T Nation

Increasing Overall Grip Strength


I have a problem. No matter what I do, I don't seem able to increase the strength of my grip at all and it's affecting some of my lifts (i.e. deadlifts and shrugs). I've tried wrist curls and static holds, but they don't seem to work for me.

My grip just goes completely dead once I start trying to deadlift anything over 315; I've pulled 405 for reps before, but only while wearing gloves. I don't have access to chalk or anything of that sort, so I was wondering if there is any other way for me to refine and increase my grip strength. Thank you for any help offered.


Something I read, but haven't tried myself.

From: Developing a Powerful Grip for Deadlift Efficiency by Ernest F. Cottrell.

You can google and find the rest of that article.


Any issues with pulldowns or rows?

By "dead", do you mean your hand opens up and grip fails on rep 1 around that weight?

If it's a major issue that doesn't seem to be improving, give it some attention. Thib had a mini-article about it, tacking on a little work at the end of a few sessions:
There have been a bunch of other grip strength articles. Hit up the Search box (top right of the screen) and see what pops up.

I'd ditch the gloves in general. There's really no major benefit and they could be contributing to the poor grip.


@Chris Colucci

Actually, I have no issues with pulldowns OR rows.

As for my grip going "dead", I can pump out a few fast reps, but my grip just loosens way too fast and I can hardly ever finish a full set; the most I've ever been able to pull was 315 for 3 reps, I almost locked out on the fourth rep, but the weight slipped from my hands and I couldn't even get it up for 1 rep after that.

I don't use gloves at all, really. I was with a friend and he was using gloves, so I decided to try them. I don't use them because I know that it's been proven that they can lead to an underdeveloped grip.


What kind of grip are you using?

Double overhand? Mixed? Hook?


farmer's walks, bar hangs and rock climbing.

Just my 2ct.


I tend to use double overhand on my warm-ups and I switch to mixed grip on my heavier sets.


Fast reps could be part of the problem. Especially if you're doing multiple reps, treat them almost like singles with minimal rest between them. Pull smooth and steady, descend, take a quick second to reset your grip and adjust your stance, pull smooth and steady for rep two, etc.

I'd either start with some grip work or use straps only on the last set or two, so you're still getting some grip work from the deads.


I'm still curious how you're dropping 315 after 3 reps with a mixed grip, but gloves had you repping 405...
I'd also like to know why you don't have access to chalk. Can't you just buy some and smuggle it in? I've been doing that for years.

Side note, for high rep deadlift sets (anything over about 5) I use straps. I will never be pulling anything more than 1 rep in competition, so I don't see much of a reason not to use straps for these sets. If I want to train my grip for endurance, farmers walks are sufficient. fwiw, grip has never been a limiting factor for me since I started using a mixed grip. I pulled 435 double overhand before I started using a mixed grip for heavy reps.

One last thing, if you absolutely can't get chalk into the gym, just make sure the bar and your hands are as dry as humanly possible. This may be obvious, but I felt it was worth mentioning. A slick/wet bar is the worst.


I live in a po-dunk little town that doesn't sell anything for exercise; I'm honestly surprised they even have a gym. There's nowhere within a hundred miles for me to buy chalk or straps and even if there was, I am too poor to afford either. I don't have a job, so I had to make a deal with the gym owner that I would landscape his yard and take care of his dogs, just so I can workout regularly.


Do you have literally zero dollars to your name? I don't know where I would buy chalk locally either. I bought it on the internet. I spent between 2 and 3 dollars on the chalk, and it has lasted me 3 years. And I still have plenty left. Straps should be less than 10. I got mine for free from Elitefts when I bought something else. There's no way you can't afford chalk if you have access to a computer and the internet.


Literally, z-e-r-o dollars. I just graduated high school and have yet to find a job.


Farmers walks and Kroc rows. Don't cost anything. Try using a towel for your chins/pullups.


The following helped me greatly.

"You have weak forearms if you:

Perform a heavy deadlift with sub-maximal acceleration because you know it will slip out of your hands if you rise too fast.
Chalk up for every upper and lower body pulling exercise.
Can deadlift much more when you wear wrist straps than when you don?t wear them.
Suck at masturbating (ok, I made that one up)."

"Forearms - Many great deadlifters have been limited by grip strength. Put simply, you can only pull as much as you can grip. Having incredible grip strength aids in acceleration as a weak grip will force a slow deadlift."

"The Forearms
1. Deficit Deadlift (longer TUT)
2. Rack Pull (heavier load)
3. Deadlifts against Bands (accommodating resistance)
4. Barbell Shrugs
5. One Arm Lever Rows
6. Mixed Grip Static Holds"

The preceding is all a quote from wannabebig.com/training/deadlift-5-plates-like-a-champion/


If your deadlift needs form work in general as well, try deloading and using only a double overhand grip for several weeks with high volume.


dude. you're making excuses. You eat, right? you have a computer. you have internet service. if all this stuff is provided by your parents, ask them to put up the 3 dollars for chalk. Or ask the gym owner. This isn't rocket science.


I concur, if money really is an issue then farmer's walks/carries and timed hangs can be great grip strength/endurance exercises.

You could also try:
Timed Barbell holds- load up a barbell in a rack or up on blocks (you want to be able to grab the bar and then just have to stand up a couple inches to be at full "lockout" in a deadlift position. You want to use enough weight for the exercise to be challenging, but not so much that it is ripping the weight out of your hands by the end of the set (or else your posture will likely suffer and you may strain the tendons in your hands). I'd start with something like 30 seconds per hold and then work up till you can hold that weight comfortably for 60 seconds. At that point add enough weight to again make it challenging to hold for 30 seconds.

Towel pull-ups- this can be done by either simply wrapping a towel around the pull-up bar to thicken it, or by draping 2 towels over a bar and grabbing one in each hand and simply doing pull-ups

Thick hand shrugs- place 2 barbells in a power rack and load up one side with however much weight you want to use for your shrugs and the other side with enough weight to keep the bars from sliding around too easily (conversely you could also place the ends of the bars against the base of a wall ala old school t-bar rows). Now walk around to the outside of the rack and stand between the ends of the barbells. Grab the bars on their ends (which will be thicker than the bar inside the collars), pick them up and do your shrugs. You could also perform your times holds like this as well.

One additional piece of advice is to do some finger extension work if you are going to do a lot of grip work as this helps keep the hands healthy and stave off muscular imbalances (which often lead to overuse injuries like carpal tunnel or Tendonitis). All you need are a few medium strength rubber bands to do this. Place them around the outside of your fingers (tips of your fingers all touching) and then try to open your fingers as wide as you can against the bands. Add more bands if you need more resistance. You can either do reps like this or static "holds".

Hope this helps.


kroc rows


Do farmers walks with a linear progression. Before I started I could barely walk with 80s in my hand for 75 feet now I can do 105s easily and still climbing. 200+ lbs total may not seem alot compared to deadlift numbers but you would be surprised. I just recently deadlifted 335 w/o gloves after not deadlifting for 4 months. Thats only a few lbs less than my prevous max in december of 350. Point is: grip was not an issue.

I recommend:
Start off with a weight you can easily walk 75 feet with.
Do two sets, one walking away, another walking back
Increase weight by 5 lbs each week.
If dumbbells begin to hurt wrists from sliding, switch to a hex bar
Do farmers walks LAST


Is that really an issue? I didn't know that.

I've been playing piano for years and years, so my perspective is pretty biased regarding finger strength.