February 15, 2022 9 min read
You're strong-af and your muscles have enough lifting power, but that doesn’t matter if you can’t hold onto the weight. This is why grip strength is one of the biggest reasons lifters back out of sets early.
Read this guide to learn the 10 best grip strength training exercises to help you grab bars and handles more forcefully and hang onto them for longer.
Intrinsic hand muscles produce grip force along with a few extrinsic forearm muscles. The intrinsic muscles are located on the hand while the extrinsic muscles begin on the forearm and connect at various places on the fingers.
The primary grip strength muscles include:
Thankfully, you don’t need to memorize the names of these muscles. All you have to know for lifting purposes is that grip strength exercises focus on the forearm and hand muscles with some motion at the wrist. While you are going to see some forearm exercises in this guide, we’ll also include some that target those intrinsic hand muscles to give you extra gripping power.
Are we doing all this just to get more lifting power and increase our one rep max on the deadlift? Alright, maybe we are. But increased grip strength has some other benefits, too. Beyond making it easier to do daily tasks like opening jars or carrying groceries, grip strength is also a fairly accurate predictor of health-related quality of life.
So not only will the exercises in this guide help build huge forearms, but they could also be a boon for your health overall.
Building grip strength by targeting the muscles that cross the wrist can help avoid the risk of repetitive strain injuries like tendonitis or carpal tunnel syndrome. It might even be related to some cardio benefits, although far be it from us to recommend the grip strength exercises in this guide for a cardio boost rather than plyometrics.
If you pay attention to it throughout the day, you’ll quickly notice that you’re using different grip types for different purposes. The mind may go straight to a full-finger and palm grip, but sometimes we pinch with the thumb and fingers or use only the fingers and palms.
Certain exercises also use different grips.
We’re not talking about grip styles like overhand grip, underhand grip, or neutral grips, either.Grip types have to do with what parts of your hand are touching the object you’re trying to hold rather than the direction your hands are facing. The 3 types of grip are the crush grip, pinch grip, and support grip.
Here’s how they’re different:
If you’ve been lifting weights for a while, you’ve probably also heard about the hook grip. This is kind of a variation on the crush grip and it’s used specifically when you’re lifting a bar. Rather than grabbing onto the bar with your fingers and palm, you wrap your thumb and then cover it with your index and middle finger. Many lifters use the hook grip to get a firmer grasp on the bar during deadlifts.
It won’t make up for low hand grip strength by itself, but it can help you pull bigger lifts when used correctly. Before you get to that point, though, make sure to spend some time with the following grip strength exercises. Run through them regularly - a few times a week in a dedicated session - and you’ll likely see improvement faster than you do with programs for larger muscles.
You don’t have to do all ten of these exercises during the same session. 3 or 4 of them are enough to build a quick grip strength workout routine.
We’re starting off with wrist curls because they’re one of the most dependable grip strength exercises and by far one of the most convenient. All you need is a flat bench or chair and some weight. You can use a small barbell and curl both hands at once or use dumbbells one side at a time to address strength imbalances.
Follow these steps to execute a perfect wrist curl:
Hanging from a horizontal bar is a great exercise for improving both support grip strength and pull-up strength. As an added bonus, you can also use it to decompress your lumbar and thoracic spine. You’re going to need a pull-up bar or enough grip strength to hang from a door frame for 30 seconds minimum.
Be forewarned: the dead hang takes mental concentration.
Follow these steps to execute a dead hang properly:
There’s no better conditioning for the pinch grip than plate pinches. Lifters with home gyms and gym access tend to use two-weight plates to do this exercise, but you can use a large book, a brick, a sack of potatoes, or anything else you have lying around that you can hold long enough in a pinch grip. We’ll describe the steps using weight plates. If you’re using something different, just jump in after the first step.
You’ve probably seen people doing farmer’s walks with tractor tires and trap bars. Those are both solid options, but if you don’t have them you can also use two loaded dumbbells. Work your way up to heavier weight - even if you’re a farmer, this exercise will wear you out if you’re not used to it.
This exercise is also called a farmer’s carry. In addition to your forearm muscles and wrists, it also targets your quads, calves, glutes, hamstrings, lats, traps, spinal erectors, abdominals, biceps, and triceps. If that sounds like a killer exercise for building full-body strength in almost any targeted workout routine, that’s because it is.
Follow these steps to do a flawless farmer’s walk:
Hand grippers are one of the easiest ways to get a forearm workout and build grip strength without stepping foot inside a gym. Leave one in your desk or lying around where you can pick it up so you can fit some grip work in during your free time.
Follow these steps to use hand grippers effectively:
Research has demonstrated that fat gripz reduce the amount of weight you can lift but concentrate the lifting work in your forearms, making them much better or building grip strength. If you can’t find these attachments anywhere, you can also wrap a towel around the bar.
Follow these steps to execute a fat gripz biceps curl:
If you lack the strength to do many chin-ups, you can get a stronger grip with towel dead hangs instead.
Grab a towel then follow these steps to execute a towel chin-up:
You don’t need to put any weight on the barbell for this exercise. It’s all about building wrist control to help with your grip endurance as well as overall strength in your hands and forearms.
Follow these steps to do barbell levering:
This really fast exercise can be done at the office or just about anywhere else. It focuses on hand extension rather than abduction, which is what you’re doing when you grip something with your fingers.
Follow these steps to do rubber band hand extensions:
Great news for all you powerlifting enthusiasts out there: if you have the overall strength to deadlift for at least 6 reps, you can use them to build a massive amount of gripping power, especially in tandem with the other exercises in this guide. If you can’t get more than one or two reps down, then you can hold the barbell in the locked-out position for as long as possible and still build grip strength.
Consult this guide to deadlifting to learn all about this classic strength training exercise and how to do it properly.
All the grip strength exercises in this guide are straightforward and easy enough to do with some practice. A few you can do pretty much anywhere, while others take some equipment and know-how. Run through a few of them occasionally to prepare yourself for more weight on the big compound lifts in your regular workout.