See that car? It’s a Bugatti Veyron – one of the fastest supercars ever created. But why are you seeing a car in a post about grip strength? Well, we first need to establish the importance of grip strength, and we’ll use the Bugatti to do so. So the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport has 1200 horsepower and 1500Nm of torque and can run up to 415 kmph, it’s an absolute wonder.
Now imagine getting a flat tire on the Bugatti.
What happens? you lose all the power and all the speed. See where this is going yet? Your hands and grip are like the tires of a supercar whose engine comprises of the shoulders, arms, and chest. No matter how strong your other muscles are, their power inevitably goes through your hands. And having a weak grip becomes the weak link in the chain, depriving you of so much potential power.
Vehicles aside, let’s move to grip strength.
Grip strength is one of the most important elements of physical strength. Most physical activities in our day to day lives involve the use of our hands, so naturally the stronger your grip, the easier these tasks become. Aside from handshakes, even the smallest of chores require good grip strength, from opening bottle caps to carrying groceries.
Just look at this guy in the picture for a second. Don’t be this guy.
Because our grip strength is used so frequently, a strong grip is often linked to a longer, happier, and healthier life.
The benefits of a strong grip are countless. Still, why are there very few people who bother training their grip strength? Well, it’s because people don’t really look at your hands as much as they look at your arms, chest, or abs. Most people just care about their aesthetics – about how strong they look rather than how strong they actually are. Form over function. Due to this, grip strength is rarely trained and ends up being neglected.
This really needs to change. I say this because the average grip strength among humans is decreasing by the day due to our increasingly sedentary lifestyle. That’s why many millennials nowadays have weak handshakes. A weak grip indicates a weak body, which is no good. Not to mention that a weak grip can eventually lead to various kinds of chronic motor disorders in the wrist or hands.
But what causes a weak grip?
To an extent, grip strength IS determined by genetics, but for the most part, your grip strength depends on how much you use your grip. Sadly, our 21st-century lifestyle does not help the cause – more technology and less manual labor. We just don’t exercise and use our grip enough anymore!
Luckily, there are many exercises that can help increase grip strength. Of course, some are more effective than the others. You don’t need to be doing too many exercises for your grip, just a few exercises that can quickly generate big results. With that in mind, we’ve compiled 7 simple yet very effective exercises anyone can do to increase grip strength:
1. Ball Squeezes
Get a ball and start squeezing it as hard as possible, it’s that simple. You can find balls specifically designed to train grip strength. These balls tend to be a bit soft so that you can keep squeezing them passively throughout the day. These will increase endurance in your forearms so that you won’t easily get tired in activities that require your grip.
However, you might not have the luxury to obtain these special grip balls. But that’s perfectly okay because you can also use tennis balls! Yes, tennis balls are great for doing ball squeezes. The best part is, you can bring them anywhere you go! Moreover, since they’re harder to squeeze, they train your grip for pure strength in addition to endurance. All you need to do is squeeze them as hard as possible for a set amount of time or a fixed number of repetitions.
2. Hand Grippers Exercise
Hand grippers were created specifically to train grip strength. You can buy a pair for around $20, not expensive at all. The good thing about hand grippers is that you can adjust the resistance of the tool depending on your current level of grip strength. For example, a hand gripper’s difficulty level could range from 50 lbs. to 350 lbs., so you can start off at 50 lbs. and work your way up as needed.
You can get good hand grippers online on Amazon for a few bucks. It’s a good investment for your grip strength and won’t hurt your wallet.
These tools are excellent for strengthening your hands and fingers. They do their job pretty well, which explains their popularity. Most people visualize hand grippers when thinking about grip strength. In fact, many doctors use them in physical therapy for treating wrist or finger movement disorders.
3. Dead Hangs
To perform dead hangs, you need to hang on a horizontal bar using both your hands and make sure that your feet are not touching the ground, so that all your body weight is on both of your hands. Once positioned, you don’t need to move at all. Just simply hang and stay suspended (dead) for as long as you can, as if you’re holding onto a cliff. Eventually, either your forearms or calluses are going to give in.
You can do these on the pull-up bars that are found in most gyms or you can install your own pull-up bar at home, whichever is most convenient. Just take note of one thing: a lot of concentration and willpower is needed to progress on dead hangs, but the results will be rewarding as well. Dead hangs will give you strong forearms and will train them to bear heavy loads for extended periods of time.
4. Static Deadlift Holds
If dead hangs feel too easy for you, you can do Static Deadlifts Holds instead. Both exercises serve the same function but Static Deadlift Holds allow you to use heavier loads. This exercise builds unparalleled static grip strength as well as muscular forearms.
In this exercise, you’ll have to stand upright for a certain amount of time while holding a barbell in your hands. Imagine the top position of a deadlift, prolonged.
There are two ways you can set up for this exercise. One way is to deadlift the bar from the ground then hold at the top. Another way is to set up the bar on a power rack such that the bar is just above knee level. From here all you have to do is grip it and pull slightly so that your torso is upright while holding the bar. If you want to focus your workout only on your grip, the latter way will be more convenient for you. But if you choose the former way, don’t forget to warm up with lighter sets first since you will be deadlifting the weight up – the last thing you want is to snap your back!
5. Towel Pull Ups
If you think regular pull-ups or chin ups are hard, you’ve probably never tried towel pull-ups. What’s different with towel pull ups is the grip style. You’ll need to wrap a towel around the pull-up bar and hold the towel rather the bar itself.
It’s much harder to pull yourself up when holding a towel because you need more grip strength to do so. In most cases, your forearms and hands will give up sooner than your back, unlike regular pull-ups. This makes towel pull-ups more of a grip exercise than a back exercise since grip is usually the limiting factor. I still remember the first time I did these; my forearms were burning more than ever!
6. Plate Pinches
If you have weak fingers, then plate pinches can help you a lot! Unlike most grip exercises, plate pinches specifically focus on strengthening your fingers.
Here’s how to do them:
Hold the plate (we’re talking about the weights here, not dining plates) with your four fingers and your thumb with your hand facing down, so that the plate is vertical. Hold on to it for as long as you can. If your fingers are weak, the plate(s) will quickly slide down.
The good thing about this exercise is you don’t really need to have actual plates or have access to a gym. Be creative, I’m sure you can find many alternatives in your house. A thick book, for example, works really well. Own a thick book that you never read? It’s about time to put it to good use.
7. Dumbbell Walks/Farmer’s Walks
It would be an understatement to say that we saved the best exercise for last.
Yes, dumbbell walks are by far the most effective exercise on this list, so good for you if you’re still reading. Dumbbell walks are among the most functional of exercises since they have the most carryover to real life grip strength. Being a compound exercise, dumbbell walks actually work much more than your grip.
Aside from your hands and forearms, your neck muscles, upper back, and shoulders also get a great workout from dumbbell walks.
Dumbbell walks are super simple to do. Just hold two heavy dumbbells in your both your hands and start walking. Try to walk fast with short brisk strides, and always remember to keep your back, neck and head upright while walking. Also, you can also use forms of weights other than dumbbells, such as plates or specialized grip bars for farmer’s walks.
- You may have noticed that in all of these exercises, the sets are either timed or require you to do a number of repetitions. Both types of exercises work well to increase grip strength, but whether you get stronger really depends on how much you challenge yourself with the exercises. Remember, your body will always fail before your mind, so it all boils down to your willpower.
- You don’t need to incorporate ALL of these 7 exercises into your workouts because you’re going to burn out if you do. Pick a few from the list depending on your needs and your current grip strength level. If you had to choose only one, look no further than dumbbell walks – you’ll get the most bang for your buck.
- If you are already into weight training and are not training your grip, there’s a good chance that your grip will get left behind and will eventually limit your progress. Remember:
“If you can’t grip it, you can’t lift it.”
- Lastly, never underestimate the importance of grip strength. Chances are, your grip is weaker than you think. Again, the benefits of a strong grip go far beyond an impressive handshake.
So what are you waiting for? Start getting serious about your grip strength and improve the quality of your life!
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