Developing strength in your forearms and hands isn't likely at the top of your fitness goals, but there are several benefits to taking a couple minutes out of your session to dedicate to building grip strength. The benefits of developing muscular forearms aren't limited to a stronger handshake. Rather, a stronger grip helps you train harder in the weight room, improves your athletic performance and makes daily duties and chores easier to manage. You can build grip strength by tweaking the way you do certain exercises and with a couple of activities that specifically target the muscles in the forearms, hands and fingers.
The Benefits of Building Grip Strength
If you regularly lift weights, it's likely you've experienced having your hands and forearms weaken and fatigue before the muscles you're actually targeting. For example, during deadlifts and pull-ups, a weak grip can severely limit how much weight you can lift and how many reps you can perform. Having greater grip strength, on the other hand, will five you a firmer grasp on dumbbells, barbells and bars. You'll be able to lift more weight without having your forearms get fatigued, which means you'll be able to reach your weight lifting goals faster. A stronger grip translates to greater strength building all over.
For athletes, building greater grip strength can mean better control of a ball or an implement. For example, basketball players will be better able secure the ball when they're dribbling, passing and shooting. Baseball players and golfers will be better able to control the bat or club once their implement impacts the ball. In addition, strengthening the muscles involved in gripping can also help reduce the risk of certain injuries. With stronger muscles and connective tissues, you'll lesson the risk of tweaking your wrists and forearms.
Finally, a stronger grip will make daily activities like carrying groceries or handling a lawn mower much easier. The grip strength that you build with exercises in the gym will translate to practical, day-to-day strength. And yes, you'll also have a firmer handshake, which can help convey confidence.
Types of Grip
There are three different types of grip, including crushing grip, supporting grip, and pinch grip.
Crush grip refers to your "squeezing strength," or the grip between your palms and your fingers. Giving a firm handshake is also an example of crushing grip.
Support grip is your ability to hold onto something for time, such as hanging from a bar. Being able to hold a bar as you do deadlifts is another example of supporting grip.
Pinch grip refers to the ability to squeeze something between your fingers and thumb.
Exercises to Build Grip Strength
To build comprehensive grip strength, you've got to incorporate exercises that build all three types of grip and target the muscles throughout your fingers, hand and forearms.
Additionally, if you've been using grip-training aides like wrist straps, consider putting them aside. While they help you lift more weight in a workout, they're actually causing your forearms and hands to become weaker. Do away with them and you'll start to gradually build strength in your forearms while you're training.
Incorporate grip-strengthening exercises into your regimen one to two days a week. Complete two sets of each exercise. Make sure you perform grip exercises at the very end of your regimen so that your forearms and hands aren't fatigued when you're performing large-muscle exercises.
Hand-Gripper Squeeze (Crushing Grip)
Most sporting good stores offer hand-gripper units, which are beneficial for building crushing grip strength. The units have two handles and a torsion spring that provides resistance. Hold the gripper in one hand and squeeze the handles together. Hold the handles together a moment before releasing them slowly. Repeat until you've finished 10 reps and then switch hands.
Bar Hanging (Supporting Grip)
Reach up and grab an overhead bar with both hands, positioned about shoulder-width apart on the bar and with palms facing forward. Hang from the bar, with your feet held up off the floor. Hang for as long as you can. To make the exercise more difficult, do the exercise on a wider bar. Complete 10 reps.
Plate Pinch (Pinch Grip)
Take two weight plates and stack them together with the smooth side of each plate facing outward. Pinch the two plates with your fingers and thumb for as long as you can. Be sure to do the exercise on both hands.
Farmers Walk (Supporting Grip)
The farmer's walk exercise can be performed with weighted plates, kettlebells, dumbbells or barbells. Grip your weighted implement of choice in each hand. Walk with short, quick steps for 50 to 75 feet.
Towel Pull-ups or Rows (Crushing Grip and Supporting Grip)
A highly challenging way to build both crushing and supportive grip strength is to perform pull-ups and bodyweight rows with towels. Wrap one or two towels around the bar and perform the exercise while gripping the towels. Bodyweight rows, with your feet on the ground, are best for those new to building grip strength. Towel pull-ups are incredibly challenging and best for advanced lifters. Complete as many reps as you can.