We all know how important physical fitness is if we want a good (and strong) life.
However, there’s one aspect of training the people often forget about:
In this guide you will the definition of grip strength, how to develop it, measure it, the benefits fo having a powerful grip and the tools you can use.
Let’s get started:
Everything You Need to Know About Grip Strength
For a part of your body that can support anything from your own weight to the weight of others, hands are often the most underrated and overlooked.
In fact, when it comes to working out, your hand grip strength is often taken-for-granted.
Although we live in an age where people have realized the importance of fitness, grip strength is something that is often overlooked.
Why? Probably because people have their hands full enough trying to get the other seemingly-more important muscles into the desired shape.
However, what many people don’t realize is that grip strength is not just important in the gym, it is important in everyday life as well.
What would you do if you couldn’t hold, twist, squeeze or grab efficiently and effectively?
Before we go any further, let’s define exactly what grip strength is:
What is grip strength?
Here’s a quick grip strength definition:
Grip strength is the force applied by the hand to pull on or suspend from objects and is a specific part of hand strength. Optimum-sized objects permit the hand to wrap around a cylindrical shape with a diameter from one to three inches.
When we talk about grip strength, we’re talking about the ability of your hands to properly execute a movement, from picking up grocery bags to trimming the garden hedges to opening that jar of Nutella to doing weights at the gym.
It’s also the defining factor in a range of sports (such as wrestling, lacrosse, CrossFit, martial arts, rock climbing and weight lifting, to name a few), being the “make or break” point in an athlete’s performance.
Though often simplified to “hand strength”, your grip and its strength don’t merely come from your fingers; they come from the million tiny muscles all the way from your elbow to your fingertips.
It’s important to remember that your forearm and flexor muscles are actually long muscles that have their starting point near your elbow and your gripping action sends a stimulus through this whole length (front and back), activating all these muscles into working and maintaining your grip.
Thus, improving your grip strength also lies in improving the strength of your forearms, biceps, hands and fingers; not just your hands. Quite a lot of work done by something that accounts for less than 5% of your body, right?
Types of grip strength
There are 3 main types of grip strength:
- Crush Grip
- Pinch Grip
- Support Grip
Let’s talk a little bit more about grip strength in the meantime.
Importance of grip strength
Did you know that your grip can be an important indicator of your overall health?
In fact, a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research reached the conclusion that grip strength is a predictor of muscular endurance (+ overall strength). Whatsmore, other studies have found that a strong grip leads to a lower risk of heart attack and stroke.
But there’s more, a stronger grip means you’ll have:
- A stronger handshake
- Better endurance
- Better later life quality
- Better injury resilience
If you want to find out more about these benefits, you can read our grip strength benefits article.
How to Train Your Grip
Okay, so now you know what grip strength is, the different types and how to measure it, the times come to start training it.
Luckily, improving grip strength is not as hard as you would think.
Your hands already have an inherent strength; it’s all a question of slightly increasing it to enjoy a healthier and easier life!
There are many ways to effectively train the grip. Some of the ways you can improve your grip strength are:
Practicing Hand Extensions
A hand extension occurs when your thumb and fingers are fully opened out, flexing in their respective outward directions.
Though you may wonder how regularly extending your hand can help increase something as diametrically opposite as gripping, hand extensions help increase the strength of the muscles in your hand.
And we all know that stronger muscles mean a stronger grip.
What’s better, you can practice your hand extensions using objects from your stationery drawer, such as rubber bands.
Pull the rubber band (or multiple rubber bands) over your hand, pushing it all the way to the base of your fingers, and slowly push your fingers and thumb away from your palm against the rubber band, holding for as long as you can.
Ensure you do a few repetitions in a controlled manner for maximum impact.
Using Wide Barbells
Another great way to improve grip strength is to use barbells that have a wider circumference than the standard ones.
Not only is it super effective but it’s also super easy and opposed to the other methods here, can be done with both hands at once.
Grab a barbell with both hands and squeeze as tightly as possible. Ideally, the bar should be wide enough so that your fingers and thumbs do not meet when you squeeze.
If you’re feeling extra adventurous, go right ahead and add plates to the barbell and aim to hold this for at least a minute for at least 2 repetitions.
Using a Hand Gripper
Alternatively, you could use a hand gripper, a piece of specialized exercising equipment that is aimed specifically at improving grip strength.
Squeezing a gripper is a sure-fire way to strengthen your hand muscles.
Make sure you wrap your entire hand around the gripper’s handles (therefore, ensure you buy a gripper with handles made out of a material you’re comfortable gripping, whether that’s wood, foam, rubber or plastic).
Once you have your hand wrapped, squeeze as hard as you can to bring the handles close together and hold for as long as possible. Repeat this a few times.
Alternatively, you could perform a variation of this exercise using a tennis ball or a stress ball.
Hold the ball in the middle of your palm, with your thumb out and fingers on top, and squeeze and release about 50-100 times a day to see some great results.
Adding Plate Pinches to Your Workout
Plate pinches are an effective workout that you could add to your fitness regimen.
These exercises involve the use of weighted plates to strengthen the muscles in your palm.
Use plates that at least weigh 10 pounds (1 or more, as per your comfort), putting them together so that the smoother side faces out.
Once you’ve done this, pinch or squeeze them with your thumb on one side and your fingers on the other, holding the plates for as long as possible in the air.
Make sure the plates aren’t too high in the air; you may accidentally injure yourself if your fingers give out and the plates drop.
Therefore, keep them close to the floor and away from your feet! Aim to be able to hold at least 4 10-pound plates for a minute (2 or 3 repetitions) in each hand.
Apart from these exercises that focus specifically on your grip, you could also incorporate exercises to improve your forearm strength.
Your forearms play a huge part in improving your grip strength, as explained before. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
Well, there you have it: everything you need to know about grip strength.
We hope this article has managed to answer most, if not all, your questions about grip strength, right from what it is to why it’s important to how to better it.
Though we’ve stated a few of the most efficient exercises we know, there are also others such as the bucket carry and the pinch grip transfer, as well as tons more exercises you can do without any equipment at all.
Alternatively, you could try replacing some of the equipment mentioned in the article, such as weighted plates with heavy books, or dumbbells with heavy grocery bags.
Your health is highly important, so now that we’ve given you a hand in this matter, it’s time you took matters into your own hand and started giving these highly underrated parts of you a little more TLC!