As you’ve probably noticed, many of the articles I write come from real world examples. Something in the gym or on the street which tells me that the public is dying for certain information. In this case, this article was sparked by some guys I saw training in the gym the other night. No, not the guy who was doing Barbell Military Press in the squat rack on a Bosu ball, that’s not worth an article; it was the 2 guys working hard but wearing lifting straps for their ENTIRE workout. Are lifting straps bad? Not necessarily, but they can have their place and are definitely not needed. They aren’t making you better as an athlete.
When it comes to separating yourself from other athletes, you need to start focusing on the little things that can make a big difference. In this case, what is being lost by these two young lifters is their grip. Grip strength is essential in any sport or activity in which you need to pull on anything or at the very least maintain a hold on something. So basically, grip is important for nearly every sport out there. Another way I like to look at it is, your hands are your point of contact for many actions and thus are a necessity for transferring power. Look at any climbing or pulling activity, what will monster lats or scapular retractors do when you can no longer hold on or maintain a tight grip? Nothing. The importance of a strong grip can be seen throughout most major sports. As a safety in football, tackling was a big part of my game. There are many times when saving a touchdown means pulling a guy down by his jersey. A strong grip could be the difference between winning and losing; a weak grip and the guy scores, a strong grip and they’re forced to punt. So ask yourself, when’s the last time you focused on your grip training?
Before I get into specific exercises you can introduce for your grip, let’s first look at what you can do to your existing program to help your grip get stronger. First off, ditch the straps. The more work you do with straps, the more your grip will lag in the future. If you’re training pulling exercises, all the muscles along the chain needed to be working, especially your hands and forearms. Sure, your grip is going to suffer a little early on, but how much you can hold with your hands will demonstrate your applicable/functional strength. Sure you can row 200lbs with straps on, but can you grab a 200lb running back and pull him down? Probably not, which makes your training somewhat useless. Do yourself a favour and ditch the straps and anything else that will give you an “aid”. Choose bars/grips/tools that will make your grip work harder. Whenever possible, use barbells or dumbbells over machines, especially for any pulling. Next, try to use a handle that will require more grip: fat bars, added grips, towels.
If you’ve already started making the most of your programming but still want more grip work, you can add more exercises. One of the most underrated exercises out there is amazing for grip – Farmers Walks. Just adding farmers walks once or twice per week at the end of your workout will work wonders for your grip. Grab two fairly heavy dumbbells and do 3 sets of approx. 20 metres.
Other exercises include pull ups, Deadlifts, Romanian Deadlift, DB 1-arm row, heavy shrugs, and plate pinches. All of these excercises will place a tremendous amount of stress on your grip.
The last option to improve your grip is to incorporate new tools into your grip training.
Gripper – The first tool would be to use heavy grippers. I’m not talking about going to walmart and buying a gripper, I’m talking about Elitefts for some heavy duty grippers. Look for something between 100lb-300lb.
Rice Bucket – Find a big pail and add at least 10lbs of cheap white rice. Once or twice a weak go through a circuit of various grip exercises using the rice bucket. This is popular with strongman competitors and baseball players.
Now all you have to do is take some of this information and build yourself a crushing grip!
It’s About Getting Better!