Last Updated 11th August 2016: This article is going to go in-depth about grip strength and the techniques and exercises you can do to improve it. Having a strong grip is essential for everyday life, but if you’re a serious lifter it will help you grip barbells and dumbbells tighter, adding stability to all of your compound and isolated exercises.
What is Grip Strength?
Grip strength is essentially how strong your hands, fingers and forearms are. When you pick up any object, whether this be a barbell or an apple, you will have to grip this. The stronger your grip is, the less chance you have of dropping said object. Taking this to a gym environment – Working on your grip strength can allow you to improve many of your compound lifts, as well as help you slowly grow the forearm muscles!
Why / When is it important?
Having a strong grip is essential for everyday activities, such as crushing cans or even just in a firm handshake. But its essential on 2 main compound movements. These being the deadlift and the bench press. Deadlift grip strength is the one we will focus on today as for most people this is the limiting factor to their max-lift attempts.
Grip Strength Training
Unlike other guides on this topic, we aren’t going to talk about using hand weights, instead we are going to talk about using grip strength exercises that you can do anywhere to improve the overall strength and squeeze of your forearm and wrist.
The Top Grip Strength Exercises:
- Deadlift Hook Grip – This is one for the more lazy lifters amongst us. If you don’t have a lot of time to do additional mobility or grip strength training, then the next best thing is to utilise what you are already doing. If you are deadlifting (and you should be) then you are likely using the mixed grip. One of the best grip strength exercises is using the hook grip for warm-up sets on your deadlift. I don’t recommend using a hook grip above 80% of your 1 rep max, but up to 80% you can use the hook grip and hence build the forearm muscles without additional training exercises. If you don’t know the difference between the hook or mixed grip, you can learn more here.
Farmers Walk – Probably the easiest way to work the forearms. This involves picking up extremely heavy dumbbell or kettle-bells and griping them as tight as possible, whilst walking. The walking adds a sense a movement in your shoulders and hence makes your forearms grip the weights tighter, due to the reduced stability of your body. Slowly work your way up in the weight and reps like you would when training with any other exercise or lift. Eventually you may be able to lift the heaviest dumbbells or kettlebells in your gym. In this case simply add weight to either end of a barbell and repeat the process.
Weight Plate Pinching – Depending on your starting strength, pick a weight plate and pinch the top of this without touching the handles. There are many variations of this exercise. For example the Hex hold which involves holding a dumbbell by the weight part and not the handle, hence meaning you have to apply a lot of pressure as your hand wouldn’t be large enough to go all the way around the weight section and clutch the dumbbell, like is the case when you are simply picking it up from the handle.
There are many variations to these exercises, but all relate to a similar system. I’ve attached a video below that goes in-depth on the top forearm building methods and the exercises he recommends.
I didn’t know where to include this video in the article, so I’ll just put it in the end. This is a video by Genesis Strength that talks about the correct way to actually grip a bar (whether this be a pull up bar or a barbell/dumbbell). Using the correct grip you activate the forearm a lot more.