What is one of the most common areas that individuals tend to lack strength in. Chest? Low back? Neck? I bet you didn’t guess the hands. Yes, grip strength is one of the common areas that us as humans lack strength. Don’t believe me? Go pick up a could of moderately heavy kettlebells or dumbbells, and go for a walk. I bet that you won’t make it very far before your forearms start to burn beyond all belief. Now that I have made a believer out of you, we can begin to dive in deeper on why grip strength is so important.
First, let’s look at it from a survival point. As we get older, strength is one of our physical attributes that rapidly increases year by year. When we begin to lose out dexterity (finger movement), we will no be able to grasp things to feed, get a drink of water, or evern clean ourselves. In a study performed by Kamal Masaki, Qimei He, G. Webster Ross, Bradley J. Willcox, and Lon White in 2011, it was found that the is a substantial link between grip strength and longevity. In other words, the better your grip strength, the greater odds that you will live longer when looking at the reasons listed above. A good way to quantify your grip strength is by using hand dynamometer. This is a gun shaped tool that used a handle and a pressure gauge to measure one’s grip strength in pounds per square inch.
Now lets take a step into how this applies to weight training. When perform movements such as heavy deadlift or row, I have seen that grip strength tends to the limiting the factor in how much weight someone can move. Wrist straps are a great tool to help when lifting heavy weight…. depending on your goal of the movement. Sure if your goal is to focus on the eccentric portion of the lift (the lowering/ return to starting position), straps are great, but not for developing your grip. What happens is when you put on a strap, it merely helps your maintain a grip while moving a heavy lift but it doesn’t allow your forearm muscles to strength and adapt to the stimulus along with the targeted muscle groups. Then, when you go to pick something up without a strap on, your wrist is put in compromised position and is now at more risk of injury.
Do you need help knowing what are good ways to strengthen your grip? Try out these exercise and see how long it takes your before your forearms burn out.
- Dumbbell Wrist Flexion/ Curls: In a seated position, place the back of one of your forearms on a flat surface such as a bench or table with a light dumbbell (5-10 lbs) in your hand. Next, flex your wrist towards your body and squeeze your forearm muscles at the top. Release in a controlled manner and repeat.
- Dumbbell Wrist Extension: In a seated position, place the front of one of your forearms on a flat surface such as a bench or table with a light dumbbell (5-10 lbs) in your hand. Next, extend your your wrist towards your body and squeeze your forearm muscles at the top. Release in a controlled manner and repeat.
- Stress Ball Finger Squeeze: Place a stress ball in your hand with your fingers evenly spaced around the ball. Squeeze the ball and hold for 2-3 seconds. Release and repeat several times.
- Rubber Band Finger Extension: Make an open fist in which all of your hand looks as though its holding a ball. Pace a rubber band around your fingers. Open your hand as far as your can while spreading spreading your fingers as far as your can. Hold for 2-3 seconds and then return your hand back to the original position. Repeat several times.
- Farmer Carries: Pick up two heavy dumbbells and simply go for a walk. I use the perimeter of a basketball court. After completing a lap, I put the dumbbells down to rest my grip. I complete as many laps as I can before my grip begins to fail. You can challenge your grip by using different bar widths such as kettlebells and plates.
When looking for a perfect training regimen, please do not limit yourself to just strengthening your larger muscle groups such as your chest, back, arms and legs. Remember that us as humans are capable of having incredible hand strength; just try shaking hands with a construction worker or jiu-jitsu master and you will see what a strong grip feels like. It’s time to get a GRIP on your fitness.
For more tips, trick and guidance in the gym, follow me on Instagram at @chriskadingCPT and on Facebook at @chriskadingCPT.