With all the various wrist straps used by power lifters, bodybuilders and weightlifters, you might think a powerful grip is unnecessary. But athletes in many sports, including weightlifters and power lifters, need a powerful grip to succeed.
Many articles are written about how to get a powerful, well-developed pair of upper arms, but not much is written about building serious power and strength in the lower arms. In this article, we focus on the components of a strong grip and ways to build it. This is especially important for aspiring young athletes, who may not be interested in competing in the local bodybuilding contest but who desire to ratchet up their performance in their sport.
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The forearm muscle group is responsible for grip strength. The forearm muscles have several functions, including gripping objects, curling the fists upward and lifting the hands backward in a reverse motion. For complete forearm development, we have to train each of these areas. The following exercises are used in our grip strengthener training program.
Pinch gripping a barbell plate is a great exercise to build overall grip strength. Begin by pinching the edge of the plate using your thumb and all of your fingers and lifting the plate to thigh height. Hold the plate as long as possible. Gradually increase the weight.
Gripper or Tennis Ball Squeeze
One of my favorite tools to build a powerful grip is an iron gripper. Avoid the ones in sporting goods stores. They are weak and don’t provide enough resistance for a good workout. A complete line of pro grippers includes units with resistance levels from 50 pounds all the way up to 500 pounds—these are real grip strengtheners! An alternative to the gripper is the common tennis ball. Use an old ball and squeeze it as hard as you can for 15 seconds before resting. Repeat.
Dowel Wrist Rotations
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A series of cable wind-ups builds the overall strength needed in the forearm for a strong grip. Use one from a sporting goods store or make your own from a wooden handle. Drill a hole in the middle, insert a six foot rope through it and tie the end. Attach a quick coupler on the other end. After clipping on a barbell plate, wind it up until it touches the handle. Unwind and repeat.
Barbell Wrist Curls
This is probably the most common forearm exercise. All you do is grasp a barbell and curl it with your wrists. You can either rest your arms on a bench or perform the exercise with the barbell behind you.
Barbell Reverse Curls
No forearm/grip development training program is complete without Reverse Barbell Curls. Keep your elbows firmly against your sides throughout the exercise. Using smooth movement and a palms-down grip, and lift the weight up in a circular motion until its at shoulder height.
Here’s an effective program to follow to maximize the development of a strong grip.
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Session 1 (Monday)
- Reverse Barbell Curls – 1×15
- Gripper squeezes – 1×25 overhand, straight grip
- Plate pinch – 1×6 pinch grips per hand
Session 2 (Thursday)
- Barbell Wrist Curls – 1×15 (palms-facing up)
- Dumbbell Wrist Rotations – 1×2 minutes (attach weight to one end of a dumbbell. Grab the other end and rotate the dumbbell in circles to train the entire forearm)
- Tennis Ball Squeezes – 1×25 each hand
During the initial two workouts, use weights that are not too taxing for the muscles. After that, increase the weights every session until maximal effort is needed to complete the specified reps. Continue adding weight to each exercise at every session.
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