Why Build Up Your Grip Strength?
Your grip strength affects your ability to complete everything from basic tasks around the house to advanced exercises in the gym. We rarely think about it, but we use our grip strength to open jars, to retrieve items from high shelves, to carry grocery bags, and to pour milk on our cereal. We also need a strong grip to carry free-weights like dumbbells, barbells, and plates, and to complete exercises like pull-ups, chin-ups, deadlifts, and weighted squats. You may not realize how you limit the potential of your other muscles because your grip strength is not keeping up with the rest of your muscle growth.
Here, we’ve listed some exercises that can help build up your grip strength.
1. Dead Hang
When you hold onto a pullup bar with your arms at full extension, you are carrying dead weight. Hence, the name of this exercise. Performing the dead hang several times a week has the potential to improve your grip strength.1
2. Pronated Curls
The same way strength training offers you the benefit of long-term calorie burn, intense cardio will have your body burning calories even after you’ve finished exercising.
Also known as “afterburn,” this continued calorie burn is a great way to kick your metabolism into high gear. Yes, it eventually wears off, but a 2011 study showed that, for their test group, calorie burn continued for 14 hours after one vigorous 45 minute cycling session, resulting in an extra 190 calories burned!
Don’t confuse these with chin-ups. Pullups use the pronated grip we talked about in #2. The change in your grip also makes them more difficult than chin-ups because they activate more muscles.2
4. Overhand Grip Deadlifts
The overhand grip can weaken your ability to lift heavily. For that reason, if you’re deadlifting to improve your grip strength, you’ll want to be careful not to load the bar too heavy. Use a mixed grip (one palm facing you and the other facing away) if you want to get into heavier lifts. This protects you and keeps the weight from rolling out of your hands.3 To train your grip strength, however, the overhand grip with a manageable weight is your best bet.
5. Farmer’s Carry
The farmer’s carry is how you might imagine a farmer would carry a pair of buckets or how you might carry groceries to your car. You just carry a dumbbell in each hand instead. Despite how simple it is, this exercise has a lot of functional applications when you consider how commonly we carry objects this way.
6. Tennis Ball Squeeze
Squeezing a tennis ball or stress ball firmly can help strengthen both your grip and your wrists. Healthline recommends squeezing the ball for 5 to 10 seconds at a time.4 It’s easy to keep a stress ball or tennis ball in your desk, in your purse, in your nightstand, in your gym bag, or pretty much anywhere. You’ll always have a way to work on your grip if you can’t make your way out to the gym.
Any Amount of Training is Likely to Improve Your Grip Strength
The results of a 3-month randomized controlled trial on osteoarthritis patients indicates that any amount of training is likely to improve your grip strength. The patients were tasked with completing some simple, at-home exercises for 3 months. These exercises included simple actions like making a fist or flexing and stretching the hands and fingers.5
The amazing thing is that the exercise program was not designed to improve grip strength! It was designed to protect and relieve discomfort from osteoarthritic joints. This is what makes the results so remarkable. The results showed improvement in grip strength in 65% of the participants simply because they adhered to these simple hand movements! Knowing that, how much more likely are you to build killer grip strength when you’re actually trying to do so?
Whether your goal is to conquer a challenging climb or to improve your ability to perform activities of daily living, strengthening your grip is part of your total body health and fitness.
For more workout tips, check out Your Holiday Workout Plan. Or, focus on your nutrition by reading what our Registered Dietitian has to say about the benefits of and ways to enjoy Cauliflower! To access our monthly blog post highlights, subscribe to our newsletter today!
- Chertoff, Jane. “Dead Hang: Benefits, How to, for Pullup, Variations, and More.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 28 Aug. 2019, https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/dead-hang.
- Cronkleton, Emily. “Pronated Grip: Benefits for Pullups, Bicep Curls, and More.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 24 June 2019, https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/pronated-grip.
- Cafasso, Jacquelyn. “Overhand Grip Benefits for Deadlifts, Pullups, and Squats.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 14 June 2019, https://www.healthline.com/health/overhand-grip.
- The Healthline Editorial Team. “10 Stretches to Help Your Wrists and Hands.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 13 May 2019, www.healthline.com/health/chronic-pain/wrist-and-hand-stretches#building-strength.
- Stamm, Tanja Alexandra, et al. “Joint Protection and Home Hand Exercises Improve Hand Function in Patients with Hand Osteoarthritis: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Wiley Online Library, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 7 Feb. 2002, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/art1.10246.