Grip training is one of the most undervalued areas of training.
The human hand can be used to grip objects in many different positions. These different positions each require different types of grip strength. These gripping styles are quantified based on the way the hand is being used.
Let’s dive into the three different types of grips:
Types of Grip Strength
There are three types of grip strength: crush grip, support grip, and pinch grip.
Let’s look at them in more detail:
The Crush Grip
Remember when the Mountain decimated the Viper’s head as most of King’s Landing watched? Well, that’s crushing for you. Crushing refers to the ability to squeeze an object between your palm and fingers or wrap them around a resistance. Normal mortals like us use this grip in actions such as holding or swinging a club or bat, lifting dumbbells or shaking hands.
The Pinch Grip
The pinch grip is the act of gripping something using your thumb and fingertips, the two exerting opposing forces. A pinch grip is generally seen during rock climbing, throwing an object or wrestling open the cookie jar! Pinch grips can be used statically or dynamically, such as gripping say, your phone, or squeezing the handles of a tong, respectively.
The Support Grip
The last of our grips, the support grip does exactly what its name says — support! The fingers do most of the work in this grip, supporting the load a la deadlifts and kettlebell workouts. Support grip can also refer to the action of holding an object or hanging from one for a considerable period of time, such as while doing pull-ups or carrying shopping bags. “Open hand support” refers to a grip wherein the object that is being gripped is large enough to keep the thumb and fingers apart, creating a space between them.
How to train grip strength
Here are 8 great workouts to improve grip strength:
1. Dumbbell Farmer’s Walk With Towels
By now, you’re already familiar with a dumbbell, a farmer’s walk and towels! Put them all together and you have the dumbbell farmer’s walk with towels. To do this exercise, take two small towels, looping them separately on the handles of the two dumbbells. Stand upright with your shoulders back while holding onto the towels or take a small walk around the place. You could also replace the dumbbells with weighted plates, looping the towels through the top hole of the plate (if there’s more than one hole) or the middle hole, in which case you may require a longer towel.
2. Dead Hang
A dead hang involves hanging from a pull-up bar with your fingers doing most of the work. Grip the pull-up bar (or any overhead structure such as eaves above your windowsill) and try to hang on for as much time as possible. Keep adding 15 seconds to every attempt and once you’ve hit the golden 60-second mark, try to move from one side to the other. Or, just get creative! However, remember that though your fingers are doing most of the work, your core and back muscles still need to be activated to minimize any risk of injury or pain.
3. Fat Gripz Dumbbell Curl
This exercise involves using a Fat Gripz dumbbell; however, you can replace that with any rubber tool that lends an additional thickness to the barbell or dumbbell. Place one rubber tool over each dumbbell’s handle and hold the dumbbells in a grip such that your palms are facing upward. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, your shoulders back and start performing curls with the dumbbells (reaching the height of your chin). Ensure that you keep your wrists flat and palms supinated (facing up) the whole time.
4. Barbell Shrug
Hold a barbell in front of your hips, keeping your arms straight and your grip pronated (overhead). The barbell should be aligned with your shoulder’s width. This is your starting position. Keeping your arms straight, lift your shoulders and trapezius muscles towards the ceiling, hold for 3 seconds and return to the starting position.
You can do a deadlift either conventionally (feet only shoulder-width apart) or in the “Sumo” position, with your legs wide-squat-distance apart. However, whichever deadlift you choose to do, ensure that you don’t use a “mixed grip” (one hand gripping pronated and the other, supinated). Both palms need to face the same direction or else the purpose of the exercise is lost. Aim to complete at least 8 to 10 repetitions, holding the bar up for as long as possible in each repetition.
6. Reverse Barbell Wrist Curl
Great for your forearms, the reverse barbell wrist curl involves holding a barbell (palms overhand) behind you, 2 or 3 inches away from your lower back, and letting it roll onto your fingertips while maintaining straight arms. Make a fist once the barbell rolls onto your fingertips and contract your forearms to tighten your grip on the bar. Ensure your posture is upright and that you’re not using the momentum from your shoulders or torso.
7. Resisted Hand Opening
Fold your fingers and thumb so as to ensure that the tips of all five are touching each other. Slip a rubber band over your fingers (positioning it at the first joint below your fingernail) and push against it till your hand opens up. Repeat this a few times. If you want to challenge yourself and have the money to spare, you can buy bands and use them instead of a rubber band. Different bands offer different resistance and come with holes that you can insert your fingertips into, making it easier and more stable. Mastering this exercise will help you grab right, faster and more powerfully.
8. Pinch Grip Plate Holds
We’ve already discussed this one, or at least variations of it. However, we’ll discuss it once again. Great for practicing a grip that lets you hold onto things for a longer time, this exercise requires a 10-pound plate. Stand the plate on the ground and grab it with only your fingers. Tempting as it may be, don’t use your thumb! Stand erect with the plate hanging on your side for at least 5 seconds. As mentioned earlier, use two plates if you want to challenge yourself or hold the place overhead with your arm fully extended and straight (be extremely careful, though!)