Grip Strength

Coach Stela | SF Gym | West Coast CrossFit | Perth, Australia | www.sfgym.com.au

Coach Stela Vega

I was taught how important Grip Strength was when I was first introduced to kettlebell training. While training for a super strong grip might not be high on your priority list, it doesn’t mean you should forget about it altogether. Let’s think about this for a moment:

What things do you do on a daily basis for which having a stronger grip is helpful?
• Opening tight jars;
• Carrying groceries (carrying more at once = fewer trips);
• Lifting/moving furniture; and
• Pull ups or hangs.
SF_Gym_Westcoast_Crossfit_Perth_Australia_grip_strengthOr maybe you’re like a lot of people and you struggle with your forearms and fingers fatiguing during certain exercises, before you get the main muscles worked (i.e. deadlifts, cleans etc.)

Without even realizing, we already work on our grip strength in classes. Essentially everything we grab a hold of, helps with increasing our grip strength. However a lot of the time, your grip strength will not progress as quickly as the rest of your body.

Grip strength is the force and the muscular power applied by the hand to pull on, hold on or suspend from objects. Grip involves everything from the musculature near the elbow down to the fingertips.

It is a strength that is critical for climbing, gymnastics, powerlifting, rugby, gridiron football, tennis, horse racing and combat sports such as BJJ, boxing and judo. Even outside the gym in our everyday lives and work places (e.g. construction workers).

Grip training can be done by gripping objects in several different positions requiring different types of strength.
The main types of grip are:

Crush Grip
The crush grip is what is most commonly thought of as “grip”. It involves a handshake-type grip, the pressure of this grip is mainly between the palm and all fingers. You can use: grippers (increasing the resistance overtime), Play Doh or stress ball to work on this grip.

Pinch Grip
In a pinch grip, the fingers are on one side of an object, and the thumb is on the other. Typically, an object lifted in a pinch grip does not touch the palm. This is generally considered a weaker grip position. Care must be taken to avoid cramping the muscles in the hand.

To help you making this grip stronger you can pinch a weight plate or make it more challenging by pinching two plates in each hand, plate flips, lifting a heavy plate by pinching and holding on to it as long as you can with a full standing body and elbows locked, holding a heavy bucket with your finger tips and thumbs, pinching a door frame and hold on to your bodyweight by sitting back, like in a squat.

SF_Gym_Westcoast_Crossfit_Perth_Australia_grip_strength_towelSupport Grip
A support grip typically involves holding something, such as the handle of a heavy bucket, for time or for distance. Muscular endurance is necessary to have a good support grip. An exercise most of us know is the farmer’s carry/walk. You can use a kettlebell, dumbbell or proper farmer’s carry equipment. You can increase the difficulty of the Support grip by adding a “Fat Grip” to the dumbbell or even using a towel to carry a kettlebell.

The axle bar is another tool you can implement in your training. It has a larger surface area, which will demand more from your hands and forearms. You can use the axle bar to do deadlifts, thrusters, bench-press etc.…just be creative.

You can also strengthen your forearms and grip by hanging on the pull up rig for a certain period of time or for as long as you can. You can even hang or do pull-ups using the “Fat Grip”, a towel or simply hanging on a rope.

You can use different grips, such as a neutral grip, alternate grip and a closed grip and a thumb less grip. Hang or do pull-ups with just one arm or simply do negative pull-ups.

Hand Extension
To assist you in strengthening your different styles of grip, be sure to include hand extension training into your routine.  This type of training strengthens the muscles on theSF_Gym_Westcoast_Crossfit_Perth_Australia_grip_strength_bandback of the hand – the extensors.

You can do this easily by using a rubber band. Wrap the rubber band around the fingers and thumb and then open them using the resistance of the band.  If you can do more than 20 repetitions, then try adding another rubber band in order to increase the resistance or hold the opened position for 2 or 3 seconds before doing the next repetition.

A strong grip isn’t a “guy” thing, it’s an “everyone” thing, and I encourage all women to embrace grip training. Developing a strong and powerful grip will help you reach new levels in your training and in your everyday life.

Remember to stretch your fingers and forearms before and after doing any or all of the above grip exercises. It doesn’t take much time out of your day and it can be added to the beginning or the end of your workouts. For best results try it one to three sessions a week in 3-5 reps of 3-5 sets of grip work or you can do each grip for time or for distance. You can also use it as part of your cool down routine after a workout.
All this extra grip work might take a bit of a toll on your hands. Calluses can be managed appropriately by keeping them filed, clean, and moisturised.

Try it and see what works best for you. If you are curious to know how strong your grip is, you can always use a Dynamometer to measure your grip strength.

Originally published in our monthly newsletter July 2015. Like what you are reading? Sign up for our newsletter at the top right of this page.