There are many ways to train the grip and, in fact, many of the traditional exercises we practice in functional training utilize grabbing, holding and carrying objects. Here are three of my favorite exercises to develop the strongest grip possible.
1. Farmers Carry
The undisputed champion to build incredible strength, burn fat, and build a strong grip is the Farmers Carry.
Grip strength is tested by the duration of the carry, the weight of the carry and the circumference (grip width) of the object you are carrying. The best way to train the Farmers Carry is to do every variation possible!
- Standard - 2 objects carried by your sides.
- Unilateral - 1 object carried by your side.
- Uneven - 2 objects carried of uneven weights.
- Overhead - 1 or 2 objects carried overhead (really good for shoulder stability and core tensile strength).
- Alternating Overhead and Waist Carry - 2 objects, one held overhead and the other at the waist. Great for CNS development and coordination.
The arms and upper back will develop amazing stability. Your bottom half, including your glutes and hamstrings, is under load the ENTIRE time. And believe me, if you integrate Farmers Carries 2 times per week, you will see strength gains across your squat and deadlift in a very short amount of time.
2. Rope Climbs
I have always said, the Rope Climb is the practical application of Pull Up training. Pull Ups do require grip strength but the unique material of the rope and the width of the rope make it an all around amazing exercise that prepares your grip for anything.
Ways to scale the Rope Climb:
- Unilateral - Using one arm you can perform rope rows or seated rope climbs, releasing with a plyometric pull and catching higher and higher on the rope.
- Legless - True gymnastic rope climbs do not use feet. Grip the rope tight and develop coordination and strength.
- Pull Ups - Keep your hands in place on the rope and go from extension to flexion for 5-10 reps and then switch hand positions.
Rope Climbs target your back and shoulders, both for stability and for pulling strength. Grip strength is developed in more of a dynamic fashion with releases and re-gripping of the rope. Core stability is necessary to keep you from swinging off the rope, so it is also amazing for developing tensile strength through the core.
Another champion of classic grip strength training is the Deadlift. Classically, Deadlifts are a full body, functional movement. The Deadlift combines grip, upper back, core and posterior chain strength that translates to not only greater quality of life, but aesthetic and fat burning benefits.
Here are key ways to develop grip strength in the Deadlift:
- Double overhand - Grip the bar with both palms facing towards you. The rotation of the bar and your strength to resist it, is key in grip strength development.
- Mixed grip - Alternating palm direction for counter rotation stability and added weight.
- Finger tip - Use a slightly opened palm or just do a ton of deadlifts without breaking, and the grip will slowly begin to open and give your finger strength a real test.
- Sumo style - Bring the hands in to each other close for a core stability drill as well as balanced grip strength.
Increasing the weight and lowering the duration of time under tension is a great way to bring up overall strength, but for many of the other exercises we do in the gym (toes to bar, olympic lifts etc.), you need grip endurance as well. Lightening the load and going for longer will also help you burn fat long after your sets. Who knew gripping something could help you get your six pack? Well here ya go!
Remember in all gripping exercises, form is always key. Protecting the entire body through proper set up will allow you to get better, faster. Use all these iterations of grip strength every week to see the best results. Scale the weight and duration as necessary.
Keep pushing hard to be the best possible version of yourself and I'll support you 100% along the way!