Start with simple hand grippers. Practice hanging on a thick bar, on one arm, or on your fingers. Perform fingertip push-ups or hold a straight arm plank on your fingertips. Walk around with heavy weights (extended arms), as long as you can. Squeeze a rubber or tennis ball until your fingers are tired. Grab a weight plate between thumb and fingers and hold for 30 secs.
Who needs a strong grip? Everybody! We use grip strength to perform different tasks in life – opening bottles, shaking hands, carrying things, sports, and so on and so forth.
Not to forget the importance of grip strength in strength training. It is not possible to perform exercises like pull-ups and hanging leg raises if you do not have a strong grip.
If you try to do hanging leg raises with a weak grip – your arms will give out before your abdominal muscles become exhausted. So, instead of relying on elbow straps, the best thing is to strengthen your grip.
So, what makes a strong grip?
Well, grip strength is determined by the strength of your fingers, forearm, thumb and the wrist.
The exercises in this article will help strengthen all the muscles mentioned above. In fact, you will be able to increase your upper body strength. And as you may know, the wrist is prone to injury – so these grip exercises will also reduce risk of wrist injury.
Now, you do not have to change your current workout routine to do these grip exercises. Do them for 5 minutes after you finish your workouts. At the end of this article, you will find a grip strengthening workout routine you can follow.
3 Types Of Grips
Before I show you the best grip strengthening exercises – here are various types of grips you should know about.
1. The Pinching Grip
The pinching grip is determined by the strength of the fingers and the thumb. We use this grip when we grab something thin using the thumb and the fingers. Like when you lift a weight plate off the floor.
2. The Support Grip
This grip involves using the fingers, the thumb and the palm to hold something. It is the grip we use when doing pull ups and other hanging exercises.
3. The Crushing Grip
This is the strength demonstrated by squeezing something between your fingers and palm. Think – squeezing a tennis ball in your palm without using the thumb.
Grip Strength Training Rules
You need to practice caution when doing grip strengthening exercises. Follow the grip strength training rules below to make sure you train maximally and safely.
1. Do Not Train Your Grip If Your Calluses Hurt
You will develop calluses when you do some grip strengthening exercises. And calluses usually hurt before they heal. So give them time to heal if they hurt badly. After all, you won’t be able to train maximally and you won’t benefit fully from the grip workout.
2. Stop If The Wrist Hurts
The wrist is very sensitive. Some athletes have had to end their careers early because of wrist injuries. So, do not ignore any unusual pain hoping that it will go away.
Straining is okay, but pain is not. If you feel unusual sharp pain when doing grip exercises, stop. The injury can get worse if you continue.
3. Do Grip Exercises At The End Of The Workout
Doing grip exercises early in the workout can negatively affect your performance in other exercises. So, make sure they are the last strength training exercises in your workout.
4. Start Slow
If you are new to strength training, start with the simple exercises and do a maximum of 3 grip exercises a day. Later, after you have gotten used to the exercises, you can start doing more intense workouts. And do not forget to warm up if you are training the grip only.
The Best Grip Strengthening Exercises
Hand grippers will increase your overall grip strength. The good thing is that they are cheap and easily available. And you can use them anywhere – in the office, at the beach, at home and so on. If you are a beginner, this is a great exercise to strengthen your grip without much effort.
But that is not to say hand grippers are for beginners only. There are hand grippers for every strength level. In fact, some are so tense they can challenge professional strongmen. Anyway, after you use a hand gripper for a while and get used to it – order a tenser one.
Hanging is not as popular in strength training, as it is in gymnastics or rock climbing. And that is a shame! Hanging can increase upper body strength for beginners as well as advanced fitness enthusiasts.
You see, hanging does not just build grip strength – it strengthens the forearms, shoulders, wrist, and back muscles. It also loosens the shoulders and improves the overhead reach range.
Well, hanging is more diverse than you may think. First, let us look at the 2 types of hanging – passive hanging and dynamic hanging.
- Passive Hang: Passive hang is the best for beginners. Basically, you just grab the bar and hold on to it without any movement.
- Dynamic Hang: Once you can hold a passive hang for 1-2 minutes, start doing dynamic hangs. This is where you combine hanging with simple movements like swinging or shoulder shrugs.
Here are some tips to make hanging more challenging and more rewarding:
1. Use A Thick Bar
A thicker bar challenges the fingers and forearms more. Now, do not worry if you do not have a thick bar – you can make the one you have thicker. Just wrap a towel on the bar to increase it’s circumference.
You will notice that skinny bars are easy to grab and they demand much less from the hands as compared to what thick bars do. So, use thick bars even when doing pull-ups and chin-ups.
How you hold the bar is entirely up to you. Personally, I prefer a thumb-less grip. You can use the thumb if you want to. Just make sure you use an overhand grip.
2. Towel/ Rope Hangs
Towel hangs are also a great alternative. Hang two towels on a pull-up bar and grab on them. Some trainees actually prefer to do pull-ups using towels. If you have hanging ropes, use them instead of the towels.
3. One Arm Hangs
Hanging with one arm is challenging even for experienced exercisers. Even so, it is a great way to strengthen the grip fast. For maximum grip activation do one-arm dynamic hangs.
4. Finger Hangs
As you get better at hanging, reduce the number of fingers you support yourself with. You can start with four fingers, then three . . . until you can hang using only one finger.
You need to strengthen your fingers with both pull and push movements. This movement will strengthen the joints in the fingers and reduce the risk of injury.
To perform fingertip push-ups – assume the push-up position, but instead of placing your palm flat on the floor, support your body with your fingertips. And just like hanging – you can use less fingers as you become stronger.
If fingertip push-ups are too challenging for you, hold the straight arm plank with your fingertips and kill two birds with one stone – activate the core and strengthen the fingers.
Farmer’s walk is an exercise where you pick up heavy weights and walk around with them as long as you can. Worry not if you do not have weights. Just fill two suitcases with books or news papers to make them heavy. Then carry them around.
Remember to keep the arms fully extended and shoulders pulled back. You can also use big water bottles with handles.
Rubber Ball Squeeze
Squeeze a rubber ball or a tennis ball until the fingers are exhausted. Do this at least 3 times every day for each hand. This movement highly targets the forearm flexors.
Remember, we talked about the pinch grip. This is the best exercise for strengthening it. Well, you will need weight plates for this one. Grab a plate or two between your thumb and fingers. Then hold it for 30 seconds and repeat several times.
If you do these exercises your grip will become strong, fast. But I know you may find these exercises overwhelming – so below, there is a grip workout anyone can use, from beginners to advanced level.
Grip Strengthening Workout
Do these exercises after every workout. I have assumed you are using a 3-day routine.
Day 1: Hand grippers – 3 sets, maximum reps.
Day 2: Rubber ball squeezes – 90 seconds, 3 times.
Day 3: Two-hand hang – 30 seconds, 3 sets.
Day 1: Hand grippers (tenser) – 3 sets, maximum reps.
Day 2: Fingertip push-ups – 3 sets, maximum reps.
Day 3: Two-hand hang – 60 seconds, 3 sets.
Day 1: One-hand hang – 60 seconds, 3 sets.
Day 2: Towel pull-ups – 3 sets, maximum reps.
Day 3: Plate pinch – 60 seconds, 3 sets.
There you have it, my friend. I am sure this article got you thinking if you have never done grip strength training before. Frankly, you may be strong, but if your grip is weak, you will only be able to perform a limited set of exercises.
You are as strong as your grip. So strengthen it. Now the ball is in your court. Start doing these exercises right away and watch your grip strength increase.