Grip strength or the forearm muscles are possibly one of the most overlooked or forgotten muscle groups in your body. There are a lot of different ways that you can develop your grip strength but one of the best ways to do so is by using what’s known as a grip strengthener.
Essentially, this tool works your hand and forearm muscle by improving the strength you have behind a crushing motion, or the way your hand opens and closes. In this article, we’ll go over the best ways to use a grip strengthener as well as why grip strength is so important.
The answer to this question is really quite straightforward.
Building a strong grip is very important to creating a balanced physique that has a lot of functional strength as well as being able to make other exercises easier. Most exercises in the gym will require you to hold onto some sort of heavy weight for a little while and if you can’t effectively hold onto it, then you won’t be able to do the exercise properly.
This is especially true with exercises such as exercises like the deadlift or pull-ups. And these two exercises are definitely something that every weightlifter, beginner or pro, should have in their routine. The reason being is because how they’re effective compound exercises that work a lot of muscles and are some of the best for overall muscle building.
There are two different ways that you can experience overall grip strength weakness. You will either lack endurance in your grip, i.e. being unable to do a lot of reps with low weight, or your overall strength is lacking and you cannot hold onto a heavy weight.
So, for instance, let’s say you’re doing some assisted pull-ups and you find that your forearms and hands start to give out before your even start feeling it in your back. Or, maybe you’re going for a deadlift record and you find that you simply can’t hold onto the barbell.
There are other scenarios where a lack of stamina or strength can affect your ability to do an exercise. Whatever it is you’re doing, it’s important to train your grip. That way you won’t ever have to worry about failing a lift because your hands were too weak.
Surprisingly, there are actually types of grip strength that your hand and forearms control. They are as follows: Crushing grip, support grip, and pinch grip. Crushing grip is simply your hand’s ability to clench your hand into a fist, support strength is how long your hand can hold onto something for a period of time, and pinch strength is how well your hand can squeeze something between the tips of your fingers and thumb.
Crush grip and support grip are, as you probably guessed, the types of grip strength that we’ll be focusing on. They’re the most practical and functional types for everyday weightlifting. The pinch grip is not something we’ll go over how to improve in this article. The applications of it, especially in a setting where you’ll be lifting weights, are very narrow and there’s really not a lot you can do to train it.
Now we move onto how you can actually improve your grip strength. You’ll want to invest in what is simply known as a hand gripper, or hand exerciser. These tools are spring-loaded and come in a variety of different resistance types that can suit your needs depending on what problem area you’re looking to improve on.
Additionally, many of them even come with an adjustable setting so you only need to purchase one of them. You can usually find them easily available on Amazon. They're very convenient as they're pretty small and don't take up a lot of space. So it's not like you need a big home gym or lots of equipment for effective hand grip exercises.
Additionally, these devices are very ergonomic and aren't as expensive as other equipment such as resistance bands. That being said, there are a lot of cheap ones on the market these days that will break down very easily or do not actually have the resistance that they advertise. Therefore, it’s smart to do your research before you purchase a grip strengthener.
Generally speaking, if you find a hand grip strengthener that is used by competitive weightlifters, then it can be used for general purposes as well. If you’re going to start your grip training journey, then you’ll need to pick the appropriate size and resistance for your strengthener.
There is a pretty large range of choices for you when it comes to the resistance of a grip strengthener. They can start around 60 pounds of resistance, which is perfect for people in physical therapy, and can end around somewhere close to 400 pounds of resistance!
That level of resistance should only be attempted by the best strongmen in the world though and even then only a few have ever been able to close them completely. So, where should you start then? Well, it first depends on how strong you would consider yourself.
If you’ve been going to the gym for a while, say a year or two, and you’ve noticed that your grip strength is lacking then you should aim for resistance of about 80 to 100 pounds. If you’re buying a set of grip strengtheners, make sure not to get rid of those with low resistance.
The reason you should keep the low resistance ones is that you can use them for a few things. Remember how we talked about building grip endurance?
Well, this is the big reason you should keep them around. Additionally, they work great for warming up before moving onto the higher resistance levels.
As with all exercises, form is the most important part. Without proper form, you won’t work the muscles effectively and won’t get a good workout. So, here is how you can make sure that you’re using your grip strengthener effectively. Firstly, you’ll need to make sure that you put the handle at a 45-degree angle in your palm.
If you’re unsure what this looks like, think of it like this: you want to avoid placing the handle completely sideways in your palm. Doing this will make it a lot more difficult to have your pinky finger on the end of the handle. Plus, the pinky finger plays a very important role when reaching the final stretch of closing your grip strengthener.
To add to this, you should make sure that you’re squeezing your pinky finger during your reps. The squeezing of your pinky finger ensures that you’re utilizing your entire hand and engaging all of the muscles associated with grip strength. Near the end of the rep, you’ll find that squeezing your pinky finger will make all of the difference.
Next, you’ll want to make sure that you place the strengthener right above your thumb knuckle or the base of your thumb.
If you place it directly on your thumb you will actually take away all of the strength that your thumb will give you when using the grip strengthener. This is something you’ll really want to avoid when you first start using this tool as it can stunt the growth of your strength.
Now, you’ll position your fingers as low on the grip strengthener as you can. When you do this, you can let a little bit of your pinky finger hang off of the grip strengthener. As long as you have most of your pinky on the tool itself, you’ll still employ proper form. Doing this ensures that you’re getting the most out of the exercise.
It’s also important to keep your fingers as close together as possible when doing this exercise. If you can avoid any separation between your fingers at all. This is because when you have all of your fingers together, you’re able to create more tension.
The added tension essentially allows you to activate all of the extensors and flexors in your hand and around your knuckles, unlike keeping your fingers spread apart. Finally, you’ll need to make sure that you completely close the grip strengthener in order for it to count as a complete rep.
As with an exercise, getting the full range of motion and doing a complete repetition is paramount for proper muscle development. You’ll only end up delaying your growth if you do half-reps!
Now, we’ll give some of the different exercises and techniques that you can employ with your grip strengthener to give yourself an excellent forearm or grip workout. In total, we have put together five different techniques that you can use, depending on your grip strength goals.
If you’re someone who is more worried about the endurance of their grip, as opposed to strength, then this is the way to go. Like we said earlier in this article, this is ideal for people who find that their hands and forearms give out way before other muscles during certain compound movements.
You’ll need to make sure you use a grip strengthener that has a low enough resistance that you can do about 15 to 20 reps. You can even go higher than that if you want, but anything above 30 is excessive.
On top of being excellent for endurance, this is an excellent way to warm up for doing heavy resistance sets. With that, we’ll transition into the next way to use your grip strengtheners, low reps with heavy resistance.
As many of you may know, the best way to build your overall forearm strength is to employ a workout routine with low reps and heavy weight, or resistance in this case. Training your grip is no different and this is the perfect way to ensure that your grip will be strong enough when you’re doing heavy lifts, like a deadlift.
That being said, there is an optimal way to make sure you’re getting the most out of this hand grip strength technique. When using the tool, don’t just let go of the grip strengthener to reset it back to its original position. Instead, control it and slowly open your hand back up to return the tool back to the start.
By doing this, your hand and forearm will get used to being under tension for longer. With this strategy, you should be doing about 5 to 6 reps per set.
Another classic strengthening exercise that can be applied to grip strength training program is the drop set. For those of you that don’t know, a drop set is when you start with a heavy set and then immediately go to a lighter set.
It’s no different when using a grip strengthener start by using a heavy resistance one for about 5 to 6 reps and then immediately pick up a lighter resistance one and do 8 to 10 reps. You can keep doing this for a few more sets until you’re really feeling the burn!
This is a great in-between for training both endurance and overall strength as you’re employing both heavy resistance with low reps and low resistance with high reps. We highly recommend this as it’s very effective.
This type of technique is also excellent for training for endurance. Essentially, you’ll squeeze the handles together and hold them together for a certain amount of time. The best amount of time that you can use when it comes to these types of reps is 30 seconds. By the time those 30 seconds are over, you should be really feeling it.
Something that’s awesome about this type of repetition is that you can even incorporate strength training with it. What you’ll need to do for that is use a grip strengthener that you normally wouldn’t be able to close with one hand.
Then, close it using two hands. You’ll then remove one hand and leave one on, holding the handles together as best as you can for a few seconds. If you can, see if you can hold the handles together for 10 to 15 seconds.
As we said before, grip strength is an integral part to any weightlifting program as it is a part of important compound exercises. In particular exercises like the deadlift and pull-ups will benefit the most from a strong, enduring grip. However, a strong grip will ultimately assist you with every type of exercise.
Grip strengtheners are an excellent way to work on endurance and the overall strength of your grip. There’s plenty of different ways that you can use them effectively to maximize gains. These aren’t the only way to improve your grip strength and grow massive forearms.
We’ve actually gone over how you can make your forearms really pop and other exercises for grip strength in a separate article that involve things like stress balls, kettlebells, and dumbbells.