Grip training: it has to be the most ignored type of training in gyms all over the World. Seriously, how often will you see someone working on their grip in the gym? Almost never, right? No one really seems to care. How much you bench press is all that really matters anyway – which is sarcasm if you didn’t catch the drift. That can all change for you if you start using this list of best grip training exercises along with the additional tips to make the most of incorporating them into your workout.
While grip training does not really have much of an impact on how much you can lift, it still can be important. A lot of people use straps as an excuse not to work on their grip. I mean you can deadlift 600 lbs with straps, so why would you work on your grip? Well, if you are ever planning on entering some type of powerlifting competition, then you will not be allowed to use them.
How to Develop a Strong Grip
The only way to make sure you get a more effective grip is to just work on your forearms with grip training. This can be done with any type of forearm exercise really. When you are doing deadlifts, you should try to never progress without straps.
It may be a pain in the ass not being able to bust past a plateau because your grip keeps giving out, but that is why you have to keep working on it! Don’t be that guy who can deadlift 500 lbs with straps but can only deadlift 3 plates without them.
Anatomy of the Forearms (Grip)
The forearm comprises around 20 different muscles, but it contains two main ones: the flexors and the extensors. The flexors are on the side of the palm of the hand and the extensors are on the opposite side.
Function of the Forearms (Grip)
The flexors and the extensors both regulate the movement of the wrist, fingers, thumb, and they can also control which way the hand faces. It pretty much controls the whole hand more or less.
The Top 5 Best Grip Exercises
Combined with the top 5 best forearm exercises, you have all the tools you need to develop crushing grip strength and huge forearms. I tried to avoid duplication as much as possible by focusing strictly on grip training in this article, and strictly mass-gaining forearm exercises in the forearm article.
As mentioned above, the deadlift is an amazing exercise. Forearms are just another muscle that are hit hard by heavy deads. If you decide to use straps, then you will not get the maximum benefit, but if you can use just chalk then you will be well on your way to having strong and massive forearms.
To start a deadlift, use your whole body to begin to lift the bar off the floor. Arms should be straight, hands shoulder-width apart, knees should be bent. The object is to lift the weight with your legs, glutes, and hips, rather than with your lower back. In fact, your lower back should not bend that much, should in fact be pretty straight, and should definitely NOT be rounded. You accomplish this by keeping your head up and by driving with your hips.
As you push with your legs, remember to drive your feet down through the floor. It is of utmost importance to keep the bar close to your body during the lift.
At the top, you should stand up straight, but do not over-extend your lower back as if you were doing some kind of hyper-extension. The driving force at the top should be more of a hip thrust than a lower back spasm. Lower the bar under control, keeping it close to your body.
Some people use a conventional grip with pronated hands – your palms face towards your body when you grab the bar. Most lifters find they are much stronger with an alternating grip – one hand pronated, one hand supinated. It is awkward the first couple of times, but most athletes tend to prefer the alternating grip.
Alternate your alternating grip! With each set, you should switch the position of each hand. Some people tend to save their strongest grip for their heaviest set. This is perfectly OK.
Layne Norton is using a bit of a different bar in this video, but it is the same concept.
2. Plate Pinching
A great exercise for finger and grip strength.
You will need 4 plates to start with – 2 for each hand. Start with 5 lbs plates if you are small, weak, or female, otherwise start with 10s. Pinch two plates together with each hand. Your thumb should be on the bottom and your other fingers on top. If possible it is best to pinch with the flat sides out so you won’t get distracted by ribbing, knurling, writing, or embossing. Don’t you dare use the hole in the middle of the plate either! Cheater!
You can use a stopwatch to see how long you can pinch without your grip giving out. To gauge progress, your goal is to pinch more weight for longer periods of time. You can also get an idea of which hand is strongest and use an extra set here or there to try to even out the imbalance.
You could also attempt a 3 plate pinch, or if you feel really strong, try pinching some 25s or even 45s. Hey, the strongmen do it!
3. Towel Pull ups
You will start by wrapping a towel around the top part of the pull-up bar. After you do that, you will grab each side of the towel, and do the normal pull-up version by using your lats to pull your body up toward the top of the bar. After you reach the top, slowly lower yourself back to the starting position. Not only will this improve your grip, but it will also give you huge lats.
4. Rack Pulls
You will need a squat rack for this exercise. Start by moving the safety bars down to a place where the bar will rest at about knee height. Once you get the safety bars at about knee height, then you will place the bar on the safety rack. You will perform this exercise the same way you did the deadlift.
Once the bar is in position, put your feet about shoulder-width apart. You will then grip the bar a little wider than shoulder-width. Now that you are in position, pull the bar up from the bar and then lower it back down to the safety bars.
5. Static Holds and Farmers Carries
I prefer to do something useful when I’m holding a weight, so while I’m standing there I make sure to shrug as many times as I can to get that extra trap work in. Once you can’t shrug any longer you can still stand there with the weight and hold on as long as possible. Or perhaps your grip will give out before you can finish shrugging.
You will start this exercise by lying a standard 45 lb barbell inside the squat rack on the safety bars where you can safely pick it up without it touching the safety bar. After you pick the bar up, you will hold it as long as possible without straps and with a double overhand grip. You should try to have someone time you on a stopwatch. Each workout, you should try to continue adding weight to the bar and hold it for a longer time each time. This will show progression.
Any other equipment besides a barbell would also be fine, and some would say better. Consider dumbbells, anvils, or anything else that’s heavy. When each arm has its own equipment, we can use variations such as farmers’ carries – basically, walk around holding the weight without resting it.
Additional Grip Training Strategies
Aside from incorporating the top 5 best forearm exercises into workout routine, you can improve your forearm training simply by using these additional techniques on other exercises.
Resist Using Wrist Straps
Wrist-straps will take the stress off the forearms and short-change the trainer in this area. In order to fully stimulate the forearms, they require maximal squeezing. Straps compensate for a weak grip and it follows that they will negate any form of forearm stimulation, as they prevent optimal squeezing. Those with the strongest grips tend to have the biggest forearms.
Use A Thick Bar
This will increase the difficulty associated with gripping the bar and will contribute to significant increases in forearm size. If you don’t have a thick bar, wrap a towel or a piece of rubber around the bar to make it thicker.
Use a Rope
When doing any kind of pulling exercises such as rows or pull-ups, use a rope instead of a bar. You will have to squeeze hard towards the end of each set just to hold on to the weight. This might impact the other muscle group you are training (predominantly back when rowing or pulling), but will hit your forearms and grip hard.
Sand grabbing is a great grip strength exercise. Simply fill a bucket full of sand, reach in, grab a handful, let it go, grab another handful, flex your fingers, grab another handful, pull it out, drop it, reach in again, etc… Basically, work your hands and fingers all around in the sand until your hands are completely fatigued.
Practice with Grippers
I almost didn’t want to mention grippers because 99.9% of grippers suck. You will need to get the Captains of Crush grippers from Ironmind. Start with level 1 unless you are positive that you already have a world-class grip. Work your way up to level 4 and you’ll be famous.
Tags: bicep training, biceps, exercise technique, forearm training, forearms, grip, grip training, Weight Training, weightlifting
Thank you! I will start doing some of these exercises because my grip is weak and I want to be stronger, not just for physical appearance also for daily activities.
Good post, I didn’t know some of them.
Take a look at these folks http://www.handmasterplus.co.uk The only exerciser to work the muscles on BOTH sides of your hand.
Apart from increasing your grip and thus making your job at the gym a whole lot easire, forearm exercises really make you arms look “complete” – as opposed to having thin forearms and huge biceps. And, I should think, that strong forearms come in useful for daily use: carrying bags or heavy loads. I mean let’s be honest, biceps look good, but it’s the forearms that do most of the work everyday.
Great post. So good to keep thinking of other ways to build grip strength.
I do a lot of kettlebell and pull up work. Recently I’ve been working through an April Challenge of 10,000+ kettlebell swings. I’m on track but my grip has been the weakest link. You’ve given me some great ideas – I especially like the towel pullup suggestion.
Thank you, I didn´t know some of them.
I miss many of these moves, as they truly magic for strength and size! I had lumbar surgery (minor-laminectomy) in Nov 2011 to remove a bone spur/clean the disc. 4 years of sciatica and a car crash to top it off. There is so much conflicting info on whether most these moves are ever safe again post surgery. If you ask the medical community, it is an absolute no (avoid vertical spinal loading). Well, that pretty much eliminates all of these. I kept up with Yoga, Pilates, and light resistance work and my size went to hell in a hand basket.
Sand grabbing. Definately an exercises you would never think of. Sounds like a good one. I’ll have to try it.
Great stuff. I never use straps for any exercise but I never focus on forearms. I usually work on big muscle groups. Anyway towel pull-ups seem like good exercise, for forearms as well as for a back. I should try it.
Yes, you really should.
I avoid using wrist wraps as well, but must admit don’t do much forearm training. In the past I’ve done exercises with a dumbell with my forearms place on my uper legs while sitting and curl my wrists and hands upward (both facing up and facing down). These seem okay, but I can see they certainly won’t develop the strength the set of exercises you list above. Excellent list of forearm exercises. I like the plate pinch one especially … I can already feel the burn.
nice videos regarding forearm exercise. must be tiring too.
Towel ups are such an awesome forearm burner. Easy to do them just chuck a towel over the top of a beam in your house and start crackin
Good stuff man! I was just thinking I needed to work on my grip work after starting dead lifting again. Thanks!
Again great post! Good job Steve!