What are the Benefits of Hand Grip Exercises?

Hand grip exercises are rarely discussed when it comes to strength training, yet they play a large role in your ability to lift heavy objects. You may have the strongest legs and back in the world, but if your grip is weak, you’re not deadlifting very much at all. 

In this article, we will be taking a look at some of the benefits of hand grip exercises. We will help you understand why they can be so effective when added to your training program. 

What are the Benefits of Hand Grip Exercises?

Hand grip exercises can help to build strong, powerful forearms and wrists. They can also help to improve your lifting potential in most pulling exercises. Deadlifts in particular, can benefit from improving your grip strength.

What Muscles Affect Grip Strength?

There are several muscles that affect grip strength, and their names are quite obscure. There are three muscles that contribute the most to grip strength [1], these are:

  • Flexor digitorum profundis (FDP)
  • Flexor pollicis longus (FPL)
  • Extensor digitorum communis (EDC) 

Other muscles in the forearm can also help, for example the brachioradialis muscle can help you to grip items using a neutral grip. 

What are the Benefits of Hand Grip Exercises?

There are many benefits to performing hand grip exercises. These benefits can range from reducing your risk of injuries such as tendonitis, to allowing you more control during a bench press or deadlift. 

Here are some of the most useful benefits:

Hand grip for training the hand and arm muscles. White man’s arm training.

Benefit #1 Allow you to perform certain sports better

A stronger grip can be beneficial for a number of sports. Competitive rock climbers rely on incredible grip and pinching strength when climbing up vertical surfaces. Tennis players require a firm grip of their rackets during a match. 

Wrestlers, MMA fighters, and other athletes who perform grappling moves all need a powerful grip. Racket sports, club sports, grappling sports, or certain ball sports can all be improved with a stronger grip.

Benefit #2 Reduce risk of injury

A common injury for many athletes is tendonitis, in the wrist, shoulder, elbow. There can be many causes of these injuries, however, a weak grip is a very common cause. Increasing your grip strength can help improve your grip technique and help to reduce the risk of tendonitis. 

Benefit #3 Allow you to lift heavier weights

If you enjoy strength training then strengthening your grip is essential. For many exercises, particularly those that require pulling movements, your grip plays a crucial role. If you don’t have the strength to maintain a proper grip, then your other muscles’ work will go for nothing. 

There is a reason why many new lifters opt for lifting straps when deadlifting. Lifting straps help them to compensate for a weakened grip. But long term, lifting straps can only get you so far.

Benefit #4 Help to build powerful looking forearms

Many hand grip exercises can help you to build powerful looking forearms. In women, this can lead to long, lean looking arms. In men, large forearms can help to create the image of a powerful, strong athlete. Sure, it’s just an aesthetic benefit, but isn’t that why most people train?

Benefit #5 Strong Handshake

It is amazing how much business and social interactions are influenced by subtle and sometimes subconscious stimuli. 

A strong handshake is seen as powerful and can provide you with an aura of trustworthiness and confidence. Hand grip exercises can help in this regard. 

Why is Hand Grip Strength Important?

Hand grip strength is important because it is often the weakest link of any lift. A weak grip can stop you from achieving powerful lifts, even if every other muscle is strong. Poor grip strength forces other muscles to compensate and can lead to bad posture and form during exercises. 

Weak grip strength can even be dangerous in certain situations. When performing pull ups, you really want a strong grip to prevent you from falling to the floor! A strong grip is also crucial during a bench press, when you will have a heavy barbell hanging over your chest. 

Do Hand Grip Exercises Work?

Yes, for the most part hand grip exercises work well. You can purchase hand grippers, which work at improving pinching strength as well as grip strength. 

Hand grippers can help you to build grip strength on rest days, but there are plenty of regular exercises that will do just as good a job (if not better). 

We will be looking at ten of the best exercises for increasing grip strength in the next section. Note how each exercise works multiple muscles rather than just the muscles of the wrist and forearm. You could create a decent workout out of these exercises. 

10 Best Exercises for Increasing Grip Strength

Here are ten of the best exercises for increasing your grip strength, each one of these is a regular exercise that can be performed in the gym. 

Exercise #1 Farmer’s Walk

This is perhaps the best grip strength exercise on this list. All you have to do is hold a heavy weight in each hand (either a dumbbell, kettlebell, or weight plate). With your arms straight down by your sides you just walk in a straight line (chest pushed out and shoulders back) for as long as your grip holds out. 

Not only will this strengthen your grip massively, but it will also work your core muscles and is a decent low intensity cardio exercise. 

You can use farmer’s walks to improve your grip strength by using heavier weights. Or you can improve your grip endurance by using lighter weights and walking for longer. But it is a good idea to decide before starting and experiment with different weights. 

Exercise #2 Shrugs

A powerful upper back exercise, the shrug is also an amazing grip strength exercise. Shrugs can be performed with dumbbells, kettlebells, a barbell, weight plates, or it can be performed in a Smith machine

Exercise #3 Deadlifts

The deadlift is a great exercise and works the majority of muscles in your body. 

If you have decent grip strength then a deadlift will help you build it further. If you have poor grip strength then try rack pulls (see below) instead. 

Using a mixed grip (one hand over the bar, one under) can help you lift more weight if your grip is bad, or the bar is too slippery. 

Exercise #4 Rack Pulls

Rack pulls are a better grip strength exercise than deadlifts because they have a shorter range of motion. This allows you to lift a heavier weight, which will work your grip and your lockout more. 

Set the bar up so that it is either just below or just above your knees when you are in the deadlift position. 

Exercise #5 Pull Ups

There is a lot of grip required to perform pull ups and chin ups, and this makes it a great exercise for improving your grip strength. 

You can use an assisted pull up machine if regular pull ups are too difficult. However, this takes away a lot of the strain on the grip, so you would want to increase the number of reps significantly. 

Exercise #6 Towel Pull Ups

This is a version of pull ups that works the grip even more. 

Wrap a towel over the pull up bar and grab hold of each edge with your hands. Then pull yourself up using the towel. 

This will work your grip like crazy and requires a high quality towel!

Exercise #7 Plate Pinch

Hold a weight plate in each hand using a pinch grip for as long as you can. Once you can’t hold it any more, lower the plates to the floor and have a rest. 

Repeat for 2-5 more sets. If the plates have handles then avoid them, you are pinching the top of the plates. 

Exercise #8 Wrist Curls

This is more of a forearm exercise than a grip exercise, but it can still give you a good grip workout. 

Rest your forearms on an exercise bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Pull your hands backwards while keeping your forearms on the bench. Then slowly lower the weights back down again. 

Exercise #9 Hammer Curls

This is another exercise that is more of a forearm exercise than a grip one. But it will still strengthen your grip. 

Hold a dumbbell in each hand using a neutral grip. Push your chest out, pull your shoulders back, and have your arms straight down by your sides. 

Keeping your elbows tight by your sides, slowly raise the dumbbells up until they are almost touching your shoulders. Use a neutral grip throughout. Pause, and then slowly lower the weights back down. Seriously slowly, as this will give the best forearm and grip workout. 

Exercise #10 Reverse Bicep Curls

Just like the hammer curls, reverse bicep curls are an amazing forearm exercise that can also increase your grip strength. This is thanks to the odd angle this exercise places your arms in. 

You perform a reverse bicep curl exactly the same as you would a hammer curl. Except that instead of a neutral grip, you use an overhand grip. And, instead of having your arms by your sides, you have your arms in front of you, resting on your thighs to start with. 

Again, it’s all about the eccentric (lowering) part of the movement. As you lower the dumbbells back down to the starting position, you do so as slowly and with as much control as possible. This will put a lot of pressure on your forearms and grip, providing you with a superb workout. 

Final Thoughts

Building your grip up by using hand grippers and specifically designed grip strength exercises (plate pinches, farmer’s walks, towel pull ups) is a great idea. Combining this with other exercises that have other goals yet still work your grip will offer you the best of both worlds. 

The important thing is to be consistent with your grip exercises, and consistent with your regular training. Over time, your grip will improve, allowing you to perform more ambitious lifts, and helping you in life and sport. 

While hand grippers are decent, they only work one form of grip, and there are many different types of grip (overhand, neutral, underhand, pinch). So don’t rely on them alone to improve your overall grip. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What Muscles Do Hand Grip Exercises Work?

Hand grip exercises can work the three main gripping muscles, flexor digitorum profundis, flexor pollicis longus, and extensor digitorum communis. Most hand grip exercises will work other muscles too, such as the brachioradialis muscle. 

Does Hanging Increase Grip Strength?

Yes, it can. But there are better alternatives to just hanging. You could perform pull ups, or hanging leg raises. These would also work your back and your abs respectively. Towel-grip hanging would strengthen your grip even more. 

Do Dips Increase Grip Strength?

Dips require you to support your entire body by gripping the dip bars hard, so there will be some increases in grip strength. But there are better exercises out there if your goal is specifically to build grip strength. 

Can You Use Hand Grippers Every Day?

You can, but it may negatively affect other exercises if you are working out. Overly-fatigued forearm muscles could negatively affect bench pressing, pull ups, deadlifts, rack pulls, bicep curls, and a whole range of differing exercises. 

How Long Should You Do Hand Grip Exercises For?

Two to three exercises for grip strength per workout should be more than sufficient. With three sets per exercise, this would take up 10 to 15 minutes. Do this once or twice per week for good results. Using exercises such as deadlifts, shrugs, pull ups, etc to build grip strength is an entirely different matter, as these are not isolation movements. So just perform them as normal as part of a full body workout. 

References

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4013148/

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