Increase grip strength and boost your muscle growth, strength gains, and athletic performance. Here’s exactly how to do it.
One problem: It can be tough to know if you’re making progress. Luckily, there’s an easy way to test your grip. It can even be used to help you monitor your training readiness and recovery. Purchase a grip dynameter (on Amazon) to test your maximum grip strength (how hard you can squeeze). Establish your maximum ability and use this to monitor your readiness.
For example, if your maximum squeeze was recorded at 100 pounds, then anything less than 10% of that number – under 90 pounds – would be low. If that’s the case, reconsider your training plan for the day, and figure out where your ability to recovery could be suffering (sleep, nutrition, etc.).
Initially, your recordings may be all over the place. But once you establish a more consistent baseline, you can rely on the numbers a little better. Like all data points, the more you collect and the more consistent you are, the more reliable the test will be.
An insane grip requires more than just forearm and wrist strength. Grip strength involves several different aspects and qualities of strength that help support and enhance one other:
- Pinch Strength and Endurance
- Crushing Strength and Endurance
- Forearm/Wrist Strength and Endurance
- Support Strength and Endurance
When training each quality, your focus can be more strength or endurance-based. If the goal is to develop more strength, then focus on high-quality reps in the lower to moderate rep range and work to increase the load.
If endurance is the goal, focus on higher reps or timed sets with an appropriate load. Then work to increase the duration of the exercise.
The pinch position refers to what the fingers and thumb do while holding a weight. It has real-world application through climbing, opening jars, and holding an excited dog’s leash.
Here’s how to train for pinch strength and endurance:
- Pinch Isometric Hold: Do this with either a dumbbell or plates. Use multiple plates pressed together with the smooth sides out. Keep them in place by pinching as hard as possible. You can also use a smooth, thick bumper plate. Just hold the plates up for as long as possible.
- Pinch Lift: Same set-up as the isometric hold, but the goal is to lift the heaviest load from the ground to a box. Progress this exercise by increasing the weight or box height.
- Pinch Farmers Carry: This will take your pinch strength and endurance to the next level. Use any of the implements previously listed.
Crushing strength is what we typically associate with grip training. It’s the ability of the hand to squeeze and create tension with the palm and fingers. We use it when giving a handshake or squeezing a barbell.
Here’s how to train for crushing strength and endurance:
- Grippers: Grippers, especially heavy-duty grippers (on Amazon), are the ultimate test of crushing strength. Another option is a gripper machine where you can use both hands and more weight.
- Pad Grab: All you need is a foam pad. Grab the pad and clench it as hard as possible. Hold briefly before switching hands. Do this for total time. It’s great for combat sport athletes.
- Rope Climbs: These will separate the strong from the weak. No rope attached to your gym’s ceiling? Anchor a rope to a power rack and do rack climbs. If you get really strong, do them without any lower-body assistance.
- Rope Sled Pull: Anchor a rope to the end of a heavy sled and do hand-over-hand pulls.
- Rope Towel Movements: Loop a towel or rope around a power rack or barbell to do chin-ups or inverted rows.
- Strongman Lifts: Lifting odd objects such as sandbags, kegs, and stones will create an unmatched grip.
While grip strength typically focuses on the strength of the hands, the supporting muscles of the forearms and wrists cannot be neglected. You can’t have a strong grip with puny wrists and forearms.
Here’s how to train for forearm/wrist strength and endurance:
- Reverse Curl: This is a necessary tool for developing strong, ascetically pleasing forearms.
- Barbell Wrist Roller: Using the barbell as a wrist roller is safer and more efficient than using a traditional roller. It also allows for more weight with less shoulder involvement. For a strong grip, you must strengthen the flexor and extensor muscles of the lower arm.
- Band Wrist Supination/Pronation: Go for more reps, like 20-50 per side.
This is the ability to maintain your grip on a load for an extended time period. Why have a strong grip if it gives out after two seconds? We see this in action every day when carrying groceries.
Here’s how to train for support strength and endurance:
- Farmers Carry: If you do only one exercise to build your grip strength, it should be this. While going for max distance is a great grip-builder, mix it up. You could use the heaviest implement you can hold for a set distance, like 10, 20, or 40 yards. Or go for speed, carrying half of your bodyweight for 100 yards. Just keep it challenging and record your results to track progress.
- Barbell Suitcase Hold: Hold a heavy object for time. Doing this with one hand in the suitcase position will be extra difficult since there’s additional stress on your trunk strength.
- Dead Hang or Flexed Hang: Hanging is the ultimate relative grip-strength exercise. Do it with arms straight or flexed. This involves total-body strength. It’s also a good marker of body composition since it’s your body weight that’s helping or hurting you.
- Pull-Up Grip Switch: When we were kids, we could go through the monkey bars with ease. We didn’t know we were building bulletproof shoulders, relative total-body strength, and a gorilla grip. Grip switches on a pull-up bar are the next best thing. Start hanging from a bar with an overhand grip. Keep your body tight while flipping your hands under so your palms are now facing you. Repeat this process for total reps or time.
- Barbell Spider Flip: Hold a bar with a double overhand grip, then switch your grip to underhand by flipping your hands over one at a time. Repeat for total reps or time. Go slow at first with a lighter weight.
- Rice Dig: This may seem gimmicky, but it’ll strengthen the wrist and hands as they move through resistance (the rice). Do this for time. Dig your way to the bottom of the bucket and then back up. It’ll burn from your fingertips all the way up to your elbows.
- Kettlebell Drop: This involves a squeeze-and-release rhythm that’s great for building grip endurance. Start by holding a kettlebell and fully releasing it. Quickly catch it, squeezing it tightly before repeating the process in a rhythmic fashion. Do kettlebell drops with one hand or alternating hands. You can even do this with a bumper plate.
- Fat Grip Everything: One thing you can do to increase your grip strength without changing a single thing in your training program is to add Fat Gripz (on Amazon) to your exercises.
If you use them on nearly everything for an 8-week cycle, you’ll automatically build up your crushing strength and support strength without adding a single grip-specific exercise.
T Nation earns from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate. Read more about our policy.