Exercises That Improve Hand Grip Strength
Improving grip strength can positively impact many athletes, in not only the quality of their workouts but also the results they achieve. A certain degree of grip strength is paramount for athletes competing in sports like rugby, tennis and rock climbing. It is equally as important in weight training, especially in power lifting and strongman programs. Health and fitness expert Charles Poliquin has been advocating the importance of grip strength since 1982.
Before the 1980s, when bodybuilding started to be taken seriously as a science, athletes used "grippers" to improve grip strength. Iron Man magazine introduced the "iron man super grip developer" in 1964 due to the increasing popularity of grippers. Advertisements suggested that squeezing what resembled a large can opener, for several hours daily, would result in bulging forearms.
But this approach ignored the basic principles of muscle development that were to emerge later in the century. Your forearms, like any muscle group, need to be developed through structured and engaging training practices, such as gradually increasing weight loads.
Reasons for Improving Grip Strength
Developing grip strength can give athletes competing in martial arts a significant advantage during a contest, as it enables them to apply and maintain a strong grip on their opponent. Increasing grip strength can also add bite and power to a punch, giving boxers who practice gripping exercises the upper hand in a fight.
Greater grip strength enables bodybuilders to lift heavier loads, and is essential to significant training progress because the majority of exercises depend on correct gripping technique.
Exercises that require you to hold excessive weight loads for an extended period of time, such as deadlifts, will significantly improve grip strength. The static barbell hold, in which you take a barbell with an underhand grip and hold it parallel to the floor for up to 90 seconds, is another good exercise for achieving grip strength gains.
Many grip strength exercises are simple and can be performed with little equipment. "Plate pinches" require you to grip two weight plates from the top, with your thumb on one side and your fingers on the other, then pick up the plates and hold for as long as possible. For "grip hangs," simply wrap a towel around a bar overhead and hang from it for as long as you can. This can be further developed into "towel pull-ups," in which you pull yourself up to meet the bar, and then return to your starting position.
The fingertip pushup is another effective exercise for improving grip strength. All the same principles of a standard pushup apply -- keep your arms shoulder-width apart, assume prone position and fully extend your legs. You must then elevate your hands, keeping your fingertips touching the floor, before performing the press.
You should train large muscle groups, such as your chest and back, only once per week for growth, and smaller muscle groups like your forearms twice per week. This may vary, according to your training schedule, as forearms are engaged in many arm and leg exercises, meaning it may only be necessary to isolate them once per week.
- Iron Game History: The Iron Man Hand Grippers
- Sallinen J, Stenholm S, Rantanen T, Heliövaara M, Sainio P, Koskinen S. Hand-grip strength cut points to screen older persons at risk for mobility limitation. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2010;58(9):1721-6. doi:10.1111/j.1532-5415.2010.03035.x
- Celis-morales CA, Welsh P, Lyall DM, et al. Associations of grip strength with cardiovascular, respiratory, and cancer outcomes and all cause mortality: prospective cohort study of half a million UK Biobank participants. BMJ. 2018;361:k1651. doi:10.1136/bmj.k1651
- Gale CR, Martyn CN, Cooper C, Sayer AA. Grip strength, body composition, and mortality. Int J Epidemiol. 2007;36(1):228-35. doi:10.1093/ije/dyl224
James Doyle began writing professionally in 2005 with work published in "The Glasgow Guardian," "Football Italia" magazine and "EMMA." Doyle is a REPs certified personal trainer and has studied English language at Glasgow University. He graduated with a Master of Arts in 2007.