Functional Training: How To Increase Grip Strength
There are many metrics by which humans (typically guys) assess the strength and fitness of an individual (i.e. another bro at the gym), but the most common one of all is -- how much ya bench, bruh?I
While the bench press can be a marker of strength, it by no means is the only metric. In fact, there’s another biomarker that’s far more frequently used by individuals to assess health, fitness and longevity -- grip strength.
What is Grip Strength?
Grip strength is typically thought of as hand strength, and while hand strength is definitely involved, grip strength involves everything from the muscles in your fingers to the forearm muscles.
The reason for this is that several of the muscles involved in the grip originate above the elbow. Furthermore, whenever a muscle crosses a joint, it will in some way affect that joint.
Gripping muscles pass through the forearms, then the wrists, and into the hands, on both the top and bottom of the arm.
This is important to keep in mind when figuring out the best exercises to increase grip strength as we need to perform exercises that involve flexion, extension, and rotation.
Also, if you’ve ever dealt with any inflammation-related forearm pain such as tendonitis, tennis elbow, or epicondylitis (golfer’s elbow) it could be due to overuse, a weak grip and/or an imbalance between the muscles on the top and bottom of your forearms.
You might also be surprised to learn that grip strength is an indicator used to assess overall strength and general health (particularly in older individuals).
With all of that in mind, let’s take a look at the best exercises to increase grip strength.
How to Increase Grip Strength
As we mentioned, grip strength is more than just hand strength. As such, you’ll need to do more than hand grippers to build up your grip strength (though grippers can certainly be incorporated into your grip strength training program).
Plate pinchers are pretty much exactly what they sound like -- grab a plate with each hand and lift them off the floor in a pinch grip.
Ditch the Lifting Straps
A weak grip can hinder your performance on certain lifts, especially pulling movements like rows and deadlifts. And, if you’re trying to reach a new PR on a deadlift or bent over row, then by all means keep using the lifting straps or versa grips.
However, if you want to build the type of grip strength that allows you to crush another man’s hand, then you’ll need to ditch the lifting straps and spend more time gripping heavy ass dumbbells and barbells.
A great way to kill two birds with one stone is to perform heavy loaded carries, such as farmer’s walks. Not only will this blast your gripping muscles, you’ll also get a great conditioning effect.
Use Fat Gripz
To further increase the challenge on your grip strength, you can start using bars with increased diameters and/or using a pair of Fat Gripz. The greater diameter stimulates more muscle activation in the hands and forearms, which increases grip strength and builds more muscle.
In addition to Fat Gripz, you can also loop a towel over a bar and perform pull-ups (similar to using a thick rope attachment for pulldowns or rows. The towel requires greater grip strength and muscle activation than gripping a straight bar.
Don’t Neglect the Extensors
To this point all the exercises/tips have focused on flexion, but if you want to maximize grip strength and avoid injury, make sure to train the extensors on your hands and forearms as well.
The easiest (and cheapest) way is by wrapping a rubber band around your fingers and thumb and then opening them against the resistance of the rubber band. It might seem simple, but it’s surprisingly effective
Once you can do more than 20 repetitions, it’s time to increase the resistance, either by adding another rubber band, using a thicker rubber band, or holding the open position for 2-3 seconds before relaxing and starting the next repetition.
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