the elbow vs. the forearm. Example: if the biceps (elbow flexors) are disproportionately stronger than the muscle involved in wrist flexion, extension and gripping.
Some common ways that can be used to improve your grip include:
- Tighten you grip on the bar. Squeeze the bar as hard as you can on any given exercise. Chances are, you may find the lift easier when using a stronger grip as well.
- Farmers carries. Farmers carries can be a great way to train not only your grip, but your core and other stabilizers as well.
- Plate pinches. Turn two weight plates “grooved side” in, and pinch for as long as possible. Start simple with two, 5 lb. plates. Bump up to 2, 10# plates, then 3, 10# plates, 2, 25# plates – or go pure beast mode and do 2, 45# plates!
If grip strength is something you are looking to improve for any reason, make sure to prioritize it in your workouts. If it’s something you are interested in working on, try adding the following to the end of your routine:
3 sets of plate pinches : as long as possible. If you find one side is significantly weaker, add another set on that side.
3 x 100 ft. heavy farmers carries (try holding at least 1/4 your body weight in each hand)
3 x 20 dumbbell wrist curl w/ white knuckle grip