WSBB Blog: Grip Training
Time to Read: 3.5min
A strong grip is one of the most important attributes a strength athlete can possess. Whether you compete in powerlifting, strongman, weightlifting, or CrossFit, a lack of grip strength will place a limit on the amount of success you can attain in your sport. Fortunately, training the grip is a fairly simple task and can be accomplished at any normal gym. Similar to training abs or calves, you can train grip frequently.
It really doesn’t matter whether you have a weak or a strong grip, any level of lifter can benefit from an increase in grip strength. Below, we will cover a few exercises and strategies we recommend our lifters use when they encounter an issue with their grip strength.
Pull-ups are one of the simplest, yet most effective exercises when it comes to developing a strong grip. Pull-ups can be done many different ways which allows for a good amount of exercise variation when implementing them into your weekly training program. When performing the exercise using bodyweight only recovery times are short, allowing pull-ups to be programmed multiple times per week.
Close grip, wide grip, and reverse grip are good variations to start with. Once you’re able to easily perform those variations you can move into more difficult variations such as weighted pull-ups, side to side pull-ups, or clapping pull-ups. Any style of pull-up will have a positive effect on grip strength as long as weightlifting straps aren’t used.
Much like pull-ups, barbell rows are an extremely simple, yet effective approach to back and grip training. At Westside, we are constantly including barbell row variations in our accessory work. When the focus is grip strength, the use of weightlifting straps is avoided totally.
Often, lifters will use an open handed grip during warm-ups or manageable heavier sets using three or four fingers only to grip the bar. Barbell rows can be performed many ways, from the standard bent over row style, to the seal row style, or the chest supported row, as long as you’re doing these exercises without weightlifting straps you will be cashing in on valuable back and grip training simultaneously. As far as set and rep schemes go, we suggest starting with a basic 5 x 5 approach, using the heaviest barbell weight you can while successfully completing all sets and reps with proper form.
Once that is completed, you can lessen the bar weight a bit and do a few extra sets of eight to ten reps to add additional grip training volume if energy levels allow.
Squat Bar Squeezes and Static Holds
Out of the exercises listed, these two are the two that are solely grip focused. Unfortunately, this exercise requires a squat bar or other axle type bar. When it comes to bar selection, you want to make sure the bar is able to be gripped in a way that activates the proper muscles, flexors, and extensors required to grip and lift a heavy barbell.
If you don’t have access to a squat bar, there are products on the market that can increase barbell diameter for the sake of grip exercises. When performing a squat bar squeeze, you will want to squeeze the bar to a full grip, allow your hand to open, placing much of the weight on the fingers, then use your forearm and hand muscles to re-engage grip. Recommended sets and reps for this exercise will be three to five sets ranging from ten reps to AMRAP.
Static holds are another way to use the squat bar to train your grip. The approach to this exercise is simple, hold the heaviest amount of weight you can. Two different ways to train this exercise, to a barbell weight max, and for max time.
When training to a max, the goal should be to lift the barbell either competition deadlift style or double overhand for one completed rep. The hold time at the top of the lift should be equal to what is considered a legal deadlift lockout hold in your sport. When training for max timed holds, we recommend training for the heaviest 15 second hold, 30 second hold, and 1 minute hold you can do. This can be done all in one workout, over the course of the week, or over the course of the training month.
The importance of grip strength in strength sports cannot be overstated. If you want to compete at the highest levels of any of the above mentioned sports you will have to bring a complete skill set to the table, and one of those skills is definitely grip strength. Not only will you see an improvement in your grip during the deadlift and olympic lifts, you will notice increased pressing power once you’re able to maximally engage and use your hands and forearms.
On the quest to be the best you must ignore no weakness, if you want to get the win you need to get a grip.