6 Grip Strength Exercises To Boost Your Deadlift

Written by Brian Pankau
improving grip strength

Increasing your grip strength is not only an incredible way to enhance your deadlift, but it can also improve other movements and activities, such as, pull-ups, climbing and BJJ. Stronger grip strength is essential in progressing further in training programs and reaching your goals! Let’s begin with taking a look at where our grip strength comes from and then we can move on to exercises that can help strengthen your grip. 

Where Exactly Does Grip Strength Come From?

Grip strength technically comes from your fingers and wrists, but your forearms play a vital role in providing the ability to squeeze an object with better emphasis. Without strengthening all three of these areas together, you run the risk of not being able to properly perform the deadlift to your full potential, since your wrists will give out quicker than the rest of your muscles that are targeted in the deadlift.

Why is My Grip Strength Weak?

The average person starting out with physical training for the first time will usually have poor grip strength – unless you work in construction or in something that requires the use of your hands. Otherwise, you will most likely have a weak grip, even if your larger muscle groups have a bit more strength.

For example, you can perform a decent amount of weight during the lateral pull-down exercise, but holding onto the bar is a problem. The downward pull requires a significant amount of grip strength to perform the heavier sets. This is a common issue as most people don’t routinely pull heavy loads during their daily lives. 

Grip strength can actually be lost as well. The main reason is because you stopped performing exercises that improve and target this area. However, grip strength can also be lost due to arthritis, osteoporosis or just from not being used often.

Using Wrist Straps Improves Grip Performance 

Some say that using wrist straps is considered “cheating,” and that the straps hinder the improvements in your grip strength. However, the wrist straps allow you to hold the bar better so you can focus on the movement and not the bar slipping from your fingertips.

When you’re performing a deadlift, you should not be focused on improving the grip strength as it will negatively affect the rest of the deadlift. Instead, focus on the pulling motion during the deadlift and just use the wrist straps if they are comfortable for you.

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Exercises That Improve Grip Strength

1. Reverse Curls

  • Increases the strength of: wrists to the forearms
  • Target muscles: brachialis (found below your bicep muscles)
reverse curls
Photo Credit: www.60dayswithnatjones.com

2. Wrist Curls

  • Increases the strength of: wrists
  • Can be performed with either a barbell or dumbbells, both effective 
  • Usually performed once or twice a week
wrist curl

3. Farmers Walk

  • Increases the strength of: wrists to the forearms
  • Considered a heavy resistance exercise: you grab dumbbells or gallon jugs filled with water and then walk a short distance with your arms completely dangling. Pick a weight/load heavy enough that it causes you to strain as soon as you start walking.
farmer's walk
Photo Credit: startingstrongman.com

4. Squeeze Grips

  • Increases the strength of: wrists
  • One of the best equipment used for grip strengthening and different resistance levels available
hand grip exercizers

5. Biceps Curls with Weight Plates

  • Increases the strength of: wrists to forearms 
  • Use weighted plates that have two rectangular slots to place your hands in, a safety feature that you should take advantage of! 
  • Similar form to dumbbell curls, keep your wrists straight with your forearms as you curl the plates up. It increases the amount of strength you must use to control the uneven weight distribution. If your wrists begin to sag during the exercise then decrease the amount of weight used as it could lead to wrist strain/injury.
Bicep Curls with weight plates
Photo Credit: www.bodybuilding.com

6. Using Wide-Handled Equipment

  • Increases the strength of: wrists to forearms 
  • Not all gym carries these, so you may have to ask 
  • Gripping wide handlebars is actually much harder during movements, should only be used with moderate weight, do not use during heavy sets 
  • Remember to use the wrist straps if you want!

There’s More to Your Grip Than Just Straps

The wrist straps are great to help you hold on to the bar better, but it does not directly increase your grip strength. Thus, we need to focus on exercises that target your forearm. You should also perform these exercises towards the end of your workouts, so you don’t suffer from pre-exhausted forearms.

Want to get into CrossFit? Check out this ultimate guide for CrossFit beginners.