Grip strength has enormous benefits for real-life applications alone (pickle jar, fixing household items, grocery schlepping), but the benefits are compounded for those who train for strength, body composition or athleticism. The reasons why aren’t always intuitive, so let’s break it down. Here’s how grip strength matters for those who lift recreationally or competitively in powerlifting, strongman or bodybuilding.
- Have a “no weak links” policy.
- Activating your CNS can be an effective primer to a lifting session.
- Squeezing your grip tight engages the triceps and lats.
- Build grip strength with a few tricks added to your normal training.
Have a “no weak links” policy.
When you’re training your squat, bench or deadlift for strength or for muscle building, it’s tempting to neglect your grip strength because it’s simply not your main focus. The thing is, having a strong grip can translate into more success in the strength training that matters to you. If you can learn to engage your entire body more, squeezing everything tight, you can use more muscles and use them with greater control and force. So, while grip strength may not be your end goal, it certainly can help you on the way to your goals.
Activating your CNS can be an effective primer to a lifting session.
Everyone who strength trains knows there are good days and there are bad days. There are days when the weight just flies and other days when gravity pulls like an extra-powerful magnet. One thing you can do to mitigate those wading-through-molasses days is get your central nervous system (CNS) activated and ready to tackle the weights.
A few sets of gripper closes before your workout can prepare you for the work ahead, sort of akin to someone shaking your body out of a deep sleep. For a few of the reps, hold the gripper shut for an extra 2-3 seconds—almost crushing the handles through each other—to send the message to your body that it’s time to get aggressive and grind. Don’t let that first wave of effort be on a heavy squat before your body is ready. Get in the mindset and set yourself up with the physical readiness to give your training session all the extra oomph needed to get through the sets and reps that count.
Squeezing your grip tight engages the triceps and lats.
A trick to make the weight move better and get in a few extra reps? Squeeze your grip tighter. This engages your triceps and lats and sends the message to your brain that you got this, you can handle it—literally and figuratively. Try an extra-tight squeeze on your pull-ups, bench press and deadlifts, and notice the difference in how the weight feels and moves. Training with grippers can teach you how to really squeeze tight on your dumbbell and barbell lifts, and can help you control your hand position on exercises like military presses and rows.
Build grip strength with a few tricks added to your normal training.
You don’t need to go full-bore into grip strength training to reap the benefits that will support your current training regime. Here are a few things that you can add in to your normal sessions.
- Warm up before bench press and deadlift days with 3 sets of 10 reps on a gripper that is challenging but not a grind. Most women who strength train find the IronMind Guide to be just the right resistance to work with. Most men will do well with the IronMind Trainer.
- Concentrate on holding a few of the reps closed and crushing through the handles even after they touch.
- Hold your deadlift reps at the top for an extra count or two.
- Focus on squeezing throughout the entire hand no matter what you’re doing—dumbbells, barbells or machine handles. Don’t let the pinky side of your hand just come along for the ride; make the whole hand work.
- Ready to take your grip strength to the next level? The IronMind Sport is a great challenge-level gripper for most women to train to close for reps. Most men can determine their next challenge-level gripper(s) by following these recommendations.
If you are new to grippers, which one to start with can be a daunting decision. But, there is an easy recommendation we would give to anyone regardless of fitness level or experience with grippers.
Get an IronMind Trainer.
Starting with an IronMind Trainer will instantly reveal many things about your strength level and point to the other grippers that could serve you the best.
If the gripper feels difficult to close:
The IronMind Trainer is uniquely positioned as a conquerable challenge. Think of it like a 5K run. Even if you're not a runner, you can train for a 5K in a few weeks simply by starting to run. If you open the package and find this gripper difficult, then you have an approachable and very doable challenge ahead. Also, we believe you can safely progress to close the Trainer by working out with the Trainer. This is not possible at higher levels. Partial reps will quickly lead to full reps. Consider our Beginner Set for future purchases.
If you can rep the gripper:
Maybe your IronMind Trainer arrives and you can put a few reps on it right away. Congratulations, you have a stronger crushing grip than the average dude. Being capable of a few reps is the sweet spot because you are immediately ready for a simple workout. Start with 4-6 sets of the few reps you can manage. Volume will build quickly and condition your hands for whatever is next. Consider our Intermediate Set when you are ready for more grippers.
If the gripper feels like a toy:
Fear not! You have still made a sound investment. If you find that you can easily put infinite reps on the Trainer, we are here to tell you this gripper reciprocates with infinite utility. Dave Morton (one of the 5 men who have certified on the CoC #4) famously told IronMind in 2003 that the Trainer is his favorite and most-used gripper. No matter how strong you get, you need to warm up and cool down. You can also use the Trainer for active recovery. Consider our Advanced Set if you're ready to exploit your colossal base of grip strength.
Write us anytime at email@example.com for recommendations or training help.
Covered in this article:
- Not all grippers are created equal
- Knowing is half the battle
- Variety is the spice of life
- Where to go from here
Rating grippers is like catching fish. Hear me out. Everyone has an uncle who will hold a woefully small trout at arm’s length to exploit perspective in support of his claim of a “whopper.” But there is a truth to how much the fish weighs and it is measurable. Other measurements (length, girth) could have been taken, but weight is simple and easy to understand. Weight is also useful and relatable. The same is true of gripper ratings. Only the weight to close the gripper is measured, but the resulting numbers are useful, sortable and relatable. So, demand that your uncle weighs that so-called whopper!
Not all grippers are created equal
Gripper springs have a tolerance in manufacturing and even slight variations in the wire size can have a marked effect on the gripper difficulty. Furthermore, there is a tolerance for the angle between the spring legs. A slightly narrower gripper will generally have a lower rating. Then, there is human error in assembly. If the handles are mounted at different depths, the difficulty changes quickly. The point is that despite meticulous controls, it is not possible to make the exact same gripper every time. The minor differences described above could stack and become major, or cancel each other out. Having your grippers rated is the answer key to the end result.
Knowing is half the battle
At the time of this article, Cannon PowerWorks has rated more than 7,100 grippers and, of those, 603 were IronMind #3. This is for good reason. The IronMind #3 is a world-renowned grip strength achievement and probably the most popular singular gripper. In our testing, we have found a 26-pound variance between the easiest and hardest examples directly from the factory. Knowing where your grippers fall is critical to cobbling together a useful training set.
Variety is the spice of life
A good training set will have about 5-pound jumps between grippers. For example, if your goal gripper is 150 pounds, then it would be useful to have grippers at 135/140/145/150/155. You need manageable increments to stay motivated and make progress. This is the primary reason to get rated grippers. The wonderful variety offered by each brand makes this task fairly easy. Ratings allow you to strategically fill gaps in your collection.
Where to go from here
The first step is to get your current grippers rated through our Rate and Return service. It’s cost-effective and quick. Once you know what you’ve got, browse our Pre-Rated Grippers to fill in gaps. Depending on the size of the gap, we can likely make a recommendation of what could meet your need based on how our current inventory is trending. Hit us up with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org!
- Services hard-to-fill gaps in gripper strength progression.
- 18mm handle size unlocks actual gripper cheat codes.
- Colored handles are refreshing and durable.
Any mentions of a genie easily send the imagination to a certain affable street rat and his magical friend shackled by incandescent incarceration. However, Grip Genie is actually a retro video game reference to an add-on that allowed you to cheat on your favorite games. Enter a simple cheat code and your character instantly had infinite lives, the ability to fly or a massive strength boost. Similarly, Grip Genie offers grip strength cheat codes to unlock magical grip enhancements.
Services hard-to-fill gaps in gripper strength progression
There are known “dead zones” in the gripper strength progression at 115, 140 and 190 lbs. (Read more about ratings here.) Grip Genie immediately offered solutions to that problem with Grip Genie Levels 4, 5 and 6. While the grippers vary like any other (which is a good thing because it provides incremental resistance opportunities), any help at these ranges is welcome. Gripsters have been in a desert wishing for this coverage.
18mm handle size unlocks actual gripper cheat codes
A Grip Genie gripper in the closed position has a total handle width of 1.44” or about 36mm. This is compared to IronMind or GHP at 1.75” or about 44mm in the closed position. This extra range of motion unlocks one of the most beneficial gripper training secrets: beyond-the-range training. The general idea is that putting tons of reps on a Grip Genie gripper will move your peak crushing ability to a tighter range of motion. When you go back to IronMind or GHP, you’ll have more crush left in the tank when the gripper is shut.
Colored handles are refreshing and durable
Let’s be honest: the colors are also rad. Coating aluminum with a colorized, protective oxide layer is called anodizing. We learned with our SPECTRUM line that anodized knurling can be fragile. It doesn’t take much to knock off the sharp tip of the diamond-shaped texture and expose shiny aluminum underneath. Grip Genie has hit the sweet spot with knurling that is sharp enough to have bite, but also an anodized layer that resists some wear and tear.
Shop our selection of Grip Genie grippers here, or choose from pre-rated options here.