How to Increase your Grip Strength
If you’re like most lifters, you probably haven’t given your grip much thought. After all, if you don’t have to pull a deadlift in competition, it doesn’t matter how much you can hold – right? Wrong!
While bodybuilders may not need superhuman grip strength, a downright WEAK grip will absolutely hold you back. Piss-poor grip strength also goes hand-in-hand with scrawny forearms, and those won’t do your physique any favors. If you want to learn how (and why) you should beef up your grip, read on…
Grip Strength for Bodybuilders
Rows and deadlifts are just as effective for back-building when you’re wearing straps, so why should you care about grip strength? First of all, an iron grip is useful any time you’re holding a weight in your hands. Curls, extensions, and even pressing movements are all more effective when you squeeze the bar as tightly as possible. Remember, the force you produce with your pecs, biceps, triceps, and shoulders has to go through your hands!
If you’re still skeptical, try deadlifting with straps and a “weaker” grip. Leave some slack in the straps, and don’t wrap your thumbs all the way around the bar. You’ll still be locked in, but the movement will be way harder! You just can’t put as much force as possible into the bar without a tight grip.
Forearm development is another great reason to work on your grip. You might have noticed that most guys who obsess over wrist curls still have tiny forearms, so forget all that piddly nonsense for now. Just like every other body part, your forearms will get the most development from heavy weights. If you can’t hold on to 225 for more than a few seconds, it’s no wonder they’re small!
Finally, you just don’t want to be that guy who’s all show and no go. Even if you’re training mainly for aesthetics, it’s still important to have the strength to back up your physique. You can’t use straps to pick up furniture, open bottles, or carry your massive grocery hauls, and you’d certainly look pathetic if you tried.
Ditch the Straps?
The go-to recommendation from most “experts” is to just avoid straps altogether. While that’ll certainly help you get a stronger grip, it won’t do your lats or traps any favors. After all, you’re probably reading this article because your grip isn’t up to snuff with the rest of your pulling muscles. What would happen if you suddenly reduced your working weights on rows, deadlifts, and stiff-leg deadlifts by half or more? You’d lose muscle, that’s what!
A much better approach is to avoid straps for your lighter sets, and to start setting and breaking some “strapless” PRs. You normally row 275 for 10 with straps? Keep it up, but hit a hard set at 185 or 225 without straps first. Do you usually work with 405 or 455 on deads? Great, but start doing a lot more reps at around 315 to work your grip.
As with any other exercise, make sure you track your progress on these strapless sets, and always strive for more weight or reps. Higher reps actually work pretty well for improving grip strength, so don’t feel like you need to slap more plates on every single time.
Deadlifts, Shrugs, and Back Work
Before you ever worry about grippers, crushers, and all of those other silly tools, focus on going strapless on the basics. You should already be doing plenty of deads, shrugs, and rows, so keep it up. Just start to add in those strapless sets, and get religious about beating your previous bests.
Also, if you normally use an alternate or hook grip on the deadlift, try doing some sets with a normal, double-overhand grip. It’ll be hard as hell at first, but you’ll rapidly improve. You may never be able to hold 500 or more with that grip, but most guys can get to the point where 315 is manageable.
Of course, just getting stronger on these exercises will also improve your grip. If you increase your deadlift by 100 pounds or more, your old working weights are going to feel lighter and more manageable, straps or no straps. Moral of the story – get stronger on everything!
Specialized Grip Training
I’m against it. It’s boring as hell, it’s not that useful, and it can actually be kind of difficult to recover from. Unless you’re training for arm wrestling or some kind of wacky grip competition, it’s just not worth it to spend the extra money on the necessary gadgets. If you already have access to grippers, forearm rollers, or other tools at your current gym, have at them – just don’t expect magical results.
All that being said, there CAN be a place for “regular” forearm work, assuming you’re already doing your strapless sets on the big movements. Make no mistake, wrist-curling forty or fifty pounds won’t give you a stronger grip, but it might nudge your forearms into a little extra growth. Hammer curls and reverse curls can also be useful, as long as your keep your form tight. I think they’re pretty boring, too, but who doesn’t want to look strong in a casual Friday polo?