Increasing your grip strength is not only a powerful way to improve your deadlift, but it also carries over to many other movements and activities from pull ups and cleans to climbing and BJJ, and is vital to progressing further in your training programs. There’s a variety of exercises and strengthening tips you can use to improve your grip. We’ll take a look at them shortly, but first we need to take a look at where our grip strength comes from so we can really understand how we develop grip strength!
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 potential, since your wrists will give out quicker than the rest of your muscles that are targeted in the deadlift
Grip strength is just as important as endurance. The exercises below are going to boost both areas and improve your overall performance.
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 something else very hands on. Other than this, 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. This downward pull requires a significant amount of grip strength to perform heavier sets. It’s just a common issue because most people don’t pull heavy loads routinely during their normal daily routines.
Grip strength can actually be lost as well. The primary reason is because you stopped performing exercises that improve this area. However, grip strength can be lost due to issues such as arthritis or just weak bones from not being used often. Remember, strength training is not just for muscles. This type of training is for bone strength and development as well.
Using Wrist Straps Improves Grip Performance
People will argue that using wrist strap’s is “cheating” during the movement, and that the straps take away from increasing your grip strength. However, you’re not cheating by using wrist straps. They allow you to hold the bar better so you can focus on the movement, and not the fact that the bar is slipping from your fingertips.
When you’re deadlifting your focus should not be on improving your grip strength. That’s something that you take care of with other exercises and techniques, and focusing on your grip will negatively affect the rest of your deadlift. So worry about the pulling motion during the deadlift, and use wrist straps if they are comfortable for you.
There’s more to Your Grip than Just Straps
Okay, so you know it’s okay to use wrist straps if they help you hold onto the bar more efficiently, but as mentioned they are not improving your grip strength directly. To do that we need to focus on exercises that target your forearms – the muscle region that plays a significant role in gripping anything.
Then you have different techniques that you utilize to increase your grip strength even further. Let’s take a look at the most effective options. Each one is beneficial, but should only be performed towards the end of your workout or WOD, so you don’t suffer from pre-exhausted forearms.
Exercises That Improve Grip Strength
1. Reverse Curls
This is a great exercise to perform that increases the strength from your wrists up past your forearms. The primary muscle being targeted is called the brachialis, which is found below your biceps muscle. Regardless, the point is that the exercise is capable of drastically increasing your grip strength, allowing you to pull during the deadlift more effectively.
2. Wrist Curls
Wrist curls can be performed in a variety of different ways with either a barbell or with dumbbells. Either type of equipment used is just as effective. The wrist curl basically strengthens your wrists and forearms with little benefits for the rest of your body. For this reason you only perform them once or twice a week, or as an exercise to add in every now and then.
This exercise involves heavy resistance, and there are some great WOD’s involving farmer’s walks. You grab some dumbbells or gallon jugs filled with water and then walking a short distance with your arms allowing the weight to completely drop down with gravity. Pick a load heavy enough that it causes you to strain as soon as you start walking.
4. Squeeze Grips
Okay, you have probably seen these being displayed on the TV as a piece of equipment that people use who have no idea about fitness! Though it seems funny, these squeeze grips are actually one of the best types of equipment to use for grip strengthening and will make your forearms gain size as well.
You can actually find them in a variety of different resistances in order for you to progressively increase the resistance placed against your grip. You can always just get stick with one resistance level if that’s all thats available, but that means you have to add more sets or repetitions to improve.
Weight plates usually have two rectangular slots in them for you to place your hands in while pulling them off of the bar. This type of safety feature should be used to your advantage. Grasping these plates with your palms facing in towards your body basically resembles the form you take when performing dumbbell curls.
The purpose behind this exercise is to keep your wrists straight with your forearms as you curl the plates up. What this does is increase 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 excessive wrist strain.
6. Using Wide Handled Equipment
Not all gyms or boxes carry different types of barbells or dumbbells, so you have to ask and see if they have a section of wide grip bars. These were actually designed for people with longer fingers, but you can use them to your advantage because gripping them is much harder during movements. Use moderate weight during the deadlift if you choose to use this for grip improvement, but don’t use them during heavy sets.
These types of exercises will significantly improve your gripping ability during the deadlift so you can hold on to the bar more confidently. Remember, it’s actually okay to use wrist wraps during deadlifts and is actually recommended if you feel more comfortable with them. Studies even show that people who use straps for training are able to perform more repetitions during pulling exercises.