Grip strength is one of those areas that tends to get overlooked in the typical person’s strength and fitness routine. It’s also one of those things that we don’t really notice until it’s been negatively affected due to injury or illness, or if our grip fails us when we really need it (like during that one rep max deadlift).
But that saying “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link” is all too true when it comes to your ability to grip, grasp, and hold things.
Think about it: your grip is probably going to go first before the rest of your arms do when attempting a max set of strict pull-ups (or before your posterior chain does when going for that deadlift PR). That’s why athletes who rely a ton on forearm and hand movement (think: rock climbers, MMA fighters, tennis players) do specific exercises to maximize their strength in these areas.
So, want to build your grip strength and endurance, prevent injuries, build a better handshake, and simply allow your body to safely do more in the gym? Check out these 3 grip-strengthening exercises to add to your routine.
3 Exercises to Boost Your Grip Strength
1) Hanging scapular retractions.
Grab onto a pull-up bar with an overhand grip and hang there with your elbows fully extended. Looking straight ahead, “pull” your shoulder blades down your back by engaging your lats—your body should actually move “up” a little bit although your elbows and arms remain still. Repeat 5-10 times, then drop off the bar.
Modification options include dead hangs for as long as possible, strict pull-ups on the bar, or switching to rings or a low bar and doing ring rows instead.
2) Farmer’s carry.
This is a fun exercise for maximizing both grip and core strength (a two for one!). To do, simply use good deadlift form to pick up two heavy objects (try heavy dumbbells, heavy kettlebells, or weighted hex bar), one in each hand, and walk around with them for as long as you can safely (feel free to improvise or walk set distances). Aim for at least 3-4 “laps.”
3) Hammer curls.
These neutral grip curls are great for building bicep strength and challenging your forearm strength in a new way (novelty = increased neuromuscular stimulation = awesome gains). To do, simply perform a bicep curl with a dumbbell but have your palm facing in toward your body instead of up toward the ceiling. Make sure it’s just your forearm moving for concentrated effort, and aim for 2-3 sets of 12-15 reps.
Got a favorite grip-boosting move of your own? Let us know about it in the comments.