There’s more to getting a grip than just getting your act together. Strengthening grip is important in the fitness world, and often doesn’t get the attention it deserves; it can make a big difference for training success.
Your hand has approximately 34 muscles in the fingers and palm, according to Eaton Hand. We use our hands for so many everyday things including holding utensils, opening a jar, carrying grocery bags, sweeping, and of course, for exercise.
Advantages in Sports
Having a strong grip is crucial in sports like baseball, golf, track relays, and basketball. Baseball players grip a bat and a baseball. If a player drops the bat or the ball at the wrong time, it can make an effect on the score. Carrying a baton and handing it off correctly is key in winning a track relay. Golfers hold a golf club. A golfer who loses his grip of the club will throw his game way off. Basketball players handle a basketball and need to know when to release the ball. To be successful, the ability to hold onto something is important in these sports and others. It’s also important in our daily life and in our workouts.
In the documentary Free Solo, Alex Honnold climbs El Capitan in Yosemite National Park without the use of ropes. As you watch the documentary, and if you haven’t, I highly recommend it, you’ll see how he uses the strength of his hands and fingers to grasp crevasses in the rocks to climb. One of his training exercises includes pull-ups with only his fingers gripping the bar. He has a serious grip.
His grip strength means life or death as he ascends the vertical walls of this massive rock structure in California. While we may not be training to climb free solo, most of us and our clients are training to be better at something. Helping clients to strengthen this oft-neglected area can have huge carryover, promoting strides in their exercise regime.
“The harder you can grip the bar or dumbbell, the more tension you create, which helps you keep good form and lift more weight,” said Jorden Pagel in an article in brobible. A strong grip also helps your endurance, making it easier to perform higher repetition sets.”
Work on hand strength with barbells and dumbbells during strength training sessions. Whether it’s a pronated hold with an overhanded pull-up, a supinated grip with bicep curls or neutral with hammer curls, the grip gets stronger.
“Grip strength in the training environment allows the lifter to deadlift, do chin-ups or pull-ups and row heavier weights,” said Shane McLean in a BarBend article. “If you can’t grip it, you can’t rip it and it’s a limiting factor whether you make the lift or not.”
Techniques to Improve Grip
Building strength in our hands takes time just like any other body part. Encourage your clients to build strength with these ideas:
- One way to help with strength and flexibility in the fingers is to lift one finger at a time while on all fours and the wrist extended. It takes some mental concentration and helps many people increase their flexibility and extensor strength. Remind your clients not to get frustrated: this mind and body duo exercise will improve with practice.
- Hanging from a bar has many benefits. One is the ability to strengthen the grip, which in turn helps the wrist and forearm, improving endurance for pull-up and pull-down exercises. It can also benefit the shoulder joints as a bonus! Encourage clients to work up to at least a 30-second hang.
- Kettlebell swings can help strength improve hand strength. Anytime you hold a bar or handle, you’re working on grip strength, just cue your clients to mindfully engage the hands.
- Most of us have seen wrist rollers in the gym–a rope with a handle attached to it on one end and a weight on the other. Each hand alternates turning the handle to raise the weight and then lower it back down.
- Try squeezing a lacrosse, golf, or tennis ball, or even a stress ball.
- Special equipment exists to improve grip, hand, and forearm strength though not necessary for everyone. Handgrip strengtheners designed to be squeezed come in many forms. Recently, light has been shed on the importance of balancing out forearm and finger strength by working extensors with special resistance bands for the fingers.
Getting a grip has many connotations. In our gym world, it is one key to maximizing exercise performance.