Strength training should always be about building practical strength rather than sculpting showy muscles that cannot perform once the show is over. Because grip strength is an integral part of an individual’s overall body strength, it should be made part of any good strength training routine. Besides, building a strong grip has several practical benefits, so it is advisable to perform targeted grip strength training especially if your grip strength is genetically weak. To test your current grip strength level, consider using a hand dynamometer.
Some poorly-informed trainers may tell you that grip strength is highly genetic and cannot be trained. They may even ask you to wear gloves and straps to cover up for poor grip strength but know that this is not the route you want to take. Grip strength is affected by a multitude of factors including genetics, gender, nutrition, nervous system orientation, age, testosterone levels, motion diseases, and training.
Yes, that last factor is training! Like any type of strength, grip strength also responds easily to regular exercise and training of the flexor and extensor hand muscles. The more you use your hands, the stronger your grip strength will be.
While there are multiple ways of building grip strength, using hand grippers is one of the most convenient and effective ways of doing so, so we’ll be focusing on hand gripper workouts and exercises only.
Benefits of a Strong Grip
Before getting into the hand gripper workouts, I want to emphasize the importance of a strong grip in your day-to-day life. You know, just so you will diligently follow the workouts provided later on. Here are some examples:
- It helps you give a strong, firm handshake that exudes high confidence, warmth, and trustworthiness.
- Carrying groceries, opening annoying jars and cans, or lifting awkward objects becomes much easier with a strong grip.
- It enables you to perform better in recreational and sporting activities such as rock climbing, tennis, dodge ball, baseball, bowling, golf, and even holding on to your dog while walking it.
- When grip strength is no longer the weak link in the chain, you can maximize the weight you lift on other upper body exercises involving the chest, shoulders, back, biceps, and triceps.
- Studies have shown that strong grip strength is correlated with longer life expectancy, virility, and fertility.
- You can’t deny that a strong-looking set of hands, wrists, and forearms is always attractive.
Clearly, weak grip strength is going to set you back from many simple pleasures in life. Ultimately, grip strength is a measure of health so you need to treat it that way.
Get the Right Hand Grippers
If you don’t already own a few good pairs of hand grippers, it’s time to get some quality ones. You can choose to purchase a set of multiple hand grippers of incremental weights; or purchase a single adjustable hand gripper.
Some of the best hand grippers money can buy are made by Heavy Grips and IronMind (Captains of Crush). Both brands are easily available on Amazon.
Heavy Grips Hand Gripper Set
Developed by renowned bodybuilder Lee Hayward, the Heavy Grips set of hand grippers comes in increments of 50lbs starting with 100lbs. As a beginner, you can purchase the first three weights first (100lbs, 150lbs, 200lbs) and work your way up on those before moving on to even heavier grippers.
IronMind Captains of Crush Hand Gripper
These Captains of Crush hand grippers made by IronMind are arguably the gold standard of all hand grippers out there. These are known for superior quality and durability and have excellent customer reviews. You may have to individually purchase the different levels of their hand grippers as they don’t necessarily come in sets.
You can’t really go wrong regardless of which brand you choose. Just go ahead and pick one! If the standalone hand grippers are not for you, another wise option could be adjustable hand grippers – like the ones below.
Adjustable Hand Grippers
How to Grip Hand Grippers
While using these hand grippers, the right way to grip them is by holding them high in your end, closer to the fingertips. This allows the meat of your palm to nicely get behind one side of the hand gripper. This way, you can close the grippers easier using a full range of motion.
The positioning should come naturally to you. One handle should be placed at the meaty pad at the base of your thumb while the other handle is wrapped around by the four fingers.
Another key aspect you need to pay attention to is the short vertical sides of the spring that connect into the handle. If you take a close look at your hand gripper, one side of the spring would be dead straight while the other would have a slight curve. The side with the straight spring should be placed at the base of your thumb. This is a very minute detail, but it goes a long way in optimizing your grip strength training.
Eventually, you will find the perfect fit based on your hand’s anatomy. The standard position is to hold the gripper with the spring facing up, but you can train with the spring facing down as a means of progressing into a heavier gripper.
Exercises – How to Use Hand Grippers
Now that you’re all set with hand grippers, it’s time to train! There are many ways you can use hand grippers to work out your crush grip. For simplicity’s sake, let’s break it down into six exercise categories.
- Standard reps – This is the normal and intuitive way to use hand grippers wherein you simply close, open, close, open the gripper at a natural pace. Standard reps can be used for strength or endurance purposes, depending on the weight used.
- Holds for time – This works the same way the plank works for your core. In this exercise, you basically close the gripper fully and hold it for a certain amount of time or for as long as you can, depending on your workout. This exercise can be used to develop grip strength and endurance.
- Negatives – Negatives are a game-changer when it comes to recruiting grip muscles. In this exercise, you close the gripper and then slowly open it up in a controlled fashion, before closing it again. The negative portion of the move should take at least three seconds. Negatives are an excellent way to build raw grip strength.
- Speed standard reps – This one has a slight twist in that it calls for you to perform the reps as fast as you can, hence the name. The main purpose of this exercise is to develop speed across your grip muscles.
- Speed partial reps – These are exactly the same as speed standard reps, except you don’t fully close the gripper. This allows for prolonged tension and requires higher control while performing the speed reps.
- Close and hold – In this variation, you close the gripper, hold it for a certain amount of time, open, then repeat for repetitions. This exercise allows you to combine standard reps and holds for time into a hybrid workout. This exercise should preferably be done with heavier grippers as its main objective is to build strength, not endurance or speed.
Sample Hand Gripper Program
So how in the world are you supposed to incorporate the aforementioned six exercises into a grip strength workout routine? Here’s a sample program that you can try.
The program requires you to train every day, but it would take only around 10 minutes each day. So, leave your excuses at bay. The goal is to keep progressing the program until you develop enough strength to close the heaviest weight on hand grippers (e.g. 200lbs and more).
Hand Gripper Workout Cycle
|Workout A||Strength||Main workout|
|Workout B||Endurance||Active recovery|
|Workout C||Speed||Active recovery|
The table above shows how the program is structured. There are basically three workouts (A, B, C) representing Day 1, 2, and 3. On Day 4, you go back to doing Workout A and repeat the cycle in that manner. Do note that Workout A is the main workout wherein the focus would really be on building strength.
Workout B and C are designed for active recovery so that your hand and forearm muscles remain stimulated. That said, you’ll be using light grippers on Workouts B and C since the objective is active recovery. Going heavy on these two sessions won’t allow your grips strength to enjoy progressive overload, so using light grippers is optimal.
Workout A – Main Strength Workout
|Exercise||Sets x Reps||Gripper Level|
|Warm up||2 x 12||Light gripper|
|Standard reps||3 x 6||Max weight possible|
|Negatives||2 x 5||Max weight possible|
|Close & hold||1 x 5||Max weight possible|
|Drop set of speed reps||1 x 10||Light gripper|
Workout B – Endurance active recovery
|Exercise||Sets x Reps||Gripper Level|
|Warm up||1 x 12||Light gripper|
|Standard reps||2 x 25||Light gripper|
|Hold for time||1 x F||Light gripper|
Workout C – Speed active recovery
|Exercise||Sets x Reps||Gripper Level|
|Warm up||1 x 12||Light gripper|
|Speed standard reps||2 x 10||Light gripper|
|Speed partial reps||2 x 12||Light gripper|
That’s about it. It’s a simple yet highly effective program provided you follow it diligently and consistently. Even one month of consistent effort will boost your grip strength by leaps and bounds.
And remember that your goal should always be to aim for progressive overload. That is, once you feel you can complete the sets and repetitions fairly easily using a certain weight, it’s time to move on to a heavier gripper. This is proof that you’re getting stronger!
Tips and Cues
The same principles of bodybuilding apply to grip training as well. To get stronger, you need to focus on performing a low number of reps using a heavier weight (e.g. 3 sets x 6 reps). The main workout (A) above is designed in this way. It might be easy to resort to a high-volume approach, but remember that doing countless repetitions will not do much for your grip because there just isn’t enough intensity. Some additional reminders:
- Stick to the workout, don’t try to over train in pursuit of faster results. It’s about trusting the process!
- Never skip the warm-up sets that are included in each workout.
- Take the grip strength training seriously and put in an active, quality effort while doing the repetitions rather than passively breezing through the workout.
- The workout is designed to shock your grip-related muscles. Once you realize significant results from the program and reach the heaviest grippers, vary your training to keep things interesting.
- Take note that hand grippers mainly train your crushing grip. While this does have carry over to all kinds of grip strength, it may be wise to incorporate other grip strength workouts to train your pinch grip, supporting grip, etc.
- If your grippers get rough, feel free to put some oil on them.
- If you have sweaty hands, put on some powder or chalk before doing the workouts. You don’t want the loss of friction to be an impediment to your progress.
- Try not to do the workouts in the morning as your grip strength is generally weaker when you wake up. Allotting 10 minutes for grip workouts before going to bed is ideal.
- Lastly, have fun getting those hands of steel!
Having a strong grip strength is essential to living a strong and healthy life. It can boost your performance in other areas of strength and fitness as well. With the help of quality hand grippers, you can easily build hands of steel if you train hard and smart. The main focus should be on strength by incorporating low reps, high weight/intensity, and a full range of motion. Although the speed and endurance workouts are there to merely supplement the strength workout, they do deserve equal commitment.