Fitness / Strength Training

Why Grip Strength Matters and How to Build It

Follow this expert guide to build grip strength for sports and everyday life.

Grip strength is your hands’ ability to be mostly responsible for the proper execution of a movement. Grocery shopping, carrying your children, doing laundry, and shoveling snow all require grip strength.

Virtually every sport also requires grip strength, including rock climbing, baseball or softball, tennis, golf, hockey, lacrosse, wrestling, obstacle course racing, powerlifting, and CrossFit.

An athlete’s level of grip strength can make or break performance in these sports. There are three types of grip strength: crush grip, support grip, and pinch grip. The forearms, biceps, hands, and fingers all play a role in developing a better grip.

Here’s how to improve your grip to be a better athlete and chore-doer.

Crush Grip

Crush grip is the ability to squeeze something between your fingers and palm (like this favorite piece of ours). You use crush grip when shaking hands, climbing ropes, traversing monkey bars, swinging a bat/stick/club, holding a heavy barbell or dumbbell, and grappling.

Try these moves for increasing crush-grip strength (and don’t forget to take a strength training class with Aaptiv right after).

Hand Clench

Equipment Needed: tennis ball/stress ball

How to Do It: Hold a tennis ball or soft foam stress ball (like these) in the middle of your hand using your four fingers (not the thumb). Clench your fingers into the ball and then release. Do these hand clenches 50-100 times per day to improve grip strength.

Grip Clench

Equipment Needed: spring-loaded grip trainer

How to Do It: While seated or standing, grab one spring-loaded grip trainer such as IronMind Captains of Crush or Harbinger Grip Strength System in each hand. Or you can just use one grip strengthener in one hand at a time.

Squeeze the grip strengthener as much as you can, trying to make a closed fist around it. Hold the squeeze for two to three seconds and then release. Do three sets of ten reps per hand.

Towel Wring

Equipment Needed: towel, water

How to Do It: Soak a kitchen or gym towel under water. Holding the towel horizontally, twist the towel to remove the water from it. Keep twisting until it can’t be twisted anymore. Now, soak it again, and twist your arms in the other direction. Dry the towel out three times in each direction for three rounds.

Towel Pull-up

Equipment Needed: sturdy overhead structure, towel

How to Do It: Hang a towel over a pull-up bar, and grab one end in each hand. Hang from the towel and then pull yourself up until your chin is above your hands. Beginners can hang from the towel for as long as possible.

Support Grip

Support grip is the ability to hold on to an object or hang from an object for an extended period of time. Carrying groceries, laundry, or shopping bags and doing pull-ups all require support grip. Do these three exercises to increase your support grip.

Dead Hang

Equipment Needed: sturdy overhead structure/pull-up bar

How to Do It: Grab a pull-up bar (this has the best reviews) using a double overhand grip (palms facing the bar). Hang from the bar with your arms completely straight for as long as you can.

Beginners should aim for 10, 20, 30, and then 60 seconds. More-advanced grip trainees can bend their arms at 90 degrees and hang for one to two minutes.

Farmer’s Carry

Equipment Needed: two dumbbells (men: 30-50 pounds in each hand; women: 20-30 pounds in each hand)

How to Do It: Stand holding a dumbbell in each hand at your sides with palms facing each other. Keeping your shoulders back and head looking straight ahead, walk forward for 30-40 yards. Turn around and walk back to your starting point. That’s one trip. Do three total trips.

Bucket Carry

Equipment Needed: one 5-gallon plastic bucket (available at Home Depot, Lowe’s, and other hardware stores)

How to Do It: Fill the bucket with 50-70 pounds for men/30-50 pounds for women of kettlebells, sandbags, sand itself, rocks, or dumbbells. Squat down and grab the bucket with both hands, lifting it off the floor and toward your chest.

Readjust the bucket so that it’s tight and high against your chest with your left hand under the bucket and right hand grabbing the left wrist. This is for people who are stronger with their right hands. Left-hand-dominant people will do the opposite. Beginners should walk 100 meters for three trips, taking breaks as needed. Eventually, try to walk a total of 400 meters for one or two trips without any breaks.

Pinch Grip

Pinch grip is the grip strength between the tips of your four fingers and the thumb. Rock climbing, throwing objects, carrying sandbags, and opening the lids of jars all require pinch grip. Try these two moves to build this specific skill that transfers to the other types of grip strength.

Plate Pinch

Equipment Needed: one 10-pound weight plate and/or one 25-pound weight plate

How to Do It: Place a 10-pound weight plate on its side on the ground. It should be balanced standing up. Squat down and grab the plate with only the fingertips of your right hand.

Without the plate in your fingers, it should look like you’re sprinkling salt. Stand up with the plate between your fingers. Then, squat again to place the plate back down on its side on the ground.

Do ten reps with the right hand, and then switch sides. Advanced-grip athletes can try a 25-pound plate.

Pinch Grip Transfer

Equipment Needed: one or two 10-pound weight plates

How to Do It: While standing, hold one weight plate at your side in your right hand with a pinch grip (fingertips of all five fingers). Raise the weight plate in front of you so that your right arm is straight in front of your chest. Now, grab the plate using a pinch grip with your left hand, effectively transferring it from hand to hand. Lower the plate to your left side while in the pinch grip position. That’s one transfer. Do ten transfers for three sets.

Forearm Training for Grip Strength

Targeting your forearm muscles will help increase all three types of grip strength. While compound moves such as the deadlift and overhead press incorporate the forearms, it’s essential to single out the forearm flexors (muscles that close the hand) and extensors (muscles that open the hand) to build a better overall grip. Try these two moves to improve general grip and get stronger forearms.

Dumbbell Wrist Curl

Equipment Needed: 10- to 20-pound dumbbell

How to Do It: Hold one dumbbell in your right hand, and sit on a bench, box, or chair. Rest your right forearm on your right thigh, and let your right wrist bend back over your right knee so that the weight hangs down.

This should look like the dumbbell is rolling out of your right hand, but don’t let the weight drop—just let it roll onto the fingertips. Now, flex the right wrist and close your hand over the dumbbell, curling it back toward your thigh using only the wrist.

That’s one rep. Do ten reps on each side for a total of three sets.

Reverse Barbell Curl

Equipment Needed: E-Z bar or straight barbell

How to Do It: Grab the bar with a double overhand grip. Your wrists, shoulders, and arms should be comfortable. Keeping your elbows tight against your body, curl the bar to chest height, focusing on using the forearms to raise the weight. That’s one rep. Do three sets of ten reps.

Your grip strength will come in handy as you work to build up muscular strength with regular weight training. Add a few grip strengthening exercises to your week to help build accessory muscles required for lifting weights and sculpting your muscles.

Now that you have a ton of grip strength, it’s time to move to strength training workouts. View them in the Aaptiv app.

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