All movements involve lifting, carrying, throwing or swinging use grip strength. Your hands are the point of contact with any object or weight that is held. The grip is often the first thing to go when failing to complete a lift.
The value of grip strength cannot be stressed enough. Improving your ability to hold things allows you to do more with your hands for long periods of time. This means your grip effects just about everything. No workout is complete without grip strength exercises.
Why Does Grip Strength Matter
There are three types of grip strength and each one affects a large range of activities in your daily life. Anything you do with your hands requires one or more of the varieties of grip strength.
Your support grip allows you to handle everyday items like a grocery bag or a bucket of water for cleaning. Support, in this case, means how much you can carry and how far you are able to carry it. Carrying endurance is vital for moving things over distances or holding them for a long time.
Pinching strength is the grasp that allows you to pick items up with one hand between your thumb and one or more fingers. When you wear mittens, everything you pick up uses this type of strength. If you carry a clutch purse around, your pinch strength is what keeps you from losing it.
The final type of grip strength is the crushing grip. If you intend to ball up foil or play with a stress ball you will need the crushing strength. with greater safety and less risk of injury. When you see muscled guys do the walnut cracking trick in their hand, it’s using crushing strength.
Dangers of Low Grip Strength
The lack of grip strength can become surprisingly dangerous. If you are unable to use your hands and forearms for basic activities, you’re in trouble. While you may never find a need to climb a tree or swing around a jungle gym, you still have to have basic grip strength. There’s more to your grip than chin-ups and kettlebell workouts.
Your grip strength can be used as a basic predictor of your health because of how widely it is needed. Studies show a correlation between grip strength and blood pressure. Research shows a link between your grip and the risk of strokes and heart attack. Grip strength may help extend your life.
In addition to its other necessary functions, your grip helps prevent injury. Having excellent grip strength has been shown to help with the healing process if you do happen to get hurt.
If you don’t work your grip strength you won’t be able to perform up to your potential. To work on your health, you need to cover your basics. Grip strength is like functional fitness. Increasing your core capabilities allows you to do more for yourself and faster. It can be easy to overlook the basics when you are looking at designing a workout to achieve your goals. Add in some extension and flex activities for your hands. You’ll soon see how much it makes a difference in all your workouts.
10 Exercises To Build Grip Strength
Most people will get a strong enough grip as long as they’re lifting heavy things on a consistent basis.
Deadlifts are proven ‘grip builders’. Wide grip deadlifts are also good. Work your grip across slightly different angles.
2. Pull-Ups and 3. Chin Ups
Both require a good grip on the bar.
Any exercise where your grip supports your weight is going to improve your grip strength. This is also true for external weights like a barbell, dumbbell, or kettlebell. But there are other, more targeted movements you can try to turn your hand into a vise. Such as:
4. Bar Hangs
This is pretty simple. Just hang from a bar (or branch, or traffic light fixture) with both hands. It’s probably the purest expression of grip strength. As it happens, it’s also a great stretch for your lats, chest, shoulders, and thoracic spine.
Aim to hit one minute. Progress to one-hand hangs if two-handers get too easy. You can use a lower bar and keep one foot on the ground for support as you transition toward a full one-handed hang.
5. Sledgehammer Work
Grab the heaviest sledgehammer you can handle and use it in a variety of ways.
If you had to pick just one sledgehammer movement to target your grip, do the bottoms up. Hold the hammer in your hand hanging down pointing toward the ground. Swing it up and catch it with the head of the hammer pointing upward, and hold it there. The handle is parallel to your torso, wrist straight, don’t let it fall. The lower you grip the handle, the harder your forearms (and grip) will have to work.
6. Fingertip Pushups
Most people who try fingertip pushups do them one way. They do them with straight fingers, with the palm dipping toward the ground. Those are great, but there’s another technique as well: the claw. For the claw, make a claw with your hand, as if you’re trying to grab the ground. In fact, do try to grab the ground. This keeps your fingers more active, builds more strength and resilience. It also prevents you from resting on your connective tissue.
These are hard for most people. They’re quite hard on the connective tissue. Which often goes underutilized in the hands and forearms. Don’t leap into full fingertip pushups unless you know you’re able. Start on your knees, gradually pushing your knees further back to add resistance. Once they’re all the way back and you’re comfortable, then progress to full pushups.
7. Active Hands Pushups
These are like claw pushups, only with the palm down on the floor. Flat palm, active “claw” fingers. They are easier than fingertip pushups.
8. Farmer’s Walks
The average person is not carrying water pails, hay bales and feed bags across uneven ground. Then was back when over 30% of the population lived on farms. But, the average person can get past average by doing farmer’s walks a couple of times each week.
What is a farmer’s walk? Grab two identical heavy weights, stand up, and walk around. They can be dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, or trap bars. You can walk uphill, downhill, or around in circles. You can throw in some shrugs, or bookend your walks with deadlifts or swings. The point is to use your grip to carry something heavy in both hands.
9. Pinch Grips
Grasp and hold weight plates between your thumb and each finger.
10. Hammer Curls
Next time you do some curls, throw in a few sets of hammer curls. These are identical to normal bicep curls, except you hold the weights in a hammer grip. Your palms facing toward each other. Like how you hold and swing a hammer. Make sure to keep those wrists as straight as possible.
The Thing About Your Grip
The thing about your grip is it’s hard to work your grip without getting stronger, healthier, and faster all over. Deadlifting builds grip strength. And it also builds back, hip, glute, and torso strength. Fingertip pushups make your hands and forearms strong. But they also work your chest, triceps, abs, and shoulders.
That’s why grip strength is such a good barometer for overall health, wellness, and longevity. Almost every meaningful piece of physical activity requires that you use your hands. They manipulate significant amounts of weight and undergo significant amounts of stress.
For that reason, the best way to train your grip is with normal movements. Heavy deadlifts and farmer’s walks are effective because they offer full-body benefits. But if you have a few extra minutes throughout your workout, throw in some of the dedicated grip training. Spend 15 minutes pinch gripping with every possible thumb/finger combination.
Your grip can handle it. The grip muscles in the hands and forearm are mostly slow-twitch fiber dominant. This means they’re designed to go for long periods of exertion.
They’re also gross movers, meaning you use them all the time for all sorts of tasks, and have been doing so for decades. To make them adapt, you need to stress the heck out of them with high weight.
Train grip with high reps, several heavy weights, and long durations. This is why deadlifts and farmer’s walks are so good for your grip. They force you to maintain that grip on a heavy bar or dumbbell for the entire duration of the set with little to no rest.
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