Great Hand Grip Exercises
There are a ton of good reasons to train your grip. For starters, this is one of the quickest ways to improve your performance in the gym, in martial arts and in just about any sport. If you are trying to exert force and use your strength, then you will only be as powerful as your weakest link. For many people, that weak link is their grip and they end up dropping things or sliding around.
Not only that, but a strong grip is useful for climbing, for doing practical work such as tightening screws and for impressing people by opening jam jars.
On top of all this, a grip is a great sign of strength that will communicate your power when you shake hands.
So how do you go about training your strength in this overlooked area?
Passive Grip Training
The first thing to recognize is that like your abs, your grip is being trained all the time when you use any kind of exercise. If you hold onto a bar with your hands, then you are training your grip along with whatever other body part that move is supposed to target.
Is this enough though? Often not. And one of the best ways you can upgrade the challenge for your grip is to try using bars that are a little wider. This is a technique that was once used by ‘old-time strongmen’ and that would prevent audience members from being able to challenge them. You can do something similar by just buying a bar with a slightly wider grip or by wrapping something around your regular barbell in order to increase the challenge.
Alternatively, why not find other ways to make gripping harder during your exercise. For example, if you are doing neutral grip pull ups, then you can try hanging a towel from the bar and then holding onto that instead – or even holding onto a rope. This is much tougher on the hands and requires much more grip from you.
You can also engage in a range of other activities that will involve the grip. We’ve already discussed the connection between grip and tightening screws, so of course working manual labor or doing projects around the house is a fantastic way to improve your grip strength over time.
Best of all though? That would have to be rock climbing. Rock climbing will test your grip strength and your finger strength and build massive forearms and is among the best forms of hand grip exercises.
Incidental Grip Training
Another option is to use ‘incidental grip training’. This means that you’ll be training your grip throughout the day, rather than hitting it with specific hand grip exercises in the gym.
To do this, you can try using a grip trainer. These are small devices that challenge you to squeeze against resistance. You can buy them with different levels of resistance on Amazon and when you do this, you’ll be able to gradually increase the challenge until you’re squeezing huge numbers. You can also find grip trainers that specifically challenge your finger strength.
That said though, you can also get a similar benefit from simply taking a small rubber ball and squeezing that. Either way, the benefit of this kind of training is that it can be done anywhere and at any time. You don’t need to set out specifically to train your grip, you can just do it throughout the day.
To get the most of this form of training, you can also try using it and combining it with ‘overcoming isometrics’. Isometric exercise is resistance exercise that involves holding a position, rather than going through a movement. When you use overcoming isometrics, you are putting in maximum effort against an immovable force. For example then, you are trying to squeeze something that just won’t give – like a rock.
Doing this is actually a great form of training because the nervous system will be trying to use 100% maximum effort, thereby recruiting all of your muscle fiber as though you were lifting your 1-rep maximum. In doing that you actually strengthen the connection to those muscle fibers and build your ‘mind-muscle connection’.
So, squeeze against a force that won’t be moved and hold that at maximum strength for the count of 5-10 seconds. Now rest and then try again. Repeat 10 times.
Getting More Specific With Hand Grip Exercises and Forearm Training
If you want to more specifically train your grip, then the best place to start is by looking at what exactly is involved in your grip strength.
Because actually, there are several muscles involved in gripping. These can be broken down into two groups however: your extensor muscles (extensor digitorum, extensor carpi radialis longus, extensor carpi radialis brevis, extensor carpi ulnaris, extensor indicis, extensor digiti minimi, extensor pollicis longus and extensor brevis) and your flexor muscles (flexor digitorum superficialis, flexor digitorum profundus, flexor carpi radialis, flexor carpi ulnaris, palmaris longus and the flexor pollicis longus).
These essentially are responsible for pulling the fingers and hand inward and pushing them outward. This is why the best ways to train the grip specifically into the gym involve training the forearm with wrist curls.
You can do two types of wrist curls to train the two muscle groups: overhand grip and underhand grip.
First, grab the dumbbell or barbell using the correct type of grip. Now keep your forearm completely straight and parallel to the ground and as you do, pivot at the wrist in order to bring just the hand and the weight up slightly. Don’t go too heavy too soon, or you may cause injury resulting in your grip becoming weaker, rather than stronger.
If you find this hard, try resting your forearm on a bench or using a preacher curl station.
Another tip is to make sure you train the other muscles of the forearm, such as the pronator teres. You can do this by adding a twist to your dumbbell curl so that you move from the regular curl motion into a hammer curl. This will also train the supinator muscles which help you to twist the hand.
All tricep exercises meanwhile will also work the brachioradialis, which helps to bend the elbow.