Often Neglected But So Important: Grip Strength

Adequate grip strength is important not only for strength training but also for life. It’s true! There are many longitudinal studies that have looked at grip strength and mortality. The results all come to the same conclusion.

“Grip strength is a simple but powerful predictor of future disability, morbidity, and mortality. The relation between grip strength and future mortality has been shown often. Not only in older people but also in middle-aged and young people. The evidence has been summarized in systematic reviews and in a meta-analysis.”

The Lancet,(2015)

Hand strength is typically used as a measure of overall strength is research. In part, because it’s quick, easy to administer, and extremely cost effective. The association between grip strength and mortality is often used to underscore the importance of resistance exercise.

Ten of the Better Exercises for Improving Grip Strength

Any exercise that requires holding a barbell, kettlebell, dumbbell, or bodyweight, will develop hand and arm strength to some extent. There are certain exercises, however, that are better than others if you’re looking to getting stronger in this area. The first exercise that comes to mind is loaded carry. Here are just a few of the many great exercises you can try:

  • Loaded Carry – This is where you walk with either dumbbells, kettlebells, Hex bar or plates in each hand for time or a specific distance. A suitcase carry is where you load only one side of the body like carrying a suitcase. Ideal for developing full body strength but especially your grip.
  • Plate Pinch – Performed as the name implies. Pick up and hold weight plates in one or both hands for a specific amount of time. Progress from one to two smaller plates before moving to heavier Olympic style plates.
  • Deadlift – Perform as shown in the Jefit photo via the link.
  • Fat Bar Reverse Curl – As the name implies. A thicker bar will recruit more of the muscles in the lower arm that are so important in order to build strength in the four layers of muscles that make up your forearm.
  • Pull-ups/Chin-ups with a towel – When you need to progress from traditional pull-ups or chin-ups, try performing both with a towel hanging over the bar while grasping both ends with your hands. From here you could then progress to a weighted version of both exercises.
  • Sled Pulls – Once again, using a rope or towel. Similar set-up as above but your just pulling in a different direction getting to use that strong, lower extremity of yours.
  • Barbell Finger Rolls – A nice variation to the Plate Pinch, this is where you pick up a heavy plate in each hand. Next, let your fingers slowly extend, lowering the plates toward the floor. Finally, flex the fingers pulling the plates back into the hand. You can progress to a Carry while you do this.
  • Sorinex Gripper – An old Strongman exercise – seen in action here: Grip product
  • Dead Hang – Perform off a pull-up bar for sets of 30/45/60 second – using both arms and eventually progress to making it happen with a single arm. This is great for improving grip strength.
  • Dumbbell Head Grab – A personal favorite of mine. Place two smaller size dumbbells on their sides so one head is facing up. Take hold of the heads with a fully open grip lifting both dumbbells of the floor and hold for 30-seconds. If you have been working out for a while try doing this with either a 35-40 pounds dumbbell for sets of 20-30 seconds. As with some of the other exercises, progress by moving from a standing position to a walk, to squatting or lunging. Enjoy!

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