There was a time when having a viselike grip was a badge of honor. But in a world gone mad with wrist straps and grip aids, those days seem to be fading. Grip strength has somehow been relegated to the category of superfluous and even unnecessary forearm work. But that’s shortsighted because there are reasons why grip is critical.
“Grip strength is important because it serves a purpose in every aspect of weight lifting and athletics,” says Josh Bryant, MFS, CSCS, PES, owner of JoshStrength.com and co-author of the e-book Metroflex Gym Powerbuilding Basics. “If you’re a powerlifter or bodybuilder, you’ll be able to handle more weight on various exercises because grip won’t be a limiting factor. If you’re a fighter, it could provide a stronger punch, a tighter choke and even better takedowns. The bottom line is you have a stronger physical prowess with bigger, stronger forearms.” Here’s how to get ’em.
1 TOWEL ON
“Take a towel and throw it over a pull-up bar,” Bryant says. “Do pull-ups gripping the towel, not the bar. If you are not able to do a pull-up, even a static hold can help build tremendous grip strength. But remember, there is always more muscle growth with movement rather than a static hold.”
“I got this tip from Brazilian jiu-jitsu champion Adam benShea,” Bryant admits. “Take a sheet of newspaper and lay it flat in your hand. Work it into a tight ball with your fingers. This can be done at the office without anyone noticing.” They’ll just think it’s your TPS reports you’re manhandling.
3 GRIP, WALK, REPEAT
“The farmer’s walk, in which you just hold heavy weight and walk, provides a great bang for your buck,” Bryant says. “If you don’t have traditional strongman cylinders, dumbbells can work fine. If you want to work more of a pinching grip, you can even do a farmers walk with two plates in your hand, smooth side out. This will build functional strength and add more muscle than the more traditional gripping exercise.”
4 LOSE THE STRAPS
“One way to kill your grip strength quickly is by using straps,” Bryant says. “It has gotten to the point of such absurdity that some people are even using straps on the bench press. Don’t deadlift with straps. Don’t do pull-ups with straps. Don’t do lat pulldowns with straps. Straps do the work that your grip should be doing. It looks silly to have huge upper arms but have forearms like a 10-year-old schoolboy.” Ahh, honesty.
5 PINCH IT GOOD
Your crush grip is critical, but your pinch grip should not be neglected in your training. The ability of your digits to hold weight at extension is important, too. “Grab two plates in one hand and hold them together, smooth side out,” Bryant advises. “You might have to start with 5s or 10s. Now do hammer curls with them. Not only does this work pinching grip, but instead of a mere static hold, you are doing a dynamic movement. Therefore, it becomes more functional for other activities.”
Josh Bryant, MFS, CSCS, PES, is the owner of JoshStrength.com and co-author (with Brian Dobson) of the Elitefts.com best-selling e-book Metroflex Gym Powerbuilding Basics. He is a strength coach at Metroflex Gym in Arlington, Texas, and he holds 12 world records in powerlifting. He trained IFBB pro and competitive powerlifter Johnnie Jackson to help him complete a personal-best raw deadlift of 832 pounds in January. To learn more about Josh Bryant or to contact him, visit joshstrength.com.