In the gyms across the world, not enough time and effort is put on training the forearms and the grip. This is very strange and has a negative impact on training progress. If the trainees do work the forearms, they might throw in a few half hearted wrist curls at the end of their workout. Most people do not appreciate the fact that stronger the grip/forearms, the easier it is to hold on to a barbell, a racquet or an opponent. Though it goes without saying that initially the grip and forearms get stronger just by doing any kind of exercise where you have to hold on to a heavy implement.
But very soon, the trainee starts using wrist straps to lift heavier weight, losing all chance to progressively load the forearms and the grip. So, we see a strange phenomenon – a trainee who can lift heavy weights but cannot actually hold on to them! Does this make you stronger or sets you up as dysfunctional – big muscles with a weak grip.In a lot of ways, the trainee is not a fault as he/she is started on this path by trainers who should know better. For example, the alternate grip (one palm up and one palm down) used in the deadlift is taught right from day one. The trainee never gets a chance to develop the forearm/grip strength while using the over hand grip (both palms facing down).
Strengthening the grip
There are different types of grip strength and as many ways to train them.
•Support grip – this is the ability to hold on to something heavy – most useful while deadlifting, carrying heavy groceries etc. Strengthening it is pretty simple – hold a heavy barbell in your hands for 15-20 seconds. Slowly increasing the time to about a minute. Then increase the weight on the bar and start again.
•Crush grip – is what most people refer to when they say somebody has a strong grip. Having the ability to squeeze really hard is crush grip. This is best trained by using the grippers available in the market. You can also train it in the gym by squeezing barbells and dumbbells really hard while lifting weights. Though the ideal way to use them in the gym would be to use extra thick bars or wrap something over them to make them thicker.
•Pinch grip –this grip challenges thumb strength and the ability to hold something between the fingers and the thumb. Hold two 5 kg or 10 pound plates between the fingers and the thumb for 10-15 seconds. Slowly increase the time to 30-45 seconds and then go up in weight. Rinse, repeat.
Support grip is the ability to hold on to something heavy – most useful while deadlifting ( Shuterstock )
Programme for a strong grip
Do this program at the end of your training for the day. Do not do it as the first thing because if the grip is tired, you would not be able to lift anything heavy. Preferably do it on the day you train your lower body. So, do the programme twice a week.
•Support grip – three sets, 15 seconds holds – load the bar with enough weigh. Grip it in an overhand style. You should squeeze the bar with all your strength.
•Pinch grip – 2-3 sets, 15 seconds – take two, 10- pound plates, hold them with the smooth sides out. Squeeze the life out of them.
Working the gripper can be done at home, while watching TV, surfing the net etc. Do as many reps you can and slowly increase them. Grip training is critically important if you want to be strong and not just look buff. Hypertrophy, six pack abs are good goals but tend to be meaningless if your grip is weak.
Working the gripper can be done at home, while watching TV, surfing the net et al ( Shutterstock )
So, try the above program and get back to me!
Kamal Singh is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist who has been coaching for 15 years