Want to improve your overall upper body strength? Enhance your grip strength.
Grip training tends to be either completely neglected, or just tacked onto the end of the workout and rushed through. Which is unfortunate because those approaches (or lack of an approach) place a limit on athletic potential and upper body strength.
It’s a cliché, but you really are only as strong as your weakest link. It doesn’t matter if you can bench or squat a lot, for if you can’t transfer that force through your hands, you’re not performing at the level you should be.
So ask yourself, are you only utilising a small part of your athletic potential due to a weak grip? If the answer is yes, and you think you need to improve your grip, read on.
I briefly covered grip in an article on Things You Should Train But Don’t, and there have been other articles on OneResult that cover great grip training exercises, but what follows is a comprehensive look at how best to improve your grip.
Not only do they offer a great grip challenge, they also have loads of other performance benefits. I begin and end every discussion on athletic training by mentioning loaded carries. Simply grab two dumbbells (or farmers handles if you have access to them), hold them by your sides, and go for a walk.
It’s important to challenge your grip in a number of different ways. For while a lot of grip training focuses on grabbing, there are a number of other grip types too. With plate pinches, you’ll want to grab weight plates of the same size and put them together with the smooth side facing out. Now try to pick them up.
For a challenge, either up the weight, or use more plates to make the plate stacks thicker. Vary between picking up the heaviest weight possible and holding weight for time.
As a kid monkey bars were easy. Now you’re a little heavier and I’m guessing you haven’t used monkey bars in a while. Monkey bars are a great upper body challenge and specifically target grip. Don’t be surprised if you can’t hold on for very long initially.
While not a pure “grip exercise”, strong wrists and forearm rotation control are both important for overall grip strength. Either grab a sledgehammer or load a short dumbbell bar with weight only one end. Hold the hammer or bar at the end with the hammer pointing up. Now keeping your forearm still, let the hammer rotate. When the hammer reaches horizontal, reverse the rotation, bring the hammer back to vertical, and now rotate to horizontal on the other side. Make sure to control the rotation through the full 180 degrees.
I’ve been experimenting with different grip aids on various exercises, and I love the Grip4orce grips. Not only do they make the bar thicker, but you also have to actively squeeze them to keep the grip closed around the bar. Try adding them not only to pulling exercises such as rows and chins, but also to presses. A particular favourite is press-ups with the Grip4orce grips on a barbell. Alternatively, wrap a towel around the bar to make it thicker.
I’ve used this one with a lot of success in training lacrosse face off guys. It requires a bit of DIY, as you’ll need a short length of PVC pipe, and some rope. Cut the pipe to 40cm and drill a hole in the middle (of the pipe) through both sides. Thread the rope through and tie a knot in one end. Attach some weight to the end, hold your arms out straight, and roll the pipe to wind up the rope. Let the weight lower before then rolling the rope up again (the other way). This is a deceptively tough exercise.
Simply put, if your grip is a weak link, you’re not performing at your best. Rather than adding a couple of minutes at the end of a training session every now and again, create a specific training time slot twice a week to address it. Try picking two of the above exercises and performing 3-4 sets on each. Make grip training a priority and you, and your total body strength, will be rewarded.