Baseball, wrestling, hockey, football, golf, basketball—nearly every sport requires a certain amount of grip strength. A stronger grip can actually increase your swing and shot speed and boost your endurance. It can also make you a better rebounder in basketball and a better blocker or receiver in football.
A weak grip, on the other hand, can cause problems in training. Have you ever dropped the bar while Deadlifting? Have you ever failed a rep because your grip gave out when you were performing Chin-Ups or Hanging Leg Raises?
Here are eight techniques that can help you transform your forearms and hands from liabilities into strong, reliable assets.
1. Farmer's Walk
Pick up a heavy pair of dumbbells, hold them at your sides, and walk with your chest up and shoulders back until your grip fails. Perform 2 sets of Walks at the end of your lift for a killer finisher, and watch your distance improve each week.
Sets/Reps: 2x40 yards
2. Heavy Deadlifts
Deadlifts are a surefire way to build total body strength and a great way to improve your grip strength. Don't use straps. Use a double overhand grip, which is the best challenge for your grip strength.
- Load a barbell and stand a few inches behind the bar.
- Bend your knees slightly and hinge at the hips, keeping a straight back until your hands reach the bar.
- Keeping a flat back through the entire movement, start to stand up, pushing your hips forward and raising your upper body until you are standing completely straight.
- Reverse the entire movement to lower the bar.
Sets/Reps: 5x5 heavy
3. Fat Bars, Axle Bars or Fat Gripz
A fat/axle bar is a barbell with a larger than normal diameter. Since you might not be able to get your whole hand around it, it forces your forearms and hands to work overtime. Pulls and Rows offer the biggest bang for your buck when you use a fat bar, due to increase muscle activation in the forearms and hands, compared to pressing. If you don't have access to a fat bar, check out Fat Gripz for a portable option.
Sets/Reps: Replace any barbell pull in your program with a fat bar and complete the same amount of sets and reps. Just lower the weight.
4. Towel Pull-Up
Drape two small hand towels over a pull-up bar. Instead of grabbing the bar with your hands, hold on to the towels and perform Pull-Ups.
5. Rice Bucket
Find a 5-gallon bucket, a big bag of uncooked rice and a handful of loose change.
- Drop the loose change in the bucket, then pour in the rice.
- Stir it around to mix up the change with the rice.
- Put one hand in the bucket and move your fingers through the rice trying to find all of the loose change as fast as possible.
This will help you build muscular endurance in your forearms and engage your small hand muscles.
Sets/Reps: 2x1 minute per hand. Collect as much loose change as possible.
6. Static Barbell Hold
- Load a barbell with a relatively heavy weight.
- Using a double overhand grip, deadlift to the top position and hold for as long as possible.
Because it it very taxing on the forearms and hands, limit this exercise to one set at the end of your training session.
Sets/Reps: 1xMax time @ 185 pounds for smaller athletes and 225 pounds for larger athletes.
7. Gable Grip Heavy Med Ball Carry
- Hold both hands in front of you, palms up.
- Place your left hand over your right.
- Fold your fingers around the edge of your hand to lock your hands together. This is called a gable grip.
- Pick up a heavy med ball (or sandbag) by wrapping your arms around it and securing it with your hands in a gable grip.
Sets/Reps: 3x40-yard walks
Of all the athletes I have trained or trained with, grapplers, mixed martial arts fighters and wrestlers have the strongest grip. Unless you have experienced it yourself, you will be amazed at the toll of only 10 minutes of grappling on your grip strength and endurance. If there is room in your training, try to learn some form of grappling—wrestling or Brazilian jiu-jitsu are great ways to cross-train for your sport.
Sets/Reps: Your instructor will determine this. If you don't have an instructor; 3 rounds of 10 minutes each, resting 5 minutes between rounds.
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