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How To Improve Grip Strength

How To Improve Grip Strength Featured Image
Isaac Robertson
Written by Isaac Robertson

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

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).

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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.

Bigger Lifts

Bigger Lifts

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. 

David RobsonPersonal Trainer

Better Endurance

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

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.

Hand Exercise Tools

2. Plate Curls

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.

Plate Pinching

4. Deadlift Holds

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.

Farmers Walk

6. Dumbbell Head Grab

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.

Towel ChinUps

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

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.

Stop Using The Chalk

Pile On The Weights

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.

Squeeze The Bar Hard

Use A Fat Bar

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.

FAQ

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Do stress balls help grip strength?

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Conclusion

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.


About the author

Isaac Robertson

Isaac Robertson

I’m a personal fitness trainer and nutritionist living in sunny Indianapolis, IN. I’ve spent the last 8 years staying at the forefront of the health and fitness industry. In that time, I’ve helped hundreds of people shed the excess weight and get into shape, maintaining their healthy new lifestyle through proper training and eating habits. You can read more about me here​.

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