Article written by Steve ‘Mobster’ Gardener who recently broke two world records in the World Alternative Games for Grip Strength.
The basics of grip training
Wiki defines the grip as being in three kinds: crush, support and pinch. So let’s have a quick look at why you should train and the how to train them.
Why do grip training?
Well you can, for the most part, ditch wrist straps. I’m at that level now where my grip is better than the weights I can pull on rows or deadlift. Indeed I’ve pulled some weights, sans straps, far in excess of deadlift PB’s. The other bonus is (one well worth more study) that squeezing a handle, bar, etc, stimulates more muscle (for bodybuilders) and power (for strength athletes). You can do heavy dumbbell forward and reverse wrist curls (I still do the odd set) but this is far more forearm than grip (although thumb-less is interesting).
Here’s a few more specific grip strength exercises to try. Whether you’re a gymnast, bodybuilder, pole dancer, powerlifter, climber or golfer (plus many other pursuits!), all of these exercises can help to improve grip strength.
Treat these grip strength exercises, even if at the end of a workout, as important. Not, as some often do, as an afterthought.
How to improve grip strength in the gym and at home
The kind that one uses when squeezing into a hand for a hand shake, the same that closes a hand gripper (also known as a grip exerciser of the kind brought in stores such as Argos) and the same grip that squeezes into a barbell or dumbbell handle.
You could go out and buy a gripper (as they are known) and work hard on one. I’ve all kinds but have a weekly session with my Vulcan Gripper from David Horne’s web shop. Adjustable in tension (you can even micro-load with rubber bands) to something crazy. I’m fortunate to have done rather well, via the application of effort, on grippers at many grip strength competitions.
Or you can try a simple tip of using sponges or towels padded around the bar or handle and squeezing as you curl, pull or press. It’ll be something you’ll know about very quickly.
I get the occasional message, text and email from both would-be and high level strength athletes who’ve become very strong to the point of looking only to enhance potential weaknesses. One might be running out of steam, grip wise, in any event where they need a decent time and or distance for a win. As rules can differ from one competition to the next they can find one allows wrist straps on the Farmers Walk but another does not. A few of us can pick up 120-kilos a hand, some walk a little distance, but not many run and do so for 50 metres before the grip submits. The same is true of deadlift for reps events.
There are a few ideas and this includes (usually at the end of your workout) hanging from a chinning bar, dumbbell holds for time and deadlifts – again held. I also tend towards asking where they think they are weak (a short thumb, iffy wrist and so on). I even recently talked via phone to Andy Bolton who was finishing his assistance sessions with shrugs into overload and holds for time. His aim, in my opinion, was to be twice as long in these holds as his slowest ever good deadlift (10 = 25+ seconds).
Essentially the same as used when picking up a book, a brick or thick timber. The simplest method in most gyms is picking up small Olympic plates (say 2 x 5-kilo discs to start with) smooth sides out and passing them between one hand and the other (mind your toes and the floor if they drop). More than anything squeeze as hard as you can with your thumb – it’s where the strength comes from and is basic biology to oppose the fingers.
Google ‘how to make a wrist roller’. Go for one that’s at least 2-inches thick if you’re looking for muscle and a one inch for hand strength handing barbells.
As a ‘grip guy’, my preference is for a 3-inch rack mounted version and I can tell you – it’s brutal!