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November 01, 2021
Grip strength is one of those aspects of fitness that is so often overlooked, yet working on it can truly make a world of difference. And not just in the gym, grip strength plays a valuable role in our daily life as well. From maximizing your strength in deadlifts and getting more reps in during pull-ups to opening jars, carrying all the groceries in one trip, and simply impressing people with formidable forearms and a powerful handshake, it's clear that grip strength is a vital component that must not be ignored…
Now, we know, grip strength training isn't the most glorious type of training. It doesn’t produce changes that make mirrors happy. But it is something you will see, big time...in your performance that is. AND, it will help you improve your lifts so you can pick things up like a bona fide strongman. That's pretty damn glorious if you ask us...
So, today we are going to discuss everything about how to improve grip strength, that way, you can take your gym game to the next level and enhance your everyday life like you wouldn’t believe.
There are three types of "grips" to consider.
You have “crush grip”, which is what most people think of when talking about grip strength. It’s the handshake-type of grip. i.e. squeezing or breaking something with pressure.
Second is “pinch grip”, which is the grip of your fingers and thumb. i.e. pinching an object.
Third is "support grip”, which is the grip for holding onto something. i.e. holding onto a pull-up bar or holding onto weights during Farmer Walks.
So, when training grip, you must work on each of these three types of grip.
Although your “grip” muscles only makes up about 5% of your body, grip is involved in 50+% of your movements, considering all upper body exercises involve your grip.
In fact, your hands are the base of the foundation for every exercise for your arms, shoulders, chest, back, and oftentimes, your core (hello, hanging leg raises!). Working on grip strength is a no brainer if you want to improve in other areas of your fitness.
Therefore, if your grip is weak, so is the rest of your upper body. And wrist wraps can only conceal weak grip strength for so long (sorry ladies and fellas who use wrist wraps for pull ups, you don’t get a pass here!).
Besides the above, grip strength is essential for a variety of other reasons too, especially as you get older. Some leading examples of why you should be integrating grip strength training into your exercise routine are based on injury prevention.
So, clearly it’s not only lifters, calisthenic trainees, ninja warriors, wrestlers, BJJ fighters, pole dancers (yes, we said it) and rock climbers who need to worry about grip strength - everyone needs to work on grip strength.
Moreover, stronger grip is universally linked to a better quality of life, and who doesn't want that?
When you are contemplating how to improve grip strength, you should keep in mind the reasons why your grip strength is subpar. Here are some aspects to consider:
Overall, a weak grip can be a sign of many medical conditions. So, if you have any concern, please go see your doctor.
Also, keep in mind that as you get older, your grip strength will weaken. It’s natural. The decrease in grip strength as you get older is a reflection of the fact that muscles start to shrink and, therefore, lose mass. Although it is impossible to combat the natural course of nature when it comes to the loss of muscle mass, staying active and being conscious of grip strength is something that you should continuously be aware of, regardless of your age. Doing so can significantly slow down atrophy.
It’s pretty obvious if your grip strength is lacking. If you always have the weaker handshake or you can’t open a pickle jar or you feel like you could do more pull ups but your grip gave out, then your grip needs work.
Here's a simple test to assess your grip strength...
Grip strength test:
Carry a load equal to 75% of your body weight in each hand for 15-20 meters. So, if you weigh 150lbs, carry about 112lbs in each hand. If you can't manage this, it's time to improve your grip strength!
Another test is the dead hang. You should be able to hold onto the bar for over a minute. Anything under that and your grip seriously needs work.
And if you can carry a load equal to your body weight in each hand, you are officially a Thor-like. BEAST.
Now you can get more official by testing your grip strength and comparing with others of your same gender and age. Determining how your grip strength stacks up with others is fairly easy. It involves a tool called a dynamometer. You can purchase one and keep it handy to test your grip strength growth intermittently, or you can ask your local gym or physical therapist if there is one that you can use.
If you are a very analytical person, before you start your grip training journey, use a dynamometer to calculate your grip strength. Doing this provides you with a benchmark to help you focus on improving the number. Every few weeks, use the dynamometer so you can see your progress.
You can also use the dead hang test as a baseline.
Before you can focus on how to improve grip strength, it’s critical to understand the muscles that are directly related to grip strength.
Yes, there are muscles in our hands! And we use our hands all the time. From typing an e-mail to wrapping our hands around a grocery bag, our hands are central to many tasks throughout the day. Improving grip strength will help to boost the amount of weight you can pick up.
When you are thinking about why and how to increase grip strength, you should definitely also focus on your wrists. Your wrists play a central role (literally) in connecting your hands to your arms. Weak wrists = weak grip.
If you are looking to build muscle mass throughout your body, strong forearms and a good grip will be paramount. Strong forearms help you lift heavier weights, which is a great asset during a total body workout.
So, it's not just your hands that are needed for grip strength, your wrists and forearms are just as important. Moreover, it's not only your hands, wrists and forearms that benefit from grip training, your entire upper body will reap the rewards too.
Entire Upper Body
As you use your grip for essentially every upper body exercise, your entire upper body will greatly benefit from improving grip strength. You will be able to hold onto heavier weights and go for more reps, giving the muscles you are targetting the necessary time under tension to grow.
There are multiple advantages of focusing on grip strength when you are in the gym or at home. Here are some of the leading examples:
Improved gym performance
Deadlifts, pull ups, barbell rows, farmer carries, trap raises, and Olympic lifts are all examples of exercises that you will see improvements on when you start focusing on your grip strength. While many muscles in your body are used to perform each of these exercises, without strong grip strength, you will likely struggle through them.
Have you ever shaken someone’s hand and been astonished by the fact that their grip was so solid? The odds are they are probably including grip strength training in their daily routine or at the very least they train with heavy weights. So, this type of training will leave a definite impression on anyone that you meet.
Are you an avid enthusiast of recreational sports? Whether you enjoy playing basketball, baseball, tennis or golf, you are sure to notice a difference in your game once you begin grip strength training. Grip strength will improve the control you have when you swing your bat or racket during a match and the result will be a harder hit. It will also help you avoid any injuries like wrist sprains or the extremely common and despised jammed finger in basketball.
Grip strength is also essential for rock climbing and pole dancing, as all climbers and pole dancers know.
Rehabilitation after an injury can be a difficult process, especially if it is an injury that affects your hands or arms. For example, if you are struggling to reestablish strength in your arm, grip strength exercises are a perfect place to start.
We are often asked, "how to increase grip strength, fast!?". There are numerous ways to improve your overall grip strength. One of the easiest things to do is different types of grip strengthening exercises. These exercises are versatile and can be performed using free weights in the gym or from the comfort of your own home.
Now that we have established what grip strength is, and that the steel mace is an incredible tool for training your grip, let's look at a few other ways you can increase grip strength.
If you want to truly bolster your grip strength, it's important to add some grip-specific exercises into your routine. Some of our favorite exercises for training grip strength are:
1. Farmer’s Walker
This move is included in our best dumbbell forearm exercises as it is effective and a calorie torcher. Here is how to safely perform this exercise:
This exercise will also train your legs, traps, and more. Moreover, if you only hold the weight on one side, you will train your core. We recommend that you try to incorporate the Farmer’s Walk into one or two of your workouts throughout the week.
2. Bar hanging
If you aren’t ready to incorporate free weights into your routine, bar hanging is the exercise for you. The dynamics of the exercise is simple:
If you have issues hanging without support, feel free to stand on your tippy-toes and try to lift your feet for a few seconds. Once your muscles begin to strengthen, you will see that you can hang for more extended periods.
3. Wrist curls
Wrist curls are a dynamic exercise that focuses on improving the strength in your hands, wrists and forearms all in one motion. You can perform a wrist curl using the following steps:
4. Finger curls
If you want to know more about how to build grip strength, finger curls are an exercise that you shouldn’t overlook. This exercise is done as follows:
5. Plate Pinches
Grabbing a heavy gym weight plate (relative to your grip strength) and simply holding onto it for set times will improve your "pinch grip" strength. Additionally, you can walk around while holding the plate with your fingers to make the exercise more difficult. As you do this exercise, squeeze the plate as hard as you can with your fingers to maximize the effectiveness of this exercise.
BONUS: Grip Strengthener
Want to train your grip as you watch TV or cook dinner? A grip strengthener can fit into your back pocket or purse so you can pull it out while you are sitting on the couch or when you are waiting for a meeting to start. If you are just beginning to perform this type of exercise, start with four to six squeezes per hand, then increase the repetitions as you feel more comfortable. Grip strengthener benefits far outweigh their humble size and price so give them a try, you having nothing to lose.
Have you tried Fat Gripz?
Fat Gripz increase the difficulty of the forearms/grip on any barbell or dumbbell or even pull up bar exercise by simply making the bar thicker. Check them out! (Amazon affiliate ad). They are highly recommended.
Using free weights in the gym or at home and doing more calisthenic based exercises will surely improve your grip. You will be indirectly improving your grip strength as you are working on other areas of your body.
The best example of this is the deadlift. If you want to get a stronger grip for deadlifts then do more deadlifts! If you use straps for deadlifts, ditch them so you can start increasing your grip strength.
Kettlebells, Steel Maces, Steel Clubs, Battle Ropes, Sandbags, and more unconventional training tools provide great workouts and they have a strong effect on grip strength due to their awkward, unbalanced designs. We highly recommend using kettlebells and steel maces if you want to build explosiveness and grip strength.
But when it comes to grip strength training, nothing trumps Steel Mace Training. Steel maces come in a variety of weights to suit any physical fitness level. Not only is it a wonderful and versatile addition to any home or commercial gym, but it is also the ultimate tool for training grip strength.
Steel maces have a long handle with a heavy “ball” at the end. The majority of the weight is in the “ball” of the mace (aka, the head), which gives this tool an uneven weight distribution. When doing exercises with the mace, your grip will be challenged like crazy to maintain the mace in a vertical or horizontal position. Pretty much every mace exercise is going to put your grip to the test. So, the great thing with the steel mace is that you’ll be training your grip strength as you train other areas of your body. It’s one of those tools that "kills multiple birds with one stone”.
The mace is also great for specifically training grip strength, as seen below.
Here's a simple grip workout using a steel mace that you can follow too.
But, again, you don’t need to only focus on grip exercises like the video above to get insane grip strength gains with the steel mace. Once you pick it up and start using it, you’ll see exactly what we mean.
Look at these 360 swings as an example (a mace this heavy requires insane grip strength):
So many people state that the steel mace has tremendously improved their deadlift and pull up game, as well as sports like rock climbing. This is because the mace builds formidable grip strength and endurance (hands, wrists, and forearms) and it strengthens stabilizer muscles, core strength and shoulder power - all necessary things for sports and fitness performance.
As you see, there is no mystery associated with how to build grip strength. With commitment and determination, there is no reason why you can’t see an increase in your grip strength in a matter of weeks, and substantial improvements in the coming months.
Do you still have more questions about how to improve grip strength? Let us know! Our team is happy to provide you with the insight you need to see grip strength gains.
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