Grip strength is essential for lifting and could be a limiting factor in you seeing big gains.
Our grip strength and the way we hold objects is something we take for granted every day. Whether it be lifting to build overall strength, or carrying groceries into the house so we are stocked up with ample fuel, the way we hold things is obviously a part of how we as humans operate. As one of, if not the, most important tools we as humans possess, our hands take a beating every day. Our ability to create, destroy, help, and support each other or daily activities all require the use of our hands and grip strength to actually work.
We do not often think about the constant strain and pressure that our hand and finger muscles and joints endure to get us through the day. For optimal training and performance, working to strengthen our grip can go a long way in aiding in overall growth.
As a tool to increase physical performance and function, lift heavier weights for muscle growth, or support daily functions, grip strength simply matters (1). For our smaller muscles and joints to be able to withstand stress of repeated activity, exercises and stretches can really work for our overall grip benefit.
Grip strength is essentially the force applied by your hands to lift, pull, move, or suspend objects. For athletes, it refers to the muscular power used to generate big lifts, like the squat, bench, or deadlift, and also aids in training for martial arts where various movements and maneuvers require grappling and gripping in efforts to defeat your opponent (2). Thankfully, we all can work on grip strength with our daily workout routines and really work to finally make those gains a reality.
Types of Grip
The crush grip relies on your ability to squeeze something between your fingers and palm, as if you were forming a fist to crush something. This is most commonly thought of as a traditional “grip”. A handshake, although not a full fist, is an example of the crush grip because the motion made is that of bringing your fingers to your palm. Gripping a barbell or dumbbell is also an example of the crush grip. A hand clench exercise or one with a barbell can really enhance this type of grip strength.
The pinch grip is the strength allowed between your finger tips and thumb. Typically this type of grip is lifting any object without the need to include your palm. Not a very strong grip position, examples of daily use for the pinch grip are opening jars, or rock climbing. The plate pinch is a solid exercise to improve this grip strength.
The support grip is the ability to hold an object or hang from a bar for a longer period of time. Daily use examples are pushing a shopping cart or holding a bucket, but the support grip is used in the gym for pull-ups and hanging leg raises. For a good carrying grip, a lot of muscular endurance is involved since it is supporting you for a long period of time.
Why Grip Strength Matters
Depending on your sport, grip strength is crucial to benefit your respective movements and holds. But athletes of all kinds will benefit from strong grip strength in the gym. With solid grips on a host of exercises, you will lift more weight and lift that weight more efficiently to provide for bigger gains and increased athletic performance. Injury prevention is also important to consider when working on grip strength for that can really provide a sure way to keep training and performing at a high level without needing days off (3).
Working grip strength for that aesthetic physique acts like a chain reaction throughout the muscle groups of your body. Strong grip strength will enhance your forearms, allowing for greater support of your upper body muscles and the ability to simply lift more weight. In effect, those upper body muscles you desperately seek to build like your biceps, triceps, pecs, delts, and back will start to see huge growth and you will be confident in how you look. Combine that with a solid core routine to get shredded abs and your overall physique will pop as a result of you working on tackling the basics of grip strength.
Exercises To Promote Grip Strength
Working your crush grip, the hand clench is an easy exercise to perform with the only equipment needed to be a tennis ball or stress ball. Holding the ball in the middle of your palm embraced by your four fingers, clench your hand into a fist around the ball and slowly release. Repeat as often as you would like and you can do up to 100 reps a day to improve this grip strength.
A great exercise to work the pinch grip, this is a simple movement with a lot of benefit. Choose your desired weight (maybe 10-15 lbs. plate) and pinch them together between your fingers and thumb. Hold for a moment and lower to the ground to let go. Repeat the same process for your desired number of reps and really work that pinch grip strength.
Pull-Up Bar Holds
An easy way to attack the support grip, all you need is a pull-up bar. There are variations of this exercise like a mid-pull up hold and a proper pull-up and hold, but for this we will focus on the dead hang. Grab the bar with a solid grip and bend your knees to get yourself off the ground. Hang for your desired amount of time and feel the stretch in your shoulders, back, and neck while you focus on that support grip strength.
Often overlooked, our grip strength and the strain we constantly put our hands through can really hurt our overall growth. Without a good, solid grip, our lifts will suffer, and so too will our overall muscle growth and athletic performance. But knowing the types of grips and exercises and how to strengthen them is important for you to get back on track and really feel great about every workout. Don’t let a lack of grip strength hold you back and work to attack your grip deficiencies with these great exercises.
*Images courtesy of Envato
- Beyer, Sebastian E.; Sanghvi, Mihir M.; Aung, Nay; Hosking, Alice; Cooper, Jackie A.; Paiva, Jose Miguel; Lee, Aaron M.; Fung, Kenneth; Lukaschuk, Elena; Carapella, Valentina; Mittleman, Murray A.; Brage, Soren; Piechnik, Stefan K.; Neubauer, Stefan; Petersen, Steffan E. (2018). “Prospective association between handgrip strength and cardiac structure and function in UK adults”. (source)
- Bounty, Paul L.; Campbell, Bill I.; Galvan, Elfego; Cooke, Matthew; Antonio, Jose (2011). “Strength and Conditioning Considerations for Mixed Martial Arts”. (source)
- Devich, Robert; Fowler, John (2019). “Preventing Overuse Hand, Arm, and Shoulder Injuries in EMS”. (source)