Why should you care about grip strength?
Having a strong grip will help you more than you think. A strong grip makes everything you pick up feel lighter. Most of the time you doubt yourself before a lift is because it feels heavy in your hands. There’s a mental component that can be an advantage if your grip is stronger. When the weight feels lighter in your hands you’re much more confident in your ability to move the weight. This will help improve any pulling exercise including the deadlift, clean, rows, snatch, and pull ups.
So how do you improve your grip strength?
Simple, hold on to things! But there are two types of grip training you should consider. Pinch grip and crush grip.
Pinch grip is your ability to hold something between your flat fingers and your thumb. This looks like you’re using an oven mitt and grabbing something (picture your hand as it pinches a textbook or picks up your laptop). You can train this by pinching plates in both hands. The key is to keep your fingers flat. Try holding plates for 20-30 seconds at a time for 2-3 sets and eventually work your way up to 4-5 sets.
Every time you pick up a dumbbell, barbell, or make a fist you are doing the crush grip. There are so many different exercises to train your crush grip. More complex exercises involve squeezing and twisting rice and sand inside a bucket. Another is using the spring with handles that I’m sure we’ve all seen. One of my favorite exercises is a farmers carry. Holding two heavy dumbbells, or kettlebells, at each side of the body and walking. If you went heavy enough you should feel this taxing your forearms within 30 seconds.
Heavy farmers carries also help build muscle in the upper back. The muscles surrounding the shoulder blade have to work to keep the shoulder in place (so your arm doesn’t fall off). Try 2-3 sets of a 20-40 second walk with heavy weight in each hand. Be sure to keep good posture with your chest up and shoulders pulled back.
Training both your pinch grip and your crush grip will increase your confidence when pulling heavy weight. I’ve even seen this type of training alleviate elbow pain. This was probably due to the increases in strength and stability around the elbow joint.
Hold on to heavy stuff and pulling weight will be much easier.