One of the most common physical weaknesses we see in clients that come to UP is poor grip strength.
This is especially prevalent in clients who have previous training experience and have become increasingly reliant on straps and other grip aids over the years.
The problem with direct grip training is it isn’t sexy. Nor is it considered a worthwhile investment when the goal is body composition, and you only have one hour to train.
However, consider these three benefits improving your grip strength can have:
- Increased strength on pulling movements – If your chin up, row and deadlift strength jump, your back development by default will follow suit.
- Increased functionality – There are not many physical qualities more ‘functional’ than a strong, vice-like grip. Picking things up and carrying them in normal daily life will become easier. Plus, you’ll have a firmer handshake, which commands respect.
- Men and women with a strong grip tend to have a longer life span – Multiple research studies now support this, even after taking age, sex and body size into account.
The best way to improve grip strength is to blend it into your normal training, so you don’t think of it as extra work. Here are the top five ways to do so:
1. Stop using straps
This is the easiest and simplest way. Removing straps from all pulling exercises will immediately increase the demands on your grip. If you’ve become reliant on straps, the best way to do this is to stop using straps for all your warm-up sets, and then gradually wean off them in your work sets.
Your grip will need time to catch up with your pulling muscles, but you should reach a point where thir use is limited.
Straps do have a place, but like any other tool, they shouldn’t be abused. Saving them for only your very heavy deadlift or rowing sets is best.
2. Use thick-handled implements
If you walk into our UP gyms, you’ll see our famous fat grip rotating Watson dumbbells. There’s a reason for this.
The benefits of thick-handled implements are vast, from improving mind-muscle connection to enhanced shoulder stability. They also tax the fingers, hands, and wrists in a way no other device can, and in an extremely time efficient manner.
It works best for upper body pulling, pressing and curling exercises. If you don’t have the luxury of using Watson equipment, an excellent alternative is a pair of Fat Gripz.
3. Choose the right curling exercises
A simple trick to work on your grip without adding exercises is to make sure your arm training includes a variant of a reverse or hammer curl.
To make this even more effective, use a thick grip.
Reverse curls, in particular, will work the wrist extensors greatly, and as you fatigue, your grip will receive a great workout. The key to doing reverse curls properly is to keep your wrists straight throughout. If you go floppy in the wrists, you’ll lose the benefits.
4. Squeeze the bar as hard as you can
Whichever exercise you do, and whatever your goal, you need to actively squeeze the bar as hard as possible. Whilst it sounds simple, it’s amazing how few trainees do it. And the problem is, they’re leaving potential gains on the table.
When you do this, you’ll be more stable in your lifts, be able to exert more power and lower your injury potential. By squeezing your grip hard, you create an ‘irradiation’ effect whereby your inter-muscular coordination improves, and your body will function better as a single unit.
Try this when you next bench press. On your first set, perform it as you would, with normal tension in your forearms. In your second set, try and break the bar with your hands to the point your knuckles turn white. We can guarantee you’ll lift more, with better contractions and in a safer manner.
Remember, each time you use this, you’ll be training your grip!
5. Farmer’s Walks
This form of loaded carry is the most popular ‘strongman’ exercise we use at UP.
If you want a stronger, more developed back, do farmer’s walks. The truth is, very few exercises can tax the entire body the way farmer’s walks can. It’s versatility as an exercise means it suits any goal, whether it’s fat loss, hypertrophy or strength.
You don’t need specific, farmer’s walk equipment either. Simply grab two heavy dumbbells and take them for a walk. The key cues to remember are: shoulders back and down, stand tall and engage your core.
For grip, it goes without saying you shouldn’t use straps. You can vary the time you walk; either short and heavy or longer and lighter. Both work and the key really is to keep it varied.
There are many more ways to work your grip, such as crushing grip tools, lever bar work, and plate pinching. However, the purpose of this article was to show you how you can integrate grip training into your workouts without having to spend more time in the gym.
For anyone looking to improve their grip strength, these five methods can be implemented immediately and will deliver great gains.
Caution: your hands and forearms may be sore for a few days!