There is not nearly enough emphasis placed on grip strength. Most bodybuilding and weightlifting goals focus on ripping the chest, biceps, thighs and other major standout muscles.
However, when it comes to competition, the grip is usually the weak link in the chain between extreme weight or opponent control and your body’s ability to conquer it. Just ask any powerlifter or MMA grappler what the most important aspects are in their sport and grip strength is sure to be one of the most common answers. A weak grip could cause a powerlifter to fail on his lift and a grappler to lose control of his opponent, each forfeiting victory.
Various Types of Grips to Strengthen
When you think of grip the idea of simply clutching something securely is what typically comes to mind. However, there are actually three grip forms that should be targeted when developing grip strength.
Clutch Grip –
This is the most common grip used and is what’s thought of when you mention grip. A clutching grip involves the entire hand, i.e. the palm, thumb and fingers. Such a grip is used by weightlifters to grasp a barbell, by an MMA fighter to hold an opponent tight, or by a baseball player to hold a bat.
Vice Grip –
This grip operates on the same mechanics as a table vice. The palm is used as the secure platform of the vice and the fingers as the crushing component with the thumb playing little role in the action. The crushing vice grip is used for arm wrestling or for crushing beer cans (an activity enthusiastically enjoyed by strongman wannabies!)
Pinch Grip –
This grip uses the fingers and thumb to pick up or hold flat objects such as weight plates, items packaged in thin cardboard boxes, or your favorite pair of jeans. Although not used much in sports, unless you want to attack a pressure point or draw a hopeful ace from a deck of cards, the pinch grip is still important in the overall development of grip strength.
Proper Forearm Training
Grip strength comes mostly from forearm muscles with some supporting grip applied through the hand. Just like with any other muscle group, grip strength should be developed through progressive training. Sitting in front of the TV squeezing a pair of “grippers” will only develop your grip to a certain point, but won’t do much good at growing massive forearms and championship grip strength. Therefore, most exercises for the forearms should be able to be modified with greater weight as you progress in your grip strength training program.
Also, forearms consist of dense muscle fiber and need to be worked out more, such as is the case with calves and abs. Forearm exercises can be performed 2-3 times per week. However, keep in mind that the forearms are also used in most other exercises so be cautious of overtraining them. If your forearms become sore, give them sufficient rest until they heal.
Grip Strength Exercises
Following are some good exercises for improving grip strength. Notice that in some of them, a towel is recommended for increasing grip workouts. Using a thicker bar or wrapping a towel around a bar widens the grip and makes the supplying grip muscles work harder. Also, using a towel to lift objects, such as dumbbells, will increase grip strength since a towel is pliable and requires the use of more gripping muscles.
Deadlifts are one of the best overall strength training exercises. They are great for developing grip strength because you are required to grasp, lift and hold extreme amounts of weight. This taxes the gripping muscles, breaking them down so they can be built back up during rest periods. Avoid using gloves which hinder grip development. Instead, work barehanded and use chalk towards maximum weight lifts.
Pull Ups –
Pull ups are effective grip and forearm builders. Increase grip development by wrapping a towel around the bar, or by hanging a towel over the bar and gripping it instead to complete the exercise.
Dumbbell Curls with Towel –
Loop a towel around the handle of a dumbbell and curl the weight while gripping the towel. Switch arms and repeat.
Weight Plate Pinches –
Pick up a weight plate with each hand using your fingers and thumbs. Hold the plates at your sides for 1-2 minutes.
Dumbbell Rows with Towel –
Loop a towel around a dumbbell and complete rows with one arm while gripping the towel. Switch arms and repeat.
Weighted Wrist Rollers –
Cut a piece of cord that extends from chest level to the floor. Tie one end to the middle of a short section of broom handle or short pulley grip bar. Tie the other end to a weight plate. Hold the bar in front of you at chest level with both hands (the weight should stand upright and rest on the floor). Roll the weight up until it reaches the handle and then unroll it until it returns to the floor.