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Get a Grip Workout

Turn your hands into Vice-Grips with this grip-strength workout!

grip strength

Lately, I've been getting a lot of questions about increasing grip strength.

And I'll be the first to admit that one thing that was lacking from my site is advice on training your grip. Personally, I have been blessed with amazing grip strength. That definitely comes from my father. When I was in high school I worked in the garage for an automobile dealer. The mechanics often relied on me to loosen oil filters with my bare hands so that they wouldn't have to get out their oil filter wrench. So grip strength wasn't anything I had to focus much on other than my forearm training that I did primarily for forearm growth.

However, in the last year, I've been stricken with some severe tendinitis in my elbows/forearms.

It has forced me to miss a lot of training and when I have been able to train, I often do hands-free exercises (often using Flexsolate straps). Now that the tendinitis seems to be mostly behind me and I am starting back to heavy lifting again, I have noticed that my once impressive grip strength has severely suffered. That coupled with the number of requests I get regarding grip-strength training has prompted me to provide you with a good grip-strength training program that I have been using myself.

Having a stronger grip not only helps you with the obvious exercises like curls and pull-ups, but it can even make a big difference on your bench press strength as well as most other exercises.

After all, the connection from the bar to the target muscles starts with your hands. If your grip is a weak link, then your strength on that exercise is going to be limited. In fact, one tip for increasing bench press strength is to squeeze the bar as hard as you can and try to rip the bar in half by pulling your hands out (while keeping them in place on the bar) while you press the bar up.

And of course, it makes you a lean, mean jar-opening machine!

I will note that I am typically not a big fan of fat bars (bars with a 2" diameter or thicker) or fat bar grip adapters.

But let me explain! Can using a fat bar when doing curls or rows or deadlifts help you increase your grip strength? Definitely! But it's at the expense of the strength and development of the target muscle group that you are training. Research shows that athletes are significantly weaker when doing pulling exercises (deadlifts, rows, etc.) with a fat bar versus a standard bar (1" thickness). So if limiting the strength and development of other muscle groups is fine with you in an effort to increase grip strength, then, by all means, use a fat bar from time to time. Since most people also want to maximize muscle size and strength everywhere, I don't recommend fat bars for that reason. Keep the grip strengthening for the grip-strength workouts.

Do this grip and forearm workout AFTER completing your biceps training.

Be sure to do this workout at the END of your workout otherwise it will fatigue your hands and forearms so much that any upper body training you do after it will suffer.

Another note that I will make is to keep the rest periods fairly short.

About 1 minute will do between sets. For one-arm exercises, just go from one hand to the next and back without any rest. The one-hand rests while the other hand is working. This is not only because the forearms tend to recover quickly, but in addition to pure, raw grip strength, your grip usually needs to have endurance. That is unless you are a performing strongman for the circus who is ripping telephone books and bending iron bars, you rarely use your grip for quick, explosive strength. Instead, you typically need a strong, lasting grip in everyday life while carrying things, or even turning wrenches and screwdrivers. You also need grip endurance when you work out for a set of curls, deadlifts, shrugs, pull-ups, etc...

Start with the hand gripper exercise first.

You will do 2 sets of 5-8 reps per hand. Do the reps as explosively as possible on the squeezing (positive) part of the rep. Then hold it closed for 1-2 seconds and slowly open. This will build all-out explosive grip strength. The trick here is finding a set of grippers that will limit your reps to about 5-8 per set. Since most of you do not have a bunch of hand grippers of varying resistance, the goal here is to start with one that limits you to about 5-8 reps, but as you progress you will increase the number of reps you do. Once you can do more than 15 full reps (that's from completely open to completely closed with the handles touching) it's time to move up to the next level of hand gripper.

For good grippers that range from very easy to absolutely impossible to squeeze, I recommend Captains of Crush Grippers:


The next exercise is the weight-plate pinch.

This will build strength in the fingers, as well as endurance. Basically hold two similar-sized weight-plates together with one hand. If the backside of the plates are completely smooth, do this with the back sides facing out. You will hold it with your thumb on one-side and your four fingers on the opposite side. Start light! 10-pound plates are usually a good starting place. Those with smaller hands may even need to start with 5-pound plates. It's a big jump to 25-pound plates and only those with good grip strength can get there. Pinching 35-pound plates with smooth backs is really good and pinching 45-pound plates with smooth backs is insanely strong. The goal is to hold the pinch grip with each hand for as long as possible. Just be careful with your gym floor! Once you can hold two plates for more than one minute then it's time to try and jump up to the next size weight plates. If the next jump up in weight plates is too much to hold for a minimum of five seconds, then try pinching 3 plates together using the weight plates that you can pinch 2 plates together for more than one minute.

You finish the workout by focusing on wrist and grip strength, as well as forearm size.

You'll do this by doing 2 sets of barbell wrist curls for 8-12 reps and then 2 sets of barbell reverse wrist curls for 8-12 reps. Shoot for a weight that limits you to the 8 reps and try to progress to 12 reps as you go. Once you can do 12 reps with a weight add enough weight to the bar in your next workout to limit you to 8 reps again.

A couple of months of consistently doing this workout will not only build you Vice-Grip grip and wrist strength, but also a set of Popeye forearms. Just go easy on the poor saps you shake hands with!

Get a Grip Workout:

Exercise Sets Reps Rest
Hand Gripper 2 5-15 -
Weight-Plate Pinch 2 up to 1 minute -
Barbell Wrist Curl 2 8-12 1 min.
Barbell Reverse Wrist Curl 2 8-12 1 min.

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