Most weightlifters, no matter how experienced, have muscles that always seem to lag behind others no matter how much time they spend in the gym training them. Among the most notorious of these weak areas is the grip.
The grip is the weak link in many lifters for two main reasons:
- Grip strength training is boring and, therefore, is not done often.
- Most people think their grip is strong enough already. They think that since they are gripping a bar or a dumbbell for most of their exercises, that alone should give them plenty of grip strength.
With that flawed train of thought, why wouldn’t you just stop training your upper arms too? Don’t they already get plenty of work during your chest and back workouts? Just like any other muscle group, the grip needs specific training to increase in size and strength.
Grip Strength Training Benefits
A strong grip also has practical benefits to a weightlifter that can help to gain strength and size in other areas of the body. How many times have you deadlifted and reached failure, not because your low back was fatigued, but because you couldn’t hold on to the bar anymore? Or have you ever had wrist pain after a heavy set of bench presses? These are obvious signs that your forearms are proportionally weaker than other parts of the body.
So the next question is what can be done to make your grip stronger? The first thing is to throw away your wrist straps. Sure, using wrist straps will help you lift more weight because you can hold on to the bar longer. But at what price?
Your forearms will remain the weak link since they aren’t forced to do as much work. A better strategy is to use no straps at all and let your grip fail. Over time, your grip will last longer and your forearms will grow in size and strength.
The grip also needs specific targeted training.
The major muscles that comprise the forearms are the “flexors” on the palm side of the forearm and the “extensors” on the top of the forearm. The flexors are activated during gripping and are used most often in weightlifting. The extensors contract during wrist extension. These muscles are most often neglected and are a reason for many wrist injuries.
Whenever you do a heavy pushing exercise like bench press or shoulder press, your wrist is in severe extension. If your wrist extensors don’t have adequate strength, they will suffer microscopic tears that will eventually result in a muscle strain.
Next thing you know, you won’t be able to lift heavy weights for a month until your injury heals. Are you now starting to see the value in grip training?
The grip should be trained just like any other muscle group. Twice per week workouts with sets of 8 to 12 repetitions are ideal for these muscles.
Best Exercices To Improve Your Grip
Dumbbell wrist curls
Hold a dumbbell in the hand palms facing up. Arms are straight out in front of the body and supported by a flat object like a table or by kneeling in front of a bench. Allow the wrist and hands to dangle off of the end. Flex your wrist, lower, and repeat. Do the same exercise with the palms down to work the extensor muscles.
Incorporate thick bars into your routine
Thick bars are similar to standard Olympic bars except that they are at least 2 inches thick. This added thickness does not allow your thumb to interlace with your fingers to form a locked grip. By forcing you to maintain an open grip, there is much additional stress placed on the forearms.
Many gyms now offer handheld grippers. These devices have two handles that are held in the hand and allow you to squeeze against varying resistances ranging from 25 to over 400 pounds.
By throwing away your wrist straps and incorporating specific grip exercises into your workout regimen, your risk of wrist injury will decline and your ability to lift heavy weights will improve. This will allow your entire body to become bigger and stronger by eliminating your weak link.
Finally, as any weight lifter knows, nutrition is an important part of any healthful regime.
Plenty of attention should be paid to consuming foods rich in natural vitamins such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, beans, nuts and legumes.
Proper nutrition is not only an integral part of grip strength training, but a part of whole body health and wellness.