When creating a workout program, people invest countless hours closely examining every facet of their leg, chest, shoulder and back routines. Every possible angle is covered to reach maximum gains… but what most individuals overlook is the benefits of grip strength.
That doesn’t make very much sense as grip strength is required when using over half of your muscles. Plus a stronger grip will actually boost your overall performance and increase your gains.
Grip training must include three elements - strength, mobility and endurance.
Here are 5 reasons why you should be training grip strength.
#1: You’re Only as Strong as Your Grip
How many times has your grip slipped or fatigued, keeping you from doing another rep or getting your max weight up?
How many times has your grip given out before other muscles when working out? i.e. forearms and/or hands fatigue during trap exercises, deadlifts or even bicep curls?
You're only as strong as your grip allows. Over half of the muscles in your body are fashioned to aid you in hanging and lifting stuff off of the ground.
Many powerful movements require carrying weight around. This involves holding onto and controlling that weight. Grip strength in check? Hope so!
Most of the time it’s your grip that exhausts first, therefore notably limiting the amount of work you can put on your pulling muscles.
Your grip also affects your pushing muscles. Your body keeps your overall muscles relatively balanced. Your pushing muscles can only become as relatively powerful as your pulling muscles. So, a stronger grip correlates to stronger pushing muscles too.
A powerful grip can even affect your core!
The most effective abdominal exercise, by far, is the hanging leg raise. Without a strong grip, this extremely effective exercise becomes nearly impossible to do properly.
Most people who can’t grip long enough to do a complete set of hanging leg raises will usually revert to easier abdominal exercises, like chair devices or crunches.
This is like a kid putting his training wheels back on after taking them off because he realized it’s much harder to ride without them!
Don’t avoid getting stronger!
A strong grip correlates to a strong body and improvement in overall performance.
Some athletes MUST emphasize grip training throughout their training programs due to the nature of their sport. They make it a staple of their training program.
Grip training is extremely important for those who train Judo, BJJ, submission grappling or MMA; having a strong grip is a huge benefit to anyone doing a grappling art.
Strongmen can’t carry 1050 pounds up an inclined ramp 36 feet long, let alone pretty much every other challenge they face, without powerful grip training.
American Ninja Warrior has made obstacle course racing popular, and one of the most important aspects of getting through those courses is grip strength.
Combat warriors need grip strength and endurance to man their M16. (Not necessarily an athlete but this still applies).
Rock climbers can't ascend a challenging route without impressive grip strength.
Envision a professional rock climber ascending a gorgeous, rigid mountain. She is constantly maneuvering her bodyweight while the sun beats down on her back as she makes her way to the summit. Her climb demands hours of hanging, pulling, climbing. She is literally putting her life in her own hands…or grip. After a grueling climb she makes it to the summit. She reaches her hands to the sky. She’s mastered that mountain. She owns it.
Increasing strength in your hands and forearms will advance upper body endurance, allow you to perform more reps, and reach new heights.
#2 Breaking records – PRs
This benefit is more of a compliment to the first.
Generally, weightlifters notice that when they have reached a plateau in their weight training, focusing on training the strength and endurance of their grip can actually boost their performance and break through their plateau.
Grip training has helped many weightlifters break personal records in lifts like deadlifts.
#3. Firm handshake
A strong handshake will leave a strong impression. It doesn’t take much to have a firm handshake but think about that time when a person shook your hand and it felt like Thor had a grasp on it. It was impressive… if not intimidating!
#4. Big forearm
Bicep, Tricep, Forearm, Gains, Girth.
Grip strength training will impact your biceps and triceps development, as well as your forearm girth. That word seems so wrong but in this case it’s so right. Big forearms and strong hands are a sign of power. Again, it’s impressive.
#5 This is a big one – Preventing Injuries.
Without grip strength training, sports, weightlifting or even mundane daily chores can conceivably result in either minor discomfort or more severe conditions such as tennis elbow and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Let’s dig into this more…
How and why a strong grip will prevent injuries.
PREVENTION OF INJURY:
It’s quite discernible actually - Stronger muscles and connective tissues help prevent injury. To get stronger muscle and connective tissues we must condition them properly.
If you don’t condition your grip and forearm muscles for mobility, strength and endurance, the results could wind up being hindering chronic repetitive motion injuries.
These injuries are common in workers and athletes alike - Don’t get it twisted.
Brain signals in the gym
Your brain sends signals throughout your whole body to brace for shock when you grip a significant load in the gym. Essentially, it puts your body on alert to prevent injury.
You may have heard of Neural Inhibition.
Neural inhibition is what happens when your brain senses that you lack the strength to support a certain position. It'll actually cause all the muscles involved to shut down to protect you from injury.
If you don't want this to happen when taking your lifts to the next level, you need to build strength and stability in your hands and forearms.
Examples of how grip strength equates to injury in sports.
Without thorough grip and forearm conditioning, tennis players can develop tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis), which is an irritation of the tissue connecting the forearm muscle to the elbow.
Cross-trainers, obstacle racers, and golfers can develop a similar problem if they don’t thoroughly train their grip and forearms. This problem is known as golfers elbow or climbers elbow. The medical term is medial epicondylitis, which basically means pain on the inside of the elbow and forearm. I bet you know someone with a bad elbow.
People who work certain full-time jobs can also get one or both of these same issues.
You can subject yourself to all the deep tissue work, injections, massage, and anti-inflammatory remedies known to man, but until you address the underlying issue of grip and forearm conditioning, these issues will persist.
Fitness training hero Charles Poliquin has backed this up…
… “these ailments are often caused by improper strength ratios between the elbow muscles and the forearm muscles. If the elbow flexors, like the biceps and brachialis, are too strong for the forearm flexors, uneven tension accumulates in the soft tissue and results in elbow pain”...
The strength of one's grip plays a key role in injury prevention and overall strength development.
Grip strength is determined by the strength of your fingers, forearm, thumb and wrist.
There are 35 muscles involved in movement of the forearm and hand, with many of these involved in gripping activities. During gripping activities, the muscles of the flexor mechanism in the hand and forearm create grip strength while the extensors of the forearm stabilize the wrist.
There are four major joints of the hand, Carpometacarpal, Intermetacarpal, Metacarpophalangeal, and interphalangeal joint, with 9 extrinsic muscles that cross the wrist and 10 intrinsic muscles with both of their attachments distal to the wrist.
That’s a lot of muscles you probably never considered, and of course, each of these muscles is active during gripping activities.
Too many muscles for mind-muscle control? AHA, think not. Just follow the 3 types of grip exercises below.
3 types of grip exercises:
“The crush grip is what is most commonly thought of as "grip". It involves a handshake-type grip, where the object being gripped rests firmly against the palm and all fingers. A strong crush grip is useful in bone-crushing handshakes or for breaking objects with pressure.
In a pinch grip, the fingers are on one side of an object, and the thumb is on the other. Typically, an object lifted in a pinch grip does not touch the palm. This is generally considered a weaker grip position. The pinch grip is used when grabbing something like a weight plate or lifting a sheet of plywood by the top edge. Care must be taken to avoid cramping the muscles in the hand.
A support grip typically involves holding something, such as the handle of a bucket, for a long time. This type of strength is epitomized by the "Farmer's walk", where the bucket is filled with sand or water, and carried over a long distance. A great deal of muscular endurance is necessary to have a good carrying grip.”
Remember, the type of grip training that you do should depend on its relevance to what you want to achieve.
Grip training best practice would include all three elements mentioned above. You want a well-rounded grip that’s ready for whatever comes your way. AGAIN, Think STRENGTH, MOBILITY & ENDURANCE.
Grip Strength vs Grip Endurance
It’s crucial to note that your grip training should include heavy, short and explosive grip movements to increase grip strength.
Training with different objects is great as well. It will give you the ability to easily grasp a variety of objects.
You should also do lightweight, long and slow movements, to build grip endurance and the ability to hold on to something for extended periods of time.
If you are looking for a good grip training tool, Set For Set's Steel Mace is the perfect weapon for your grip training arsenal. They come in 5 sizes - 7LB, 10LB, 15LB, 20LB and 25LB, which allows for an extremely wide variety of movements and exercises.
If you have questions, comments or feedback about getting a better grip, or you have your own grip strengthening tips to add, please leave your thoughts below. We would love to hear from you!
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