How do you increase grip strength? Fitness trainers answer the questions we’ve all been asking.
Of the many reasons we have for lifting weights, we know that it’s an important part of our workout routines for our bodies to be fit and strong. We deadlift, squat, press and pull heavy weights to build the muscles in our glutes, legs, arms, shoulders and back. But there might be one small thing we’ve all been neglecting when it comes to strength training: our grip.
This can often be the cause of what’s stopping us from adding weight to our lifts. For example, have you ever given up on deadlifts because your forearms are sore, despite the fact that your glutes have energy still left to give?
Every week we ask fitness trainers to answer some of the most-asked questions from women who want to learn about lifting. This time, Strong Women Collective trainers Emma Obayuvana and Alice Miller, and Nike ambassador Tess Glynne-Jones explain how to increase your grip strength to get the most from our workouts.
HOW CAN YOU INCREASE GRIP STRENGTH?
“I think this is something a lot of people struggle with when they first get into training. The best way to increase your grip strength is to just keep training, because when you hold the weights you’ll be working on your grip. With something like a kettlebell swing, your grip will be working hard because there’s momentum going through the wrists. Deadlifts are wicked too, as are farmer or suitcase carries which involve just holding a weight down dead by the side of the body.
“There are specific exercises you can do too, such as using a pinch grip, where you just pinch the weighted spring between your fingertips. Hanging movements also help: you can just hang from a bar, time yourself, see how long you can do it for, rest up and repeat. A lot of people’s grip strength problems can be to do with the hand, but it can also be to do with the forearms.”
“Do exercises that really utilise that grip. Farmer walks really target and work your grip in terms of strength and endurance, and I like doing dead hangs, where you’re simply hanging onto a bar. During these, it’s important to engage your core and your back muscles, and you do that by elevating your scapular.
“Generally to increase your grip strength in exercises, whether they’re targeting grip or not, I would recommend using all five fingers and grip the handle really, really tight. By using heavier weights or wrapping a towel around the handles of a kettlebell, dumbbell or barbell to make the handle thicker, it will be more challenging for your grip too.”
“The exercises I do to increase grip strength are farmer or suitcase carries and dead hangs. In farmer carries you’re holding an object and walking. That sounds so basic, but it can be really quite tough because you’re shifting a heavy load for distance and time. You really want to get as heavy as we can or you won’t get the most out of the movement.
“With a dead hang you are just hanging off a bar. Sometimes it’s good to get a little bit of chalk if you get quite sweaty hands. People often find they get calluses when they start doing extra grip work. If that’s the case, I recommend getting a callous remover to use on yourself, like they use on your feet when you get a pedicure.”
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO HAVE GOOD GRIP STRENGTH?
“Poor grip strength sometimes keeps people from being able to go as heavy as their body can manage because the strength to hold something off the floor just isn’t there. That means you won’t be able to work the bigger muscles as hard as they need to. When we can lift heavier, we get better results performance and health wise. It also means that in everyday life you can carry heavier loads around with ease.”
“I think having a strong grip means that you are generally a stronger person. It means that you lift heavier weights, because a stronger grip is needed to be able to shift a larger quantity of weight off the floor. It also translates in your everyday life, whether that’s carrying heavier loads or opening stiff jars and doors.”
“It increases the weights you can choose in your training. For example, to deadlift more weight and therefore train your legs to exertion, you need to be able to hold onto the bar properly. Also, if you try and carry a 20kg suitcase on the Tube to get to Heathrow, you’ll struggle without a good grip strength.”
WHY DO WE HAVE WEAK GRIP?
“When you’re sat at a desk and you’re constantly typing, our wrists tend to get quite weak. Also, we just don’t use our wrists and forearms very much. We never really hold heavy loads. I guess a bag is the heaviest thing we carry, and nowadays we tend to sling them over our shoulders rather than carry them in our hands. We’re spoiled by the fact that we don’t really have to carry much anymore, but it means we aren’t as strong.”
“We just don’t tend to carry things that are that heavy. It’s no wonder we’re bad at gripping when we don’t have the practice. There are a lot of muscles in the forearms and hands, so you’ve got to work them to be stronger.”
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Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).