Grip strength is a really important aspect of lifting weights in the gym. You may not realize it, but a decent grip can help a lot when lifting heavy weights. Many people don’t give emphasis or time to improve their grip which is why they struggle with the big lifts such as the deadlift, or even a simple pull up.
Have you ever loaded up the bar for a deadlift with a weight you can totally handle but your hands just give up? Unfortunately, it’s something that’s common for a lot of people. Even if the main muscle group you’re targetting is strong enough to handle the weight, you’re still going to lift with your hands. Good grip strength is necessary in order to lift heavy.
There will come a point where you won’t be able to progressively overload because of lack of grip strength. That’s why it’s important to include exercises that improve your grip strength as well. Most of these exercises are simple and require very minimal equipment. Most of these exercises work your forearms as well. So, you can include these exercises on your forearm day and improve your grip strength along the way as well.
This is one of my favorite exercises, and it gets hard really quick as well. It’s one of those exercises which look and sound easy but are just as painful as any other exercise in reality. What is the exercise? You take a pair of dumbbells, or plates, any set of weights basically. Once you have the weights, you need to walk with them whilst gripping them firmly.
This sounds easy enough, and it is from an execution standpoint. However, maintaining that grip for a 30s-60s interval is not easy, and that’s why this exercise becomes so effective. By the end of performing a few sets of the Farmer’s carry, your forearms feel as if they are on fire and it does help your grip strength substantially as well. Here’s how you perform the exercise:
- Choose a starting point and an ending point (preferably in a straight line).
- Get a pair of dumbbells that are heavier than you normally lift. You can probably hold and walk with heavier weights than you lift, and this works for this exercise as there’s no lifting involved.
- Once you have your set of dumbbells, make sure you stand straight with proper posture.
- Now, walk from the starting point to the ending point with the dumbbells in hand and back.
- Keep this up for 30 to 60 seconds, depending on your grip strength for 3-4 sets.
Tennis Ball Clench
This exercise is simple and you don’t even need any weights or gym subscription for it. All you need is a simple tennis ball. The exercise is as simple as the name suggests. You have to grab hold of the tennis ball and squeeze it as hard as you can. Doing 50 to 100 squeezes or ‘clenches’ a day will help improve your grip strength by a lot. Although all you need for this exercise is the ball, you can take the exercise to the next level if you have a spring-loaded grip strengthener. You can use that alongside the tennis ball to get even better results. Here’s the step by step for the exercise:
- Stand straight, or sit with proper posture.
- Your elbow should be fully flexed and you should hold the ball in a way as if you’re about to throw it in the opposite direction (see photo).
- Without using the thumb, squeeze the ball with the rest of the fingers towards the palm.
- Perform 50-100 repetitions every day for increased grip strength
This one is brutal and is a lot like the farmer’s carry. However, it’s quite different as well. This one focuses a lot on the ability of both your hands to work together whereas the other worked for each hand individually. In order to prepare for this exercise, get a large bucket, a four to five-gallon one will work.
You can fill the bucket with rocks, weights, sandbags, basically anything that will make it heavy for you and make your life a living hell for a few minutes. You can even fill it with water but that depends on whether if it’s too easy for you or not. Water may not be a good idea as it might spill out, but if you can make it work then go for it. Here’s how you’ll perform the exercise:
- You need to grip the bucket with both hands from the bottom. You can also grip the bucket with one hand from the bottom and the other holding the opposite wrist, it’s up to you.
- Get the bucket as high as your chest and keep it tight with you at all times.
- Walk forward with the bucket in hand. Now, you can either make this a timed exercise or set a distance goal. That’s also up to you. I would recommend walking 50 yards at least or as much as possible if you lack the strength.
Hanging from a Bar
This one is another one of those easy looking ones. However, it’s one of the hardest ones in this list. A lot of you won’t be able to go a single minute doing this exercise. It really separates the men from the boys. The idea behind the exercise is simple. You have a pull-up bar, but instead of performing a pull-up, you will just grab the bar with both hands and hang from it for as long as you can. That’s it. Here are the specifics:
- Stand Straight facing the pullup bar in front and above you.
- Don’t reach and just grab the bar, jump up to grab a hold of it.
- Let go of your legs or anything else you’re doing, just hang using your hands.
- Keep going for at least a minute or as long as you can.
- Do this during your workouts (3-4 times) and every morning after waking up (if you can) for a minute.
The Bicep Curl is perhaps one of the most popular and iconic exercises out there. It’s featured in every bicep workout in some form of the other. However, we can modify that same exercise and make it work for building grip strength. For a bicep curl, you hold the dumbbells or barbell or any form of weight with a supinated grip. With the reverse curl, we go the other direction and go for a pronated grip instead.
With the pronated grip, you can still work your biceps, but you also get that much-needed work on your grip. The reverse grip opens your forearm extensors which are responsible for opening the hand. The exercise also helps your lower arm muscles, which often get neglected as well. So, it’s a great exercise to include overall, not just for grip strength. Here’s how you perform the exercise:
- Stand straight with chest out and shoulders back. Feet should be shoulder-width apart.
- Using dumbbells or a barbell with a pronated grip, start with the weights at the bottom to your sides.
- Bring the weight up to your chin, as you would with a bicep curl.
- Once you bring it up, bring it slowly down.
- Do 10-12 reps of 3-4 sets and try to keep as tight a grip as you can.