Whether you climb rock, ride motorcycle, practice martial arts or do lots of glad handing having a better grip will increase your ability to perform and improve your confidence. Most will agree that a quality grip is a benefit in life, yet very few take the time to train effectively to improve their grip. In fact, aside from breath control/work (Your Breath is Your Power), grip training is possibly the most neglected area of training. If you hold on to handle bars, twist a throttle, wrestle, etc., a healthy and strong grip is vital. So some of you may be asking what exactly is grip training?
Grip training is movements and exercises that strengthen your hand, wrist, forearm and fingers. Contrary to common belief, your grip strength and development is not limited to just your hand. Actually, much of your grip strength comes from the muscles in your forearm. This combination of muscles gives your hands their strength, while retaining the range of motion of all your fingers. When most people think of grip strengthening exercises what comes to mind is that spring loaded device that we used as kids. But that really only trains one part of the over all grip.
So let’s talk a bit about grip. Your hand is an amazing and complicated mechanism capable of four basic types of grip.
- Crush or Power grip— Crushing grip that provides the strength required to close your hand against a resistance.
- Pinch grip—Pinching grip is the strength generated between your thumb and your fingers.
- Support or Gripping— Gripping strength is required to hold something in a static position for an extended period of time.
- Mantis, monkey or hook grip— The grip used when your fingers and thumb are on the same side of an object forming a hook.
You’re only as strong as your weakest link, and your grip may just be that weak link. In order for your grip to improve your hands have to be used. And it’s best to stay away from straps, resins and assisting devices since these types of aides can lead to your muscle groups becoming out of balance, which in turn can cause ineffective training and result in injuries.
Your grip can be easily trained using everyday movements and simple equipment. I will touch on each of the four grips and give some simple exercises that can help you improve your grip.
Crush or Power grip—The crush grip is the grip between your fingers and your palm—the one you use for shaking hands or seizing an arm or limb. Crush grip can be trained by opening and closing your hand against resistance. The resistance can be created by a tennis ball, squash ball, towel, etc..
- Exercise 1 Ball squeeze—Squeeze a stress ball or tennis ball, opening and closing hand pause at the point when you have squeezed as far as you can and repeat.
- Exercise 2 Paper crumble—crumple newspaper page by page with one hand (not the online version).
- Exercise 3 Towel Squeeze— (My favorite) Find a small to medium sized towel or rag. Soak the towel in the water. Hold the towel vertically “wring” the towel out by twisting your wrists and squeezing. Squeeze as much water out as possible. Start at the top and work your way down. The thicker the towel the more resistance. Hint–it’s best to do this over a bucket, sink or outside.
- Exercise 4 Thick Bar Training–This is done by increasing the thickness of the bar you are using for your regular workouts. Just wrap the bar you are using for bench press, back pulls, dumbbells, etc., with a towel. The increased bulk of the surface or circumference increases demand on your hands and forearm
Pinch Grip —The Pinch Grip is the grip between your fingers and your thumb.
- Exercise 1 Plate Pinch—Pick up a couple 10-pound plates, smooth sides out, with your thumb on one side and your fingers on the other. Pass the plates around your body from left to right then reverse direction. Repeat this until you feel your grip start to fail.
- Exercise 2 Pinch-grip chin-ups using bouldering handholds. Perform regular chin-ups holding on to bar or wall with just pure fingers.
The Support Grip — is the ability to maintain a hold on something—like holding a hammer, baseball bat or carrying a suitcase handle.
- Exercise 1 Flexed Arm Hang–Grab pull up bar with both hands-use underhand grip and pull up until your chin is over the bar. Hold this position until you can’t hold any longer. Increase difficulty by adding weight (by using weight belt, holding a dumbbell between your feet or wearing a weight-vest).
- Exercise 2 Farmer’s Walk—Hold a heavy dumbbell in each hand and pace back and forth until your grip fails. This exercise can also be used for pinch grip if you use weight plates instead of dumbbells.
Mantis, monkey or hook grip— Mantis grip can be defined as the grip used when your fingers and thumb are on the same side of an object forming a hook. Work the mantis grip on an object that is to large to fit your hands around.
- Exercise 1 PVC hold— Using a piece of PVC pipe hold pipe horizontally between your hand (formed as a hook, fingers and thumb on same side) and your wrist. As you hold the pipe in this position really flex your wrists down and hold pipe parallel to floor. Increase difficulty by adding sand to the pipe.
- Exercise 2 Mantis pull-ups— Grip pull-up bar without wrapping the thumb. Do pull-ups as normal using this grip. This also works on wooden rafters.
I find it useful to set a challenge for myself that includes grip training and to incorporate grip training into my daily workouts. As you start your grip training and pump it up with more resistance and holding positions longer you will feel the after affects. By all means, you need to build your grip training and evolve it as your hands, wrists and forearms get stronger. Make sure you are not doing too much too soon–build it. What helps and should be part of grip training is stretching and massage of your forearms, wrists and hands with an all natural, topical rub (Warrior Rx and Massage – Perfect Together) .
I hope you found these suggested exercises helpful and if you have others please share them!