How to improve your grip strength with minimal equipment
updated January 1, 2019
Your ability to hold on to the bar is the key factor that will determine the effectiveness of your workout. Too often, a set finishes early because the forearms give out well before the working muscle does. Developing the grip strength will enable you to work every other muscle in your upper body more effectively. It will also develop a phenomenal pair of lower arms that will simply radiate power.
Grip strength is also extremely valuable for sports. Sports like football, basketball, and tennis or align on the grip strength. Let’s find out how to work on grip strength.
Developing Grip Through Normal Workout
Contrary to what many people think, your general workout will not do a lot to develop the strength of your grip, wrists, and forearms. The forearms are a part of the body that need to be trained separately. Just as doing leg training for the thighs and hamstrings will not develop your calves, hitting the biceps and triceps will do little for the strength of your grip and the development of your forearms.
Don’t get into the habit of relying too heavily on artificial lifting aids. Things like lifting straps are useful but will develop a weak link if you don’t also build up your grip strength. Use them when you are attempting to break a personal record on an exercise like the deadlift. Other than that, rely on your own natural grip strength.
You don’t want to be limp-wristed when working out. You should squeeze the bar forcefully on every single repetition. For example, when performing a deadlift grab the bag with the palm of your hand and squeeze tightly to activate the forearms.
You should also squeeze the bar tightly on pushing exercises such as the bench press. Squeezing the bar activates the forearms which will help with wrist stability. This will actually help you to avoid injury.
Be In It For the Long Term
Your wrists and forearms are very resilient. You are using them all the time throughout the normal course of your day. Developing them requires much time and effort. That means that you need to develop a long-term view about building grip strength. Be patient and be consistent.
WEIGHT-BASED GRIP STRENGTHENERS
Grab a plate of the weight stack, pinching it between your fingers. Tuck your elbow in at your side and hold the plate out in front of you. You will immediately feel the grip strength in your wrists and forearms. Specifically, it will work with the flexors and the extensors. Hold the weight as long as you can on one side, then repeat on the other side.
Grab two dumbbells, holding them at your sides with feet shoulder-width apart. Make sure that you are holding the heaviest weights that you possibly can. Walk up and down the length of your training area, squeezing the weight as tightly as possible. Keep going until your grip strength fails.
A wrist roller is a fantastic piece of equipment to help you build your forearms and grip strength. You can make one simply by grabbing a wooden dowel with a three-quarter inch diameter and cutting it to shoulder width length. Drill a hole in the center just wide enough to thread a piece of rope through. Burn the end of any frayed rope to stop it from cutting. Thread the rope through the hole in the dowel and tie a knot at the top of the rope. Tie the other end of the rope to weight plates or any other weighted resistance.
You now have a very effective tool for working your grip, wrists, and forearms. Simply roll the rope up and down until your grip strength can no longer handle it.
Grab a hexagonal dumbbell with one hand from the top so that your fingers are gripping the hexagonal angles. Lift it up to shoulder height and hold for as long as possible. Repeat with the other hand. Keep your elbows tucked in at your side to keep the focus on the forearms and away from the shoulders.
Extend yourself from a pull-up bar with your hands at shoulder width. Hang at full extension for as long as you possibly can. This move will develop grip strength and endurance at the same time.
USING COMMERCIAL HAND GRIPPERS
Commercial hand grippers have been around for a long time. Over recent years they have been developed and improved to the extent that now they provide an awesome option for anyone looking for a stronger grip. Hand grippers traditionally use a spring resistance which requires you simply to close your hand over the spring. They range in resistance levels from very light at 30 pounds resistance to super heavy at 360 pounds resistance.
In the early days, when most grippers were plastic and the springs didn’t provide much resistance, gripper workouts consisted of very high repetitions. This has since been found to be an inefficient way to train the forearms and wrists. It is far better to work with a gripper that provides a decent resistance that will only allow you to perform 5 to 10 reps at a time. Holding each rep squeeze for as long as you can and repeating the workout a couple of times per day is the best way to get the most out of your device.
Here are some tips on getting the best use of your commercial gripper:
- Gripper Position – where you hold the gripper is really important. In order to close it properly, you need to have the correct leverage. Start with the gripper held relatively high in your palm. You don’t want it to be too low on your hands. Your pinky should be close to the bottom of the gripper.
- Grip Frequency – the key to success with any gripping exercise is consistency. As a minimum, you should do 5 total closes with each hand twice per day. Hold each close for 15-30 seconds.
- Forced closes – get hold of a gripper that you cannot close by yourself with one hand. Use your other hand to help you close it. Now take the assisting hand away and hold for as long as possible.
- Used the strict form – this is a grip isolation exercise. Do not twist your arm or otherwise move your body to get extra strength. Because the benefits of the exercise come from the last quarter of the closing movement, be sure to fully close the gripper with every single repetition.
- Make use of downtime – use your hand gripper while you are watching TV reading a book or doing other types of recreational activity.
- Train with negatives – grab hold of a gripper that you cannot close with one hand, and use both hands to close it. Then remove one hand. Take as long as you can to resist the opening of the gripper.
GETTING TO GRIPS WITH GRIPPER RATINGS
Knowing the intensity of the gripper that you are considering purchasing is very important. You need a gripper that will provide a real test to your strength. In fact, you should really have two grippers. The first you should be able to close with effort. This will be the gripper that you train with.
The second gripper will be your goal gripper. You will not be able to close it as of yet but will be working up to doing so. Eventually, your goal gripper will become your practice gripper and you will purchase a new, stronger gripper as your goal gripper.
Grippers are rated in pounds per square inch. However, these ratings are not overly reliable. As a general guide, an untrained man should be using a gripper of about 150 pounds per square inch for training and 200 pounds per square inch for a goal gripper.
5 BEST GRIPPERS
There are a lot of grippers on the market. They range from cheap plastic options to top-quality offerings. We have spent a lot of time and effort to find the best commercial grip strength tools on the market.
The 5 best hand grippers that we came across are the following:
- Project Crush Gripper from Caliber Fitness
- ACF Grip Strengthener
- NSD Power Autostart Spinner
- HomeGym 4U Rubber Ring Strengthener
- Marci Wrist and Forearm Developer
Head on over to our Hand Grip review round-up for in-depth reviews on these products.
Remember, grip strength is not only important for the size and the look of the forearms, but it will also help you with performance. You will perform better on deadlifts, bench press, pull-ups, and a lot of other exercises. You will also be a better performer at sports that require strength and dexterity to be successful. Consistently working your grip will put you at a major advantage, which is easy now when you know how to improve your grip strength.