Grip strength training is essential for developing powerful hands, strong forearms and a devastatingly intense vice-like grip that can instantly transform diamonds into dust.
In this guide, I’ll discuss the benefits of grip strength training and provide several highly effective exercises for building up your pinch, crush and support grip strength.
The hands are your body’s most important tools. So why wouldn’t you train them?
Besides the many practical reasons for having a strong grip (which I’ll discuss shortly), it can literally save your life if you’re ever scaling cliffs in the Rocky Mountains in sub-zero conditions while being chased by a gang of violent mercenaries, among other dire situations…
…Don’t believe me? Just ask Mr. Stallone.
Benefits of Grip Strength Training
Consistently performing grip strength training exercises will help you to achieve the following benefits:
- Stronger lifts: A stronger grip makes it easier to lift heavier on nearly all weight lifting exercises. This helps, even on lifts like the bench press and overhead press. But it’s most noticeable on heavy pull exercises like the deadlift and pull up. The harder you squeeze, the more you can lift.
- Popeye forearms: Grip strength training builds the flexors and extensors in the forearms. Who wouldn’t want to be able to roll up their sleeves and bust out a pair of jumbo forearms with more veins than a map has roads?”
- Firmer handshakes: Improving your grip strength gives you a stronger handshake, which projects confidence when greeting someone. No more limp-wristed, weak ass, girly man handshakes!
- Nutcracker skills: I’m not talking about the toy soldier type of nutcracker, here. I’m talking about the impressive ability to open pistachios, walnuts, acorns or other shelled nutty delicacies, with nothing but your bare hands. Ignore the fact that this is a useless skill to have.
Types of Grip Strength & Grip Strength Training Exercises
The human hand is capable of three types of grip strengths: pinch grip, crush grip and supporting grip. Below is an explanation of each, plus grip strength training exercises for working them.
Pinch grip strength is the ability to hold something between the thumb and finger(s). The thumb applies an inward force which is balanced by one or more fingers applying a force back towards the thumb. Amazing feats of pinch strength include ripping a phone book or a new deck of cards in half. Below are two popular pinch grip exercises:
Get two Olympic or standard plates (start with 10 lbs plates) and put them together. Starting from the floor, grasp the plates with your thumb on the inside and your fingers on the outside. Pick them up off the ground as you stand up. Hold them with you elbow slightly bent. Hold this position as long as you can. Then put them back down, and repeat. Gradually increasing the number of plates and their weight. Always be careful not to drop the plates on your toes.
Hub Pinch Lift
Put an Olympic plate on its back with the center hub pointing up. Squeeze the hub using your thumb and fingers and lift it from the floor. Hold it for a few seconds, put it back down and repeat. Start with a 10lb or 25lb plate and lift to failure. Lifting a 45lb Olympic plate is considered a great feat. Watch this guy do it:
Crush grip strength is exerted when you press something between your palm and fingers, just like what you do in a handshake. The difference between a pinch grip and a crush grip is that the latter only has minimal use of the thumb, with the fingers applying a crushing force inwards towards the palm. The power of this type of grip strength can be seen when you crush a can of soda. Below are two popular crush grip strength training exercises:
Make your foes crumble at their knees by delivering a bone-pulverizing handshake by strengthening your hands with grippers. Although there are various types of grippers and related grip training equipment out there, most are low quality. I personally use and recommend Captains of Crush (CoC) Grippers, which come in various levels of resistance. They range from the CoC Guide (60 lbs.) up to the CoC No. 4 (365 lbs.), which has only been closed by a handful of people (pun intended).
Most trainees should start with the CoC Trainer, the CoC No. 1 (140 lbs.) and the CoC No. 2 (195 lbs.) in order to be sufficiently challenged. Start with the Trainer as your main gripper: do as many reps as you can per set. It may take a couple weeks of diligent practice to master the No. 1. Once you can do the No. 1 for a few reps, it should be your main gripper: do as many reps as you can per set with it, until you can close a No. 2 for a few reps. Repeat this process.
Find a small to medium sized towel, cloth or rag that you have permission to ruin. Get a bucket and fill it halfway with water (mark the water level). Dunk the towel in the water until it’s soaked. Holding the towel vertically with one fist stacked on the other, “wring” the towel out by flexing your wrists to twist and squeeze the towel as hard as you can. Squeeze as much water out as is humanly possible, making sure it goes into the bucket. Start at the top and work your way down. When you’re done, the water should be at the original level. Repeat as desired. Use a thicker towel, or fold the towel in half, to increase the resistance.
Variation: Hold the towel horizontally with the thumbs of each fist touching, and wring the towel by flexing one hand forward and extending the other hand back.
Support grip strength is the most common type of grip strength. It is used when holding on to something such as a hammer, a suitcase, a baseball bat, and of course, free weights. Developing this strength enables you to maintain a solid hold, which in turn supports your ability to lift heavier weights for longer periods of time. Here’s a couple support grip exercise techniques to get you going:
Flexed Arm Hang
Grasp a pull up bar with both hands using an underhand grip and bring pull your body up so that your chin is over the bar. Hold on until you can’t hold on any longer, then repeat as desired. To make it more difficult, you can add weight (by using dip belt, holding a dumbbell between your feet or wearing a weight-filled backpack) or use a thumbless grip.
This exercise was named because it mimics how farmers carry buckets (filled with water, milk, feed, cow pies, or whatever) in their hands, on farms. But there’s no need to get all agricultural and whip out your overalls and straw hat for this exercise. Just hold a pair of heavy dumbbells in your hands and pace back and forth until your grip fails. Alternatively, you can train pinch strength with the farmer’s walk if you use plates instead of dumbbells. No gym equipment on hand? No problem. Find two buckets or containers with handles and fill them with sand, rocks or the dense compound of your choice. I personally stick to using my Ironmaster dumbbells.