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A Stronger Grip Will Help You Get More Reps, Heavier Weights, And Faster Times

 Written by 

Julien Raby

 Last updated on 

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CrossFit athletes, are you letting a weak grip hold you back?

Grip strength is essential for dominating those long toes-to-bar series, crushing 30 deadlifts unbroken, and maximizing your full potential. Not only will a strong grip give you an edge in the gym, but it also has surprising benefits for your overall health.

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So how can you improve grip strength? We’ll break down the science and share exercises that you can easily incorporate into your workouts.

What is grip strength? 

Grip strength is the force your muscle exerts when your hand holds onto things securely. The muscles responsible for grip strength are found in your hands and forearms. Think about when you turn a stubborn doorknob, or even when you hold your favorite book — it’s all thanks to your grip strength.

So, why does grip strength really matter? It’s not just about convenience; it’s about your health and performance in the gym. One study published in the National Library of Medicine found that people with a low Body Mass Index (BMI) tend to have a strong grip strength. This means that there is a correlation between grip strength and people with healthier body compositions. Essentially, fitter people have a stronger grip on their health.

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Your dominant hand is also typically about 10% stronger than your non-dominant hand. This is in line with what researchers call the “10% rule,” which is how your body compensates for any daily work you do.

Grip strength & wrist strength 

When you grip something with your hand, your wrist helps stabilize the gripping joints and tendons. This coordination helps you securely hold onto objects of various sizes and weights. 

Think about when you lift a barbell. As you grasp the bar, your grip strength comes into action; the muscles in your fingers and hands contract, forming a solid hold on the bar. But when you pull the barbell up, your wrist strength steps in to stabilize your wrist joint as you move upward. If your wrist can’t support your joints or forearm muscles, you can hurt yourself when you lift heavier weights.

Your grip strength primarily relies on the muscles in your fingers, hands, and forearms. Muscles like the flexor digitorum profundus, flexor digitorum superficialis, and the brachioradialis come into play. On the other hand, wrist strength uses muscles such as the flexor carpi radialis and ulnaris, as well as the extensor carpi radialis and ulnaris.

Why is grip strength important? 

Other than helping with gym and lifting things, why should you care about grip strength? Well, as this study suggests, there’s also a link between low grip strength and cardiovascular diseases.

One reason for this is that muscle strength, (including grip strength) is closely tied to the body’s ability to metabolize glucose and control its insulin. If your muscles are weak, your body may struggle to manage glucose effectively, which can contribute to conditions like diabetes.

People with weak grip strength often lead a more sedentary lifestyle, which is a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Low grip strength can also be linked to inflammation and oxidative stress in the body, which are factors associated with the development of atherosclerosis (heart disease).

Now, let’s talk about why your grip strength is absolutely crucial for your workout routines.

Without a firm grip, your workouts may suffer. Your grip strength is the linchpin that keeps your hands connected to the weights. If it’s weak, you could accidentally drop the weights, which can throw off your rhythm and even lead to injuries.

If you lift heavier weights, then a strong grip strength becomes even more apparent. Those extra pounds on the barbell demand a firm and unwavering grip. Without it, you might find yourself at your limit because of your hands.

A strong grip also helps you maintain proper form during exercises, whether it’s a deadlift or a kettlebell swing. With a secure grip, you can focus on engaging the targeted muscle groups, rather than worrying about losing control of the weights.

Types of exercises for grip strength 

Now that we understand the importance of grip strength, let’s dive into some effective exercises that can help you improve it. These exercises are grouped into different types of grips and movements to target various aspects of your overall average grip strength. 

When you make your grip strong through grip strength training, you also build stronger wrist flexors, which help alleviate wrist pain from workouts. If you feel a lot of wrist discomfort at the beginning, then do some wrist stretches before you do your grip strength exercises.

1. Pull exercises for grip strength 

Pull exercises are fantastic for building grip strength. Pull exercises use your fingers, hands, and forearms muscles to maintain balance and control throughout each movement. They also help to build forearm strength, which translates into the amount of forearm strain you can hold.

One of the classic pull exercises for grip strength is the Pull-Up, which is a favorite for those who love to train body weight. This exercise targets the finger flexor in your finger and hand muscles, and strengthens them over time.

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Another excellent pull exercise is the Lat Pull down. As you do this workout, try to vary the type of grip to challenge your grip (think overhand grip, or the hardest one; wide grip).

Rows, whether with a barbell, dumbbells, or a cable machine, are also great options. Here you can also choose the type of grip you are using from an overhand grip to a hook grip, monkey grip or even a mixed grip. 

Using the above-mentioned grips helps to target different grip muscles as opposed to using a standard grip.

2. Push exercises for grip strength 

Next up, push exercises. These engage your grip in a different way, and they work a different group of grip muscles. The other benefit is that they also work on your forearm strength, which is a big component of your carrying grip strength and also your overall average grip strength. 

One of the key push exercises for grip strength is the Bench Press. This workout not only works your chest and triceps but also challenges your grip strength, especially when lifting heavy. 

Another great one is the Overhead Press. This exercise targets your shoulders and triceps while giving your grip a good workout as well. Again, try to vary the type of grip you are using. If you want to take this to the next level, then turn it into a grip deadlift static hold when you get to the top of your range of motion.

3. Crush exercises for grip strength 

Crush exercises work the muscles that are in charge of squeezing or crushing movements. These exercises are great for strengthening your overall average grip strength.

One of the most effective crush exercises is Grip Strength Squeezers or Hand Grippers. To do this, you’ll use a grip workout device that offers some resistance, which you repeatedly squeeze to work the muscles in your hands and fingers. 

Another beneficial crush exercise is Plate Pinches. During this exercise, you pinch grip a set of weight plates between your fingers and thumb, simulating the action of gripping something tightly.

Pinch grip exercises are crucial for activities that require you to hold objects with your fingers and thumb, like when you carry books or grip the handle of a suitcase. Plate Pinches not only work on your pinch grip but also engage your forearm muscles. Over time, you’ll notice increased strength and endurance in your fingers and thumb.

Quick exercises you can do every day & anywhere 

Now let’s dig into a few grip exercises you can do from anywhere at anytime. 

Finger curls 

Finger curls are an excellent exercise to specifically target your finger strength and grip. All you need is a light dumbbell to get started.

Here’s how to do them:

  • Sit on a chair or bench with your feet flat on the floor and your back straight
  • Hold a light dumbbell in one hand with your palm facing upward
  • Rest your forearm on your thigh, letting your wrist extend just beyond your knee
  • Allow the dumbbell to roll down to your fingertips, stretching your fingers as far as possible
  • Slowly curl your fingers back up, lifting the dumbbell
  • Repeat this motion for 10–15 repetitions at three to four sets

Finger curls target the muscles around your finger bone (finger extensor fibers) and grip strength.

You can try wrist curls or reverse wrist curls for a weak wrist. (fundamentally the same just for your wrist)

Towel twists 

Towel twists are a simple yet effective exercise to boost your average grip strength. They engage the muscles in your fingers and hands, helping you develop a more robust grip.

Here’s how to do towel twists:

  • Lay a towel flat on a table or any surface
  • Place your hand, palm-down, at one end of the towel, grasping it firmly
  • Begin twisting the towel by rolling it up with your hand. As you twist, make sure to maintain a strong grip on the towel
  • Continue twisting until the entire towel is rolled up into a tight bundle
  • Reverse the motion by unrolling the towel, using your grip strength to control the movement.
  • Repeat this exercise for several repetitions on each hand

Doorway hangs or dead hang

Doorway hangs are a convenient exercise since you can do them virtually anywhere with a sturdy doorframe. This is a great workout for your finger strength and forearm muscles as they work to maintain your body weight and keep balance.

Here’s how to hang from doorways (safely):

  • Stand facing an open doorway with your arms extended straight in front of you
  • Reach up and grasp the doorframe with your fingertips, palms facing away from you
  • Hang from the doorframe, and let your full body weight hang from your grip
  • Hold this position for as long as you can (aim to increase the duration over time)
  • Slowly release your grip and lower yourself down

Finger extensions 

Finger extensions are a complementary exercise to balance your grip training. Here you focus on opening your hand and extending your fingers as opposed to crushing, squeezing or pulling. Finger extensions help maintain the flexibility and strength of your finger extensor muscles. The more flexible these extensors are, the stronger your extensor grip will be.

Here’s how to do finger extensions:

  • Sit at a table with your forearm resting on the surface, palm facing down
  • Place a rubber band or elastic band around your fingertips and thumb
  • Start with your fingers close together, then gently spread them apart against the resistance of the band
  • Repeat this motion for 10-15 repetitions for three to four sets

Grip equipment 

To take your grip strength training to the next level, you can try out specialized grip equipment.

Hand grippers come in various resistance levels, so you can find one that challenges you enough to squeeze and builds finger and hand strength.

Fat Gripz are thick rubber sleeves that you can slide onto dumbbells, barbells, or pull-up bars. They increase the diameter of the grip, which makes your hands work harder to hold on.

Finger Bands are like resistance bands just for your finger. 

Grip rings are another excellent tool to help boost your grip strength and finger dexterity. These small, portable devices consist of a circular ring made of various materials, including rubber, silicone, or metal, with a small opening that you can squeeze shut using your fingers. Grip rings are compact and lightweight, making them easy to carry with you wherever you go. 

FAQ

What is a good grip strength?

A good grip strength can vary depending on factors such as age, gender, and specific fitness goals. However, as a general guideline, a strong grip strength is often measured using a hand dynamometer, and a reading above 50 kilograms (kg) or 110 pounds (lbs) is considered strong for adults.

What are grip strength examples?

Grip strength is essential for a wide range of activities and everyday tasks. Here are some examples:

– Weightlifting
– Manual work
– Rock climbing
– Gymnastics
– Bouldering
– Tennis
– Basketball
– Martial arts
– Judo and Jiu-Jitsu
– CrossFit
– Gardening
– Golf
– Rowing
– Climbing ladder

What is a strong grip in kg?

A grip strength of 50 kilograms (kg) or more is considered strong for adults.

Why is my grip so strong?

Several factors can contribute to having a strong grip such as:

– Genetics
– Physical activity level
– Training
– Occupation
– Consistency

If you have a particularly strong grip, it’s likely due to a combination of these factors.

About

Julien Raby is the owner of BoxLife. He owns a bachelor in literature and a certificate in marketing from Concordia. He's Crossfit Level 1 certified and has been involved in Crossfit since 2010. In 2023 he finally made it to Crossfit Open Quarterfinals for the first time. LinkedIn Instagram Facebook

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