Handgrip strength is often used as an indicator of overall muscle strength as well as current and future health. Think about it. You need grip strength for literally everything. Picking up your groceries, grabbing your phone, or even picking up your water bottle. When it comes to weight-lifting hand grip is one of the quickest ways to bigger lifts and loading more plates onto the barbell. You may be strong enough to lift a heavy plate loaded deadlift off the ground, but if you can’t hold onto the barbell, then it doesn’t really matter now does it. We’re going to talk more about how to strengthen your grip and why getting a grip is important.
Grip strength is simply a measurement of how much force and power you can create with your forearms and hand muscles to grip an object.
Training protocols, such as powerlifting, bodybuilding, and high-intensity functional training like CrossFit all require grip strength to compete and lift heavy. A grueling metcon can leave you fatigued and slow you down especially as your chipping away in the workout round after round. Having good grip strength is crucial to focus on proper form and push yourself through a workout.
In fact, a study published in the Journal Of Strength And Conditioning Research found that hand grip strength is a predictor of muscle strength and endurance [R]. Beyond fitness however, grip strength is also an indicator of overall health. Research has shown that low grip strength is associated with chronic comorbidities, functional disabilities, and even death [R]. Now that I have your attention, let’s talk about how to strengthen your grip with some proven grip exercises.
Deadlifts can help increase grip strength by physically adding stress to your forearms and lifting a heavy barbell. There’s honestly no better way to strengthen your grip, than lifting heavy things floor, then putting them back down again. Deadlifts also have a variety of hand grips that you can use, such as over-under, over hand, or under hand, increasing grip strength with several different techniques.
The Zottman curl is a fantastic exercise to help improve grip strength. Once the dumbbell is curled, a rotation occurs, with a slow eccentric phase, developing strong forearm strength. The real benefit of the Zottman curl is that the positive portion of each rep contracts the biceps (biceps brachii and brachialis) and the negative phase targets the forearms (brachioradialis and brachialis muscles). The force of the weight on the way back down can drastically improve forearm strength and improve your grip.
The farmer’s carry, farmer’s walk, and loaded walks are wonderful ways to increase overall stability, grip strength, and improve exercise conditioning. When gripping the item (dumbbells, kettlebells, etc.) and holding that grip for a distance, the flexors of the forearms and the biceps are actively engaged to stabilize the weight in the hand. When you’re challenging yourself with staying upright and taking controlled steps over a specific distance, the bigger muscles in the upper body like the core and back muscles, stabilize the spine, support posture, and help us to not topple over.
When it comes to grip strength there are a few defined types of gripping
Crushing is the action of closing the fingers against resistance. Essentially crush grip is the ability to squeeze something between your fingers and palm and crimping (directing force with the fingers toward the callous line) is also part of crushing grip.
Pinching involves grasping something with the thumbs in opposition to the fingers, between the tips of your fingers and the thumbs. This can be static (no movement, such as gripping a book) or dynamic (such as rock climbing, throwing objects, and carrying sandbags.
Support grip entails lifting something with the fingers taking the brunt of a load within an isometric movement, like deadlifts, kettlebell movements, farmers carry, and holding it for an extended period of time. True support grip involves the fingers wrapping well around the bar. If the handle is large enough that there is a space between the fingers and thumb, it is referred to as open hand support.
Hand extension is the opening of the fingers and thumb (antagonistic action to flexion of the fingers and thumb).
Research suggests that grip strength is an indicator of concurrent overall strength, endurance, upper limb function, bone mineral density, malnutrition, cognitive impairment, depression, sleep problems, diabetes, comorbidity, and quality of life. In addition to being an indicator for overall health, grip strength is vitally important to improve athletic performance and training outcomes.
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