April 27, 2020 10 min read

Grip strength is often not at the forefront of a workout routine, but it should definitely be prioritized. Grip strength is important for so many reasons, from having a firm handshake to being able to lift more weights since, in the long run, a stronger grip will allow you to hold onto more weight and increase the success of many of your workout routines such as deadlifting and bench pressing. 

Why Grip Strength Matters

It helps you do other exercises much better. As you lift more and more, you’ve probably realized by now that muscles are not isolated. When you work out your shoulders you usually work out your chest, back, even your core and legs at the same time. When you have powerful grip strength, you have strong hands and forearm muscles too. That helps you with exercises like the hanging deadlift, where the grip is one of the most essential parts of building up your core muscles. 

Changing it up is key to optimal strength building and weight loss because your body needs something new and exciting all the time. If it gets used to doing the same exercises, it will plateau, causing your progress to slow down significantly. Plus, changing it up keeps you interested and entertained, making you more likely to stick with your regimen and ultimately reach your goals. 

Grip strength is required for rock climbing: Rock climbing is not only a fantastic exercise indoor at the climbing wall but also a way to take your exercise outdoors. Climbing with company is one of the best ways to bond with friends who are also passionate about fitness and turning it into a lifestyle. 

When you find exercises you truly enjoy doing, you’re going to keep doing them for the rest of your life. There will be no more gym for a week, off for a week. So if you’re looking for a great full-body workout (with an emphasis on grip strength) that will make you feel engaged and passionate, don’t miss out on rock climbing. Once you get really good, you can even start bringing your tent along and camping on top of the mountain! 

Grip strength is great for boosting your confidence: No really, it’s true. In any situation in life, you need a firm handshake. When it comes to building relationships, networking, doing business, you need to have a firm handshake. You’ve probably heard that before, but have you considered why? 

When your first impression of someone comes with a handshake, you detect their level of self-confidence. When someone is self-assured and ready to interact or do business in a sure way, they’re going to offer a strong grip. That leaves the feeling that you are ready to take on anything and you’ll get the job done. That power alone makes a strong grip worth the effort. 

Lastly, grip strength is important for preventing injuries: You should always have injury prevention at the forefront of your workouts. If you get an injury, you could not only set yourself back several weeks or even months, you can also end up suffering the consequences for the rest of your life.

Even though you may think the main reason for working out is a ripped, attractive body, you’re also working out to keep yourself fit through old age in your future. Those who exercise faithfully when they’re young end up living longer and enjoying the quality of life much farther into their old age than those who are sedentary. 

What does a strong grip strength prevent? It mainly keeps you away from getting tennis elbow or carpal tunnel. Believe it or not, you have a lot of connective tissues and muscles in your hands, fingers, and wrists. These connective tissues are crucial to keeping everything operating normally in the face of intense lifting. 

Another thing to consider when you’re lifting is the constant repetitive movements. When you repeat the same motions many times, you’re putting your joints and connective tissues in a vulnerable position. They need to be strong and prepared to handle the pressure. Your bone density needs to be thick and able to handle the exercises too. 

 

Different Types of Grip Strength

For different uses and positions, you actually use different types of grip strength. Here are the three main types you’ll want to work on: 

  • Crush Grip: This is focused between your fingers and palm. A basic exercise you can do is to hang two towels above you on any pullup bar or bar that hangs well above your head. Just grab onto the towels and hang from the towels. 
  • Pinch Grip: This happens between your fingers and thumb. Or, more specifically, it’s when you grab something and hold it between your fingers and thumb. 
  • Support Grip: This is supportive because it’s a static grip that happens when you’re holding onto a bar for pullups or a deadlift or any other pulling type of exercise. 

 

The Top 5 Best Ways to Improve Grip Strength

1. Pinch Block Exercises

If your gym has pinch blocks, that’s great. If not, you may want to consider investing in some. They’re not too expensive and are a valuable purchase if you’re serious about strengthening your grip. Many basic exercises you can do at the gym don’t improve your pinch grip the way you really want to be building it up. So if you can get a hold of pinch blocks, either through the gym or buying them, you’re not going to regret it. 

How to Set Up and Use Pinch Blocks

Setting them is pretty easy. You can actually attach them to any of your regular workout equipment. The two most common ways to use them are with deadlifts and pullups. The goal is to be able to keep adding more and more weight to the blocks every time, thus increasing your grip slowly and steadily. 

Use a simple twisting method to attach them to the outsides of your barbell and carry on in that way. If you want some variety, or if you’re working out at home and don’t have a barbell, you can attach the pinch grips to any other type of weight and drag it along. You can use dumbbells or even kettlebells for that. 

You can also just hold onto the weight without doing anything. That may come as a surprise to you since most people generally associate going to the gym with constant movement. But even when you’re standing still, you’re still going to be working those pinching muscles. So standing still and holding weight attached to your pinch grips will be just as rewarding as the other exercises. 

For a real challenge, you can also pull or push the weight. This may come after you’ve strengthened your grip and want to keep taking it to the next level. Pulling is difficult, but once you’re strong enough to do it, you’ll feel like you can do anything. 

2. Weight Plat and Loading Pin

This is one of the most classic grip strengthening exercises around. And there’s a reason for that: it works. In fact, it’s even used in Olympic weightlifting competitions. 

How to Do the Most Classic Pinch Grip Exercise

You’ll need to start out with a loading pin. You probably already have one of these, or if you go to the gym, your gym is going to have one. They’re used for lots of other strength training exercises that involve weighted plates. 

Each plate needs to be sandwiched between the two anchors. The anchors look like big screws. If you’re new to loading plates, you can ask someone who works at the gym to show you, but it’s pretty simple either way. Start by screwing on the first anchor. 

Then add the plates. You can start with a ten or twenty-pound plate to begin with, and then work your way up from there. Secure the plates in place by screwing in the second anchor. When you’re finished, the plate should be in the center of the loading pin. Then, all that’s left to do is to hold the tops of the plates so that your hands are close together, with your palms facing forward, not up or down. 

Pinch them with your thumbs behind and all four of your other fingers in front. The standard move it to hold the plates still for as long you can, but you can always change it up by lifting the weight plates to include a bodyweight aspect of the strength training. 

A person working out with a barbell.

3. Barbell Holds

These are a great exercise in grip training to build up your crush grip. Since the crush grip works to support you during deadlifts and other barbell exercises, it’s best to strengthen your grip in the environment where it will be doing its best work. 

To do the barbell hold, take a barbell (it doesn’t have to have any weight attached at first) and grab it with a double overhand grip. That means to hold your arms shoulder-width apart and grab the barbell with both palms facing downward, with your hands above the bar. You’ll be holding the bar without lifting it, but with your arms completely straight, so it will be located near your waist.  

Hold this move for as long as you can. Most people start out their grip strength exercises with 5-10 seconds, but it will totally be up to you, whatever you can handle. It’s best to do 3-5 reps. Keep in mind that you'll end up doing more if you warm up properly before you start. 

For a variation: You can also do this exercise with dumbbells. When it comes to building up the crushing grip, the dumbbells or barbell should be as fat as possible. With dumbbells, you’ll just hold them at shoulder-width apart in the same position you would hold the barbell. Keep your grip double and overhand (pronated). 

To add some resistance to the move, perform a deadlift, in the same position, with as much weight as you can handle. When you reach the climax of the move, squeeze your hands to get the most out of your crush grip strengthening. 

A man working out in a gym with dumbbells.

4. Farmer's Carry

The farmer’s carry can strengthen your crush grip or your pinch group, depending on how you hold the weights or how you adjust the move. 

First, we’ll explain how it’s done. Grab the dumbbells with an overhead grip and hold them at your sides, without bending your arms. You won’t be lifting them, but just holding them. Holding the dumbbells with your thumbs forward, make sure the dumbbells are positioned horizontally against the floor. The move is very simple. Just walk normally, carrying the dumbbells as you go. You’ll be surprised how challenging it gets after a twenty-foot distance or more! 

To work on your pinch grip, use weighted plates instead of dumbbells. Pinch them in the same way as exercise #3, Weighted Plates Pinch. 

For a variation: If you want to get more of a workout in at the same time as strengthening your grip, you can add as much as possible, and perform lunges and squats at the same time as your farmer's walks. This will work your legs, glutes, and core at the same time you’re building up your grip strength. Your time at the gym is valuable. It’s a great idea to make the most of every move

For another variation, try the Kettlebell Carry. With this rendition, you can work on your arm strength and your upper arm stability. To do it, Hold the kettlebell by its handle at your side. But you won’t be holding it with your arm down. Instead, hold it up so your arm is at a 90-degree angle and the bell part of the kettle is up in the air. 

You’ll be balancing the majority of the weight while holding the kettlebell upside down. You’re going to need colossal upper body strength and balance for this. You’ll be challenging your grip and your forearm strength, as well as some shoulder stability too. For the most precise technique, squeeze the handle of the kettlebell like you expect it to crumble beneath your grip. This will add extra oomph to the exercise. It will be exhausting, and you’ll get the most muscle growth possible in the smallest amount of time. 

5. Sandbag Pinch Lift

If you prefer at-home workouts and are looking for a simple tool that can give you all the gains you need in one place, consider purchasing (or even making) a sandbag. For a long time, the kettlebell workouts have been known as the ultimate tool for a full-body workout with minimum equipment. 

While kettlebells do give your body a fantastic workout, the sandbag is actually the most efficient of all. Here’s why: When it comes to kettlebells, you still need different sized weights for different exercises. You can get by with using the same weight for a whole-body workout, but there are certain muscle groups in your body that are going to be weaker than some of the others. 

For example, you’ll probably need lighter weights to work on your grip strength, because it’s not something you use on an intense level every day. When you’re working your shoulders and triceps, you’ll be able to lift much heavier weights because you use those muscles every day for lifting, carrying, and even basic arm extension activities like hugging or getting something from the top shelf. 

With a sandbag workout, you can get a one-sandbag-fits-all situation. When you buy a sandbag, it usually comes with different sections that can be added and attached to the main section. Basically, that means you start with a base weight, and you add on more bags of weight to the original as you are stronger. If you’re doing deadlifts with your sandbag, you’ll be adding lots of weight at a fast pace. If you decide to pinch a deadlift, you’ll be taking several sections off to lighten your load. 

If you’ve bought a bag, you’ll be simply taking off one of the add-on bags. If you made your own DIY bag, you might just be opening up the bag, dumping out some of the sand, and sealing it back up again. 

How to Do the Sandbag Pinch Lift

It’s very much like a regular deadlift. The difference is the way you grip the bag. You’ll want to grip the bag in one of the grip positions. You can always switch later on and grip it another way later on. Pinch as much of the fabric as you need to be able to move the bag; no more, no less. Then perform the deadlift the way you normally would. When you reach the highest position of the lift, give the sandbag a squeeze and lower the bag. 3-5 reps should be plenty. 

This move is especially challenging because of the shifting weight of the sand. It stretches your abilities and challenges your grip strength in new and exciting ways that aren’t possible with many of these other methods, even the plate pinches. While each of these moves will give the grip strength your body needs for a long and prosperous life (after hard work and repetition), you’ll have to decide which one fits your schedule, location, and preference the best.