7 Grueling Grip-Training Exercises

Get bigger forearms with these seven grueling grip-training exercises, including the Wrist Roller, Plate Pinch and Farmer's Walk.

Grip training is an important but often overlooked aspect of athletic training programs. Commit to strengthening your fingers, wrists and forearms, and you'll see benefits ranging from more power on your swing to better Deadlift and Pull-Up results.

I incorporate grip training with almost every athlete I coach, especially those who compete in wrestling, MMA, football, baseball, basketball, hockey and lacrosse. I recommend performing one of these grip-training exercises at the end of an upper-body workout, one to two times per week. For best results, vary your exercise selection from week to week.

Thick-Grip Dumbbell Hold

Dumbbells with large handles do a tremendous job of challenging your grip. If you don't have thick-grip dumbbells or barbells, you can use thick-grip add-ons. Other options include wrapping a small towel around the dumbbells or using extra-heavy dumbbells.

  • Assume athletic position, holding dumbbells at side
  • Hold dumbbells until grip failure
  • Repeat for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 2-3x failure

Dumbbell Pinches

Use Dumbbell Pinches to improve finger strength. You can use any hexagon-shaped dumbbell.

  • Assume athletic position with bench in front and dumbbells positioned vertically on bench
  • Grasp top of dumbbells with fingers surrounding dumbbells
  • Hold at sides until failure
  • For additional challenge, release one finger
  • Place dumbbells on bench; repeat for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 2-3x failure

Plate Pinches

For this exercise, you will need three five- or 10-pound plates, or two 25-pound plates per hand.

  • Assume athletic position with bench in front and plates stacked on bench
  • Grasp plates, squeezing together with hands, and hold at sides until failure
  • Place plates on bench; repeat for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 2-3x failure

Free Hang Holds

This exercise uses your bodyweight as resistance and forces the muscles in your forearms and fingers to support your whole body. Use a pull-up bar, towels on a pull-up bar or TRX straps.

  • Grasp pull-up bar, towels or TRX straps with shoulder-width grip and palms facing away
  • Lower body until parallel to ground if using TRX straps
  • Hold position until failure; repeat for specified reps
  • For additional challenge, Add weight belt or hold with fingers on TRX

Sets/Reps: 2-3x failure

Wrist Roller

The Wrist Roller is my favorite exercise—it torches the forearms and strengthens the wrists. You can buy one at most sporting good stores or tie a rope around a dowel and attach a weight.

  • Hold wrist roller with arms extended straight in front at shoulder height
  • Extend wrists in alternating fashion to roll weight up; flex wrists in alternating fashion to slowly roll weight down
  • Flex wrists in alternating fashion to roll weight up; extend wrists in alternating fashion to slowly roll weight down
  • Repeat for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 1-2x4 each way

Farmer's Walk

The Farmer's Walk is a classic Strongman event that targets everything from the legs to the core to the forearms. Use dumbbells, kettlebells or Farmer's Walk handles.

  • Hold heavy dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand
  • Keep arms straight next to sides
  • Walk in straight line for specified distance; maintain good posture
  • Keep core muscles tight

Sets/Reps: 3-4x20-30 yards

Rice Grabs

Rice Grabs improve grip strength for all athletes, but are particularly beneficial for baseball players because they mimic the motion of grabbing a ball. All you need for this exercise is uncooked rice and a container.

  • Reach fist or fists into bucket of rice and dig deep
  • Open and close hand, squeezing against rice
  • Perform for specified time

Sets/Reps: 2-3x60 seconds each hand

Photo:  Wikimedia Commons

Bill DeLongis, CSCS, is the head strength and conditioning coach at Converse College (Spartanburg, S.C.), where he oversees speed, strength and conditioning programs for all eight sports. He is a graduate of Winthrop University, where he  studied fitness and wellness with a minor in coaching. He is also a NASM corrective exercise specialist, USAW sports performance coach and a certified personal trainer.

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock