Grip strength for the general strength trainee.
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.