April 29, 2015

Article: How to Build Grip Strength

It was 2002, and I still wasn’t fully convinced about all this Grip Training stuff.

Since my main reason for lifting was building muscle, it didn’t make much sense to spend so much time on my hands and forearms, which make up about 5% of the body, when there were so many other things I could be working on.

Then, I saw a video by Pat Povilaitis, “The Human Vise.” He took a Grade 5 bolt, a type of cap screw that is made to withstand bending, wrapped it in a towel and proceeded to bend that bolt into a U-shape.

pat povilaitis
Pat “The Human Vise” Povilaitis

Seeing a modern Strongman, a legitimate performer, completing this elite feat of strength was very inspiring, and that was what gave me the nudge I needed to start pursuing incredible hand strength.

Within just a few weeks of beginning my adventure into grip training, it was plain to see I had made a good design by adding Grip Strength to my routine, because my lifts started going up all over the place.

I was soon setting new PR’s (Personal Records) on lifts like the Deadlift, Bent Over Rows, Bench Press, Curl variations and Pull-ups.

Soon, just about any lift that involved the hands was increasing for me. There was no looking back. Grip would be a part of my workouts forever.

And these days, my outlook on training has completely changed. It’s not about justifying Grip Training. It’s the fact that if you’re NOT training your Grip, you’re making a big mistake.

Why You Must Train Your Grip

A man can not be truly strong without a strong grip. Just like the old adage, “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link,” a man is only as strong as his weakest body part. If your hands are weak, then you’re missing out on overall strength and muscle gain.

Here’s several reasons why you need to have a strong grip…

1. A Strong Grip = Heavier Lifts
The stronger your lower arms and hands are, the more weight you will be able to lift in any pulling exercise and the less you will have to rely on grip aids like straps to assist you.

2. A Strong Grip = Better Endurance
The stronger your grip is the longer you will be able to hold onto something. You will carry things further if you can lift more weight.

3. A Strong Grip = Better Control
The stronger your grip is, the better control and command you will have over the barbell, dumbbells, and other implements. You’ll track the barbell better on the Bench, you’ll guide it better on your shoulders in the squat and you’ll be able to execute better with any sporting implements (bats, sticks, rackets, etc)

4. A Strong Grip = Better Confidence
Since you will be able to control things better with strong hands, this will bring up your confidence as well. No more will doubt enter your mind. You’ll KNOW you can lift things and move them exactly how you want to before you even touch them.

5. A Strong Grip = More Reps
Having a strong grip means you’ll likely see more reps per set and have to set bars down and re-grip less often.

6. Heavier Lifts + More Reps = More Muscle and Overall Strength
In the long run, when you reinforce your grip, you’ll see better results, overall, in your training. You’ll be lifting more weight for more reps and that means you’ll build more muscle, burn more calories and pack on more muscle.

Hopefully, by now, it is clear that a Strong Grip is a MUST. The only question left is how to get it.

How to Get A Strong Grip

You can build a stronger grip by working your hands and lower arms with a variety of training methods. There are hundreds if not thousands of ways to work your grip, and all of them will have benefits for you in some fashion, but the following Grip Training methods are the ones that should make up the majority of your Grip Training work.

Thick Bar Training

Thick Bar Training involves the use of handles, dumbbells, and other implements that are much larger than a regular barbell or dumbbell handle. Generally, the handles are large enough that there is an open space between the fingers and thumb when lifting them, which is also referred to as Open Hand Training.

This sort of training is very beneficial, because it works the hands and lower arms in many ways: the fingers are hit hard by the size of the implement, the thumb is taxed, the muscles in the palm are worked, and even the wrists are brought into play.

Examples of Thick Bar Training include: Thick Handled Dumbbells, Thick Barbells, Fat Gripz, Thick-handled Modified Pull-ups and many, many others.

Pinching

Pinching is a method of grip training that is usually associated with thumb strength, but it can actually work the entire hand and lower arm very well. Block Weight Training, lifting heads of dumbbells, is one of the best ways to develop a well-rounded grip, but any block-shaped implement will do.

Other types of Pinching include Plate Pinching, Hub Pinching, Two Hand Pinching, Pinch Block Work and more.

Wrist Work

The Wrists are capable of tons of different movement patterns, and that means you should work the wrists in all of these motions as well.

There are many ways to train for wrist strength, but one tool in particular that is great for developing wrist and forearm strength is a Sledge Hammer. The first thing I did when I started training for Grip Strength was to get myself an 8-lb hammer and try as many different feats as possible. Here are a few that you can try:

Crushing

Crushing is probably the most popular form of grip training. Crushing is generally a dynamic execution of Grip Strength, where the fingers close in towards the palm. This can be done by clenching down on a rubber ball or by squeezing water out of a plastic container, but far more common is heavy-duty hand grippers.

With hand grippers, the objective is to close the handles together until they touch. Many companies sponsor certifications, where if you close their grippers by their rules, you become “certified.” With more and more gripper companies showing up all the time, more certification systems come about, making grippers a very exciting method of training for many gripsters.

This article really only skims the surface of everything Grip Training entails. However, these are the basic building blocks for forging a strong grip. If you begin to add these types of training into your routine on a regular basis, you will see strength increases across the board.

Until next time, all the best in your grip training.

“Napalm” Jedd Johnson