One common area where people can fall behind during strength training programs is the force of their grip. While your hands will become stronger as you lift heavier weights, they do have to be specifically targeted as well.
In most cases, this can limit your progress, and you’ll simply struggle to keep up with your plans to load up more weights.
But, there is also a risk involved with a lack of grip strength in that it can lead to hand and wrist injuries. Over the years, I’ve come up with some great exercises that only take a few minutes and are highly effective at the same time.
But first, let’s look at the main types of grip.
The 3 Different Grip Types
Our hands are actually one of the distinguishing characteristics that set us humans apart from apes and other animals. The intricate design, along with an opposing thumb, has given us the ability to work with all types of different and complicated tools.
As a result of this evolutionary design, your hands can create force in several different ways.
1. Pinch Grip
This is the force you can create between your fingers and thumb. It is needed to be able to hold onto small things, and if you picture a rock climber holding onto minute imperfections, then you’ll understand how this becomes important.
2. Crush Grip
This is the pressure you can create between your fingers and your palm. Imagine squeezing someone's hand or a stress ball as hard as you can.
Crushing is the action of closing the fingers against a resistance. Similar in nature but often forgotten are clamping (wrapping the fingers around something and squeezing it toward the palm) and crimping (directing force with the fingers toward the callous line).
3. Support Grip
I’ve kept one of the most important ones until last. The support grip is vital for anyone lifting heavy weights, as it basically determines how long you can hold onto an object. For any strength training involving dumbbells and barbells, you’ll need a lot of support grip.
But why exactly is this so important?
Why Is Grip Strength And Wrist Mobility So Important?
My dad would say it’s to make sure you don’t end up having one of those soft and squishy handshakes. But from a fitness perspective, there’s a bit more to having a strong grip.
When you incorporate grip training into your routine, you’ll be working on a very large set of small and intricate muscles from your wrist to your fingers. Obviously, stronger hands mean that you’ll be able to hold a heavier load during training, but it also helps overall health.
But it’s also important to note that when you do hand grips exercises, you’ll also be creating more wrist mobility. And that will make a difference when you’re lifting heavy loads.
An improvement in gripping strength generally means an overall improvement in quality, as far as lifting immense poundages in other movements is concerned.
A strong grip will also improve your endurance to add a few more sets and exercises.
I’ve often seen people go through many sets using different types of bars, only for their hands to lose strength and grip before the rest of their body starts to fade.
Less Risk Of Injury
When you improve grip strength on a regular basis, then your ability to lift weights will not outpace your ability to actually safely hold onto the weights.
As a result, you’re less likely to hurt your wrists and hands.
And, of course, you won’t be running the risk of dropping equipment because your hands simply can’t keep up.
Next up are 7 tips I give clients to strengthen hand grip power through simple training methods.
7 Grip Strength Exercises You Should Start Immediately
The following hand and wrist exercises for strength and mobility are very easy to do. You can easily do them in between sets when you’re catching your breath and waiting for your heart rate to come down.
Or you can make them part of your cool-down routine as well. Either way, they only take a few minutes, but they will help with hand muscle building.
1. Hand Exercise Tools
There are two types of hand grip exercise tools that I generally recommend. The first one is often called a gripper or crush grip. It's basically a metal spring or coil with handles. You do these grip exercises by squeezing the tool until your hand is balled up into a fist.
The second grip strength exerciser I love to use is a finger stretcher, which basically works in the opposite direction. The tool has a rubber band, and your goal is to stretch out that band with your fingers. The great thing with these tools is that they can challenge each muscle group individually.
2. Plate Curls
This one is ideal in-between sets, especially if you're changing the weight plates on a barbell before the next lift. Essentially, you grip one or more weight plates between your fingers and thumb.
Hold it in front of your chest and start the grip training by moving your wrists so that the plate goes from a vertical to a horizontal position.
If you pick something heavy, then you will only need to do a few reps before you feel the burn in your fingers and forearms.
3. Plate Pinching
Similar to plate curls, this grip strength training can be easily done between sets while you're taking a breather. Grab a couple of plates and hold them between your fingers and thumbs. Pick something heavy, though, and just hold it for as long as possible.
This will improve your pinch grip a lot, while at the same time being one of the easiest hand gripper exercise routines you can get into the habit of.
4. Deadlift Holds
Now it’s time for a targeted support grip exercise, and again, this can be done as part of any series of squat or deadlift training. The hand grips exercise works by adding a modest weight to a barbell. Start in the usual squatting position and grab the bar with both hands a bit outside your knees.
Slowly lift yourself up into a standing position where you will hang for a while until you feel your hands slipping. You'll possibly start feeling this in your shoulders as well, and one rep will be enough.
5. Farmer’s Walk
Here's one of my friends Tom's favorite grip strengthener exercises. He does take part in strong man competitions, but the exercise really works very well to build up strength in your forearms, wrists, and hands.
Basically, you can use dumbbells or kettlebells, but they need to be heavy. Something that you'll struggle to lift just once. Carefully and slowly squat and lift your chosen weight and come into a fully upright standing position. Let your arms hang down straight, with your hands and shoulders bearing the majority of the weight.
Then carry the weight for 20 to 25 yards, or until your hands start to weaken.
6. Dumbbell Head Grab
This is a grip training exercise I like doing in-between sets of biceps curls.
You'll want to grab hold of the dumbbell head mainly with your fingers and thumb. It will almost look like you're trying to open a jar.
Now, raise up the dumbbell and hold it for as long as possible. It's a great method to increase your pinch grip and will also build muscle in your lower arm.
7. Towel Chin-Ups
This is one of the tougher grip strength exercises, and I only recommend it if you're at a stage where you can easily do 10 to 15 standard chin-ups. Get yourself set up under the pull-up bar and throw a towel over the top. Grab hold of each end of the towel and start doing chin-ups.
Don't be surprised if you cannot do as many of these, because it will put a lot of strain on your fingers.
However, it's an excellent training method to bulk up muscle in your hands, arms, and shoulders.
Avoid Some Common Mistakes
When I work with clients on how to increase grip strength, I always focus on some common mistakes that people make. If you can eliminate these, then your grip strength exercises will become so much more effective.
Avoid Using Straps
In my opinion, weight lifting straps have become way too common, and if you ever watch professional bodybuilders doing strength training, they almost never use straps.
The idea behind them is that they will take some of the weight off your hands, allowing you to work with heavier weights than you otherwise would.
While it does help to train other parts of your body, you could end up with your grip strength falling behind.
Stop Using The Chalk
Chalk is used in weight lifting the same way it is in rock climbing.
It essentially improves your grip and helps you reduce the risk of sweat causing your fingers to slip.
When you cut out the chalk, your hands have to work harder, and you’ll work more on a stronger crush grip.
Pile On The Weights
If you’ve started doing the above-recommended exercises, then I would highly recommend that you try to pile on more weights. The exercises are simple, and you don’t have to go through that many sets and reps.
If you do just one or two of the hand gripper exercises each time you go to the gym, you’ll be making quite a difference. But the impact will be so much more effective if you don’t shy away from some very heavy weights.
Set yourself a challenge the next time you go to the gym and keep increasing the weight until you really struggle to hold the grip.
Squeeze The Bar Hard
This is probably one of the simplest things to correct. During your grip strength exercises with barbells and dumbbells, don’t hold onto the bar with the minimum amount of grip needed.
Instead, squeeze it as hard as possible, imagining that it’s always your absolute maximum weight limit that you’re working with. This is actually more of a mental challenge to remember to do it.
Your body will naturally fight to lower the grip strength. Just make it something you consciously talk yourself through, and you’ll be making a lot more use of your existing routines.
Use A Fat Bar
Fat Gripz are a really cheap way to work on your support and crush grip without having to do much different in your strength training routines. It’s basically a rubber adapter that you place on the barbell, which increases the surface area.
Originally designed for people with very large hands, it’s actually a great way to work on grip strength without increasing the total weight. They are especially effective for deadlift holds or when you carry something heavy in a farmer’s walk.
Do stress balls help grip strength?
Yes, stress balls can help to improve grip strength, but they won’t be enough for serious weight lifting. They are great to use after an injury, but you will need to work with more specific tools for serious results.
What causes loss of grip strength?
The most common causes of a loss of grip strength are natural aging, arthritis, tendonitis, and less commonly nerve damage. For athletes, it’s important to seek out medical advice if the loss in strength doesn’t match up with your overall performance.
How is grip strength measured?
Hand grip strength is measured with a device called a dynamometer, which measures the static force being applied. The reading will give you an indication of pounds per square inch that you can apply.
What is the average grip strength of a man?
The average grip strength for a man is about 100 pounds per square inch. This does widely range depending on age, where it can reduce to about 50 pounds for a 70-year-old man.
What is normal grip strength for a woman?
The normal grip strength for a woman is about 60 pounds per square inch. It is considerably lower than for men, and with the aging process, it will go down to about 40 pounds by age 70.
Does grip strength come from forearms?
No, grip strength doesn’t come from forearms, and this is one of the most common misconceptions I’ve encountered at the gym. Doing dumbbell wrist curls will have very little to no impact on your grip strength, which is entirely dependent on your hand muscles.
How often can you train grip strength?
You can train grip strength during every trip to the gym, and it’s actually something I highly recommend to my clients. With just a couple of sets and limited reps, these exercises will not add much time at all.
Do hand grip exercises work?
Yes, hand grip exercises work very well to increase your grip strength and help you work with heavier weights. If you do them on a regular basis, then you’ll quickly notice the difference they make.
OK, so that’s basically it for my guide on how to increase grip strength. I highly recommend that you start doing the above exercises on a regular basis by adding just 3 or 4 of them each time.
They will add hardly any extra time, but at the same time, they will work wonders for your support and pinch grip.
One last thing, why not share your own experience on our Facebook page and let us know if you’ve got some cool exercises that work for you.