You may not think much about developing grip strength, but you should. If you’ve ever struggled to open a jar of peanut butter, had a hard time carrying a bunch of groceries into the house or found yourself unable to complete the last few reps of bent-over rows, pull-ups or deadlifts, your grip has most likely come into play.
Grip strength can be a limiting factor in seeing increases in strength gains. If forearm muscles are weaker than the larger muscles like those in your back, legs and shoulders, it becomes difficult to increase the loads you can lift.
“Grip strength is important because it serves a purpose in every aspect of weight lifting and athletics,” says Josh Bryant, MFS, CSCS, PES, owner of JoshStrength.com and co-author of the e-book Metroflex Gym Powerbuilding Basics. “If you’re a weightlifter, you’ll be able to handle more weight on various exercises because grip won’t be a limiting factor. The bottom line is you have a stronger physical prowess with bigger, stronger forearms.” Here’s how to get ’em.
1. Towel On
“Take a towel and throw it over a pull-up bar,” Bryant says. “Do pull-ups gripping the towel, not the bar. If you are not able to do a pull-up, even a static hold can help build tremendous grip strength. But remember, there is always more muscle growth with movement rather than a static hold.”
“I got this tip from Brazilian jiu-jitsu champion Adam benShea,” Bryant admits. “Take a sheet of newspaper and lay it flat in your hand. Work it into a tight ball with your fingers. This can be done at the office without anyone noticing.” They’ll just think it’s your TPS reports you’re manhandling.
3. Grip, Walk, Repeat
“The farmer’s walk, in which you just hold heavy weight and walk, provides a great bang for your buck,” Bryant says. “If you don’t have traditional strongman cylinders, dumbbells can work fine. If you want to work more of a pinching grip, you can even do a farmers walk with two plates in your hand, smooth side out. This will build functional strength and add more muscle than the more traditional gripping exercise.”
4. A Pinch of This
Your crush grip is critical, but your pinch grip should not be neglected in your training. The ability of your digits to hold weight at extension is important, too. “Grab two plates in one hand and hold them together, smooth side out,” Bryant advises. “You might have to start with 5s or 10s. Now do hammer curls with them. Not only does this work pinching grip, but instead of a mere static hold, you are doing a dynamic movement. Therefore, it becomes more functional for other activities.”