Most people only care about how good they look. But you guys reading this probably care about a bit more than that. You want to look good, sure, but you want to be a beast when it comes to performance too.
A powerful grip is not only a direct benefit
when scuffling with Man United fans in sports like Brazilian Jiu-jitsu (which I recently started). The stronger you get, the more potential you have to handle heavier weights. Translating this to a heavier deadlift, squat, sled push etc, could make you a more powerful athlete. Plus, the more reps you can do with heavier weight, the more muscle-building potential you have.
Maybe you just want to be able to open a water bottle in front of a girl. It doesn’t matter. Just train your grip.
Over the last two days, there were two instances where the importance of grip strength really jumped out at me.
In the first situation, I was doing dumbbell bench presses. My grip on the dumbbells was VERY strong, and I was in complete charge of them suckers throughout the exercise. The form was great, and it’s no surprise I threw up a PB. Without a strong grip, the dumbbells would not have gone up.
In the second instance, I was doing heavy sled pushes. I made a conscious effort to grip the handles as hard as I could, and lo and behold, the sled moved faster and harder. Again, I felt in complete control of the weight. Bear in mind, this is not even an upper body exercise, yet a stronger grip helped move the sled more easily.
So how does this work, you may ask?
It mostly comes down to the principle of ‘irradiation’.
Try this – make the hardest fist you possibly can (all jokes here..). Squeeze until your knuckles go white. Notice how your forearm, biceps, triceps, shoulder, and lats all tighten up!
This is irradiation.
Muscles in the body work in a chain (or are supposed to). When you squeeze hard, the tension from your squeezed fist transmits to surrounding muscle groups. You’re tapping into the strength of the muscles in the chain.
Consider the deadlift, which is an obvious example of an exercise you’d need good grip strength for. If you try to deadlift with loose hands on the bar, your form will most likely be poor and you won’t lift much weight. As soon as you go ‘white knuckle’, your lats and core ‘switch on’, your posture will probably improve, and you’ll lift more weight.
You need to apply this mentality to other exercises too, even not-so-obvious ones. During a dumbbell split squat, for example, crushing the handle of the DBs will magically improve form and posture. Your strength and control over the weights in your hand will improve. I can’t state how important this is.
So now – how to improve grip strength?
- Hanging from a pull-up bar (both flexed and relaxed arm)
- The old King, Farmers Walks
- High rep kettlebell swings
- Stop using straps
Straps are great for bodybuilders as they help take grip out of the equation so you can do more reps, but if you’re looking for a vice-grip, ditch them. I only use chalk, which I don’t believe limits grip strength as much as straps.
- Use thick bars or ‘fat gripz‘ occasionally.
These increase the diameter of the bar and thus makes your hands and forearms work much harder. Best used on farmers walks, rows, and curls.
- Practice crushing the bar on every compound exercise you do.
This isn’t as important for small isolation exercises, such as lateral raises, as that is the one situation where you DON’T want to switch on bigger muscles to take over the work.
You could also use a gripper, but I find that incredibly boring and have never used them for longer than a couple of days.
Hope this helps guys
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