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5 Exercises to Build Better Grip Strength

Kettlebell Grip Strength

Photo: Pond5

How many pull-ups can you do? If your answer is less than five, the problem isn’t necessarily just how strong your back is — it could be all in the hands.

Grip strength, simply put, according to Travis Azzopardi, C.P.T., “makes it easier to apply your strength from the gym to the real world.” Need to open a jar, move a heavy table, or carry a stroller up a flight of stairs? All of this requires grip strength. And while resistance training can help build strength in the fingers, wrists and forearms, it won’t always challenge the muscles enough to adapt and be able to sustain heavier loads.

Exercises such as deadlifts, rows and pull-ups will build some degree of grip strength, but in the long run your grip will probably need some extra stimulus. And better grip strength will mean better workouts (win-win). Try your hand at these five moves, which will get you crushing it in no time. To get started, Azzopardi recommends selecting one exercise from the list below and perform it after your normal workout is completed. Go ahead, get a grip already!

1. Partial-Grip Pull-Up

How to: Grasp a pull-up bar with a palms-down, shoulder-width grip, but leave your thumb out. Perform pull-ups as normal.
Sets: 3, Reps: AMRAP (as many reps as possible), Rest: As needed

2. Plate Pinch

How to: Pinch a plate in each hand between your fingers without holding on to the handle or lip of it. Hold them at your side for as long as you can. When this gets too easy, try pinching two plates together.
Sets: 3, Reps: To failure, Rest: As needed

 3. Towel Pull-Up

How to: Loop a regular workout towel around a pull-up bar. Hold an end in each hand and perform pull-ups as normal. Just make sure to move your head to either side as you get closer to the pull-up bar!
Sets: 3, Reps: AMRAP, Rest: As needed

4. Farmer’s Walk

How to: Grasp a pair of heavy dumbbells or kettlebells. Keeping the core engaged, walk from one end of the gym to the other until you can no longer hold onto the weights.
Sets: 3, Reps: To failure, Rest: As needed

5. Push-Up

How to: Lie face-down on the floor, hands at shoulder-width palms on the ground, toes driving into the floor. Think about trying to grab a handful of the ground, as this will fire up the muscles in your forearms important for grip strength. Push yourself up, so your hands are under your shoulders, and your body is a straight line from the back of your head down to your heels. Slowly lower yourself down so your chest touches the floor.
Sets: 3, Reps: AMRAP, Rest: As needed

Remember, this is not one workout — incorporate just one of the above exercises into each workout you do. Azzopardi suggests farmer’s walks on leg day, push-ups on chest day, and towel pull-ups on back day. Or, you can mix and match. The bottom line, as Azzopardi puts it: “Get to pulling, squeezing and hanging because you don’t want to ask your girlfriend to open that jar, do you?” (Ladies, all the power to you!)

How has grip strength helped you, both inside and outside of the gym? Tell us in the comments below!

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