by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN
Grip strength is a key component of fitness and overall health. It has even been linked to bone health. By being able to build grip strength, it can help prevent injuries, improve balance, and reduce falls.
No matter how ready and willing you are to attain a beach bod, your grip strength is often the critical factor in what you can actually lift with your muscles, as it plays a key role in many exercises.
It’s a very simple concept — if you can’t hold it, you can’t move it. Grip strength is important for daily tasks like carrying your suitcase, groceries, opening lids off containers, etc. If such tasks are difficult for you, then it’s time for you to build grip strength.
In other words, grip strength is the fundamental building block of fitness. A good grasp will level up your performance, but it is also essential for injury prevention and overall health.
Some research shows a link between a strong grip and increased heart health and improved cognitive function, whereas a weaker one can put you at risk of having upper-extremity injuries.
The good news is that there are some ways you can improve your grip strength — here are a handful of them.
5 Ways to Improve Your Grip Strength
Grip strength is one of the most important physical attributes that you can have.
A firm grip will help you with everything from improving your pull-ups to getting better at rock climbing.
Here are five ways to help build grip strength:
1. Stop using straps
If you use straps while lifting weights, your fingers will not be able to develop the necessary strength to lift the weight without them. Using tools like wrist straps and other grip-enhancers encourage your body to rely on help rather than forcing you to build grip strength. This will also only make your forearms weaker. So, put aside your pride for a few weeks and start lifting lighter weights and practicing the motion without straps until it becomes second nature. Once you feel comfortable doing this, try adding more weight or working out for longer periods of time with no straps.
Straps do have some importance, but like any other tool, they should not be used whenever and wherever. Save them for heavy deadlifts or rowing sets.
2. Train your grip as much as possible
If you’re training for strength or size, then you need to train your forearms to support the weight you’re lifting. This doesn’t mean taking every set to failure, but it does mean making sure you squeeze the bar hard throughout each repetition. If you find yourself losing control of the bar, then stop the set so as not to injure yourself before continuing with another exercise that doesn’t require as much grip strength.
Try to include some type of grip strength training in every workout routine that you do. This could include pull-ups, chin-ups, and any other exercises where your hands are placed under load in some fashion (kettlebells, farmer’s walks, etc.).
3. Choose the right curling exercises
A simple yet effective trick to work on and build grip strength is ensuring your arm workouts include a variant of a hammer or reverse curls. You can also use a thick grip to make it more effective. Reverse curls work the best for wrist extensors, and as you fatigue, your grasp will lead to a great workout. The best way to do your reverse curls properly is to keep your wrists straight throughout the range of motion.
4. Barbell holds
Barbell holds are great if you’re looking to build grip strength. They’re also a really easy way to warm up your body for a workout.
You can use a barbell during almost any weight training exercise, but one of the best uses is during barbell holds. To perform this exercise, hold an unloaded barbell in your hands with your palms facing down and arms extended straight out in front of you. Then flex your forearms by pulling the barbell toward your body until it touches your upper chest or chin. Hold that position for as long as possible before lowering the barbell back down to starting position again. You can perform this exercise with either one or two hands at a time if needed.
5. Squeeze the bar
No matter which exercises you do or whatever your goal is, it is crucial that you actively squeeze the bar as hard as possible. It may sound simple, but not everyone can master it.
When you squeeze the bar, you will be more stable in your lifts, lower your injury potential, and exert more power. By squeezing your grip, you can develop an “irradiation” effect where your inter-muscular coordination improves, and your body can function better as a single unit.
Remember, each time you squeeze the bar during your workout, you are helping build grip strength.