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We can all admit that we are bombarded with new information about exercise on a daily basis.  Although this is a good thing on many levels, it can also be a cause for confusion for some and/or allow for specific details to go unaccounted for. 

The purpose of this article is to focus on one of the most overlooked items in fitness…GRIP STRENGTH!

Just think about all of the activities that you engage in on a daily basis from everyday tasks, to sports, and then in the gym.  I would bet that the fingers, hands, wrists, and forearms are used in nearly all of those activities that you just thought about.  As I type this article, it is obvious that I need strength and endurance in the muscles that control these body parts.

Why Is Grip Training So Important?

After reading the above, this seems obvious.  The reality is that without proper strength and endurance training for grip strength, the probability of debilitating ailments increases dramatically.  Conditions like tennis elbow or tendonitis are common when there is an imbalance between the strength and endurance required for daily repetitive movements and the strength and endurance that the muscles are capable of. 

The infamous Charles Poliquin explains in his own words concerning the above,

“…these ailments are often caused by improper strength ratios between the elbow muscles and the forearm muscles. If the elbow flexors, like the biceps and brachialis, are too strong for the forearm flexors, uneven tension accumulates in the soft tissue and results in elbow pain”.

This is why exercising large muscle groups will only make matters worse.  Instead, the answer is to improve grip strength.  Poliquin also explains that, “When your grip strength improves, less neural drive is needed for the forearm and hand muscles to perform other exercises. That is why many trainees report breaking training plateaus ranging from deadlifts to curls.”

So How Do I Improve Grip Strength?

There are 3 different types of grip strength and being well versed in all of them is the key to developing a stronger grip and much more endurance in the supporting muscles.

  1.  Supporting Grip:
  2. This is the simplest form and refers to essentially any exercise and/or movement that requires any sort of grip to execute.  Examples here include deadlifts, pullups, rows, dumbbell side lateral raises, chin-ups, etc.
  3.  Crushing Grip:
  4. This is more advanced and refers to the use of 4 fingers as opposed to the entire hand (all 5). Examples here include false grip training (which is when the thumb is on the same side as the finger during certain exercises), and also training with fat bars or using fat gripz.
  5. Pinch Grip:
  6. This involves grip using all 4 fingers and the thumb as well.  Examples here include dumbbell pinch lifts and various fat gripz exercises

Although there are many routines that can be put together that will improve grip strength and endurance some basic ones and more advanced ones are listed here below:

Basic:

Pullups, rows, deadlifts, and farmer’s walks.  These will all focus on improving strength and ensuring that the proper finger, hand, wrist, and forearm muscles are warmed up and ready for the more advanced grip training exercises.

Advanced:

Captains Of Crush Grippers – These used to be very popular in the 70s through 90s and now seem harder to come by.  The short notes is that they work! The key is to focus on 3-4 sets and start with high reps and then switch to a harder set and decrease the rep range. It is extremely important to ensure that both sides touch together for the full range of motion and ultimate grip strength increases.

Fat Gripz and/or Thick Bars – The use of fat gripz or thick bars is absolutely essential because they can be added to virtually any bar.  They are essentially additions that make certain that your grip has to be maximized in order to properly hold a bar to complete an exercise.  They can be used for farmers walks, curls, pullups, and everything in-between.

  1. The wider grip causes for increased strength and neural drive in the hand and forearm which consequently improve grip strength
  2. Alleviates tendonitis and elbow pain because of the strengthening taking place, coupled with a more correct exercise grip

World class athletes take grip strength extremely seriously.  Sports like wrestling, martial arts, football, basketball, etc. all require diligence in training for grip strength.  When it comes to amateur and intermediate athletes, however, the lack of grip strength training more often than not, leads to chronic pain and ultimately, chronic injuries.  Adding a grip strength training routine to your regimen will ensure the prevention of injury, while simultaneously improving grip strength

References:

https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/article/fitness-articles/how-to-increase-your-grip-strength/

https://coaches.poliquingroup.com/ArticlesMultimedia/Articles/Article/737/Why_&_How_To_Use_Thick_Bar_Training_for_Peak_Performance.aspx

https://strongerwrestler.com/grip-training/

Channell, Steve. The Fat Bar. Strength and Conditioning Journal. 1990. 12(4), 26-27.

Edgren, C., Radwin, R., et al. Grip Force Vectors for Varying Handle Diameters and Hand Sizes. Human Factors. Summer 2004. 46(2), 244-251.

Fioranelli, D., Lee, M. The Influence of Bar Diameter on Neuromuscular Strength and Activation: Inferences from an Isometric Unilateral Bench Press. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2008. 22(3), 661-666.

Grant, K., Habes, D., et al. An Analysis of Handle Designs for Reducing Manual Effort: The Influence of Grip Diameter. International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics. 1992. 10, 1999-1206.


Ratamess, N., Faigenbaum, A., et al. Acute Muscular Strength assessment Using Free Weight Bars of Different Thickness. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2007. 21(1), 240-246.


Sorin, Bert. Grip Training for the Athlete. Strength and Conditioning Journal. October 2001. 23(5), 45-46.