Go through any bodybuilding magazine or website, and you’ll almost always find articles on how to build bigger biceps or how to increase your bench press. However, one thing you don’t see that often, is information on how to improve grip strength. While grip training isn’t overly complicated, there can be some confusion about it. This article will attempt to simplify it for you.
Grip Strength vs Forearm Size
Some make the mistake of thinking that a stronger grip will automatically lead to bigger, more muscular forearms, and vice versa. While this can be true at times, large forearms don’t always mean a strong grip, as the forearms can be built up with wrist curl variations, just like the biceps are built with biceps curls. However, this won’t necessarily lead to a better grip. In fact, many grip strength record holders have fairly small forearms in comparison to bodybuilders. This is because the forearms only play a small role in grip strength. A better grip is also built in the hands, wrists, fingers, tendons, and more.
Different Types of Grip Strength
One thing many who aren’t grip training aficionados don’t realize is that there are many different forms of grip strength. The “crushing” grip strength it takes to close a gripper comes from the thumb and fingers as much as it does the forearm. Switch from a gripper to trying to pinch two olympic barbell plates together, and now a great deal of emphasis is placed upon the center part of the hand. Consider swinging a hammer around all day like a carpenter, and you need as much grip endurance as you do grip strength, not to mention strong wrists.
How to Improve Grip Strength for Bodybuilding
While bodybuilders have no need of being grip strength masters, having a better grip can make them stronger overall, as well as contribute to muscular development. As such, it would behoove any aspiring bodybuilder to include some elementary grip work into their overall program. Here are a few ideas:
Limit the Use of Straps – While straps can allow you to use more weight on exercises such as heavy rows and deadlifts, don’t use them as a crutch. Too many lifters start using straps entirely too early and limit any potential grip development they could get. Feel free to still use straps on your heaviest top-end sets, but take them off for everything else.
Timed Static Holds – End every workout with timed static hold. All you have to do is pick up and hold a heavy pair of dumbbells for as long as you can. Another option would be to hold a barbell in a rack or even hang from a pullup bar. Hold or hang as long as you can, trying to lengthen that time by at least a second or two every outing.
Gripper Work – Get yourself a gripper and do sets of 10-12 reps with both hands several times per day. Space out your sets so that you have plenty of rest in between so as to not accidentally overtrain the nervous system. Start with 5-6 sets spread throughout the day, building up to 10-12. Once you can do this easily, bump up to a more difficult gripper.
While the above is only a very brief primer on how to improve grip strength, it’s more than enough to get you started. If bodybuilding is your primary goal, these tips will likely be more than you’ll ever need. Keep progress on these as consistent as it is in other strength / muscle building areas, and you should be set.