So what is ‘grip strength’ and why does it matter?
Grip strength refers to the level of strength we have in smaller muscles like fingers, hands, wrists and forearms to grip and, in turn, support heavier and more complex lifting and movements. Think about doing a heavy deadlift: we are looking to work the muscles of the glutes and legs, which are the biggest in the body, but we also need our grip to hold onto what will invariably be a heavy weight.
While most people don’t train specifically to increase grip strength, there are a number of compelling reasons to do so. Boosting your grip strength will not only allow you to more effectively progressively overload muscles (enabling you to become stronger and fitter!), but it will also help you complete functional movements more easily - think opening jars, carrying boxes and turning door knobs! While we might not always realise it when we’re young and healthy, functional fitness (or lack thereof) becomes more and more important as we age.
Solid grip strength will also enhance your ability to perform quality movements with good technique, resulting in less chance of injury.
Why do some people have better grip strength than others?
Some people may be predisposed to developing muscles that are better suited to short, powerful bursts of heavy lifting; some may be more suited to endurance efforts; and others may have a mix of both!
Those that lean towards endurance or a mix of both may have better grip strength than others. Some studies also suggest that grip strength can be an indicator of overall health, so less-than-average grip strength could be a result of other factors.
Benefits of having a strong grip
Toning those micro muscles is beneficial outside the gym too. Here are five benefit of have a strong grip:
- It can help prevent tendinitis.
- You'll minimise your chances of getting carpal tunnel syndrome.
- There's less of a risk you'll get arthritis.
- You'll improve your fine motor skills.
- You'll get stronger at the gym because you'll be able to lift heavier weights.
How do I improve my grip strength?
Here are 5 key exercises:
- Barbell lifting: Any heavy lifting with barbells will help improve your grip strength! And we should always be incorporating a heavier weight training session or two into our weekly workout regime.
- ‘Farmers Holds’ with heavy kettlebells are great! Try a heavy kettlebell in each hand while standing and hold for as long as possible. Make note of the time and try to go a little longer every session or for up to three sets. Once you are comfortable standing, try adding short walks to challenge yourself more.
- Performing a plate pinch will help pinching-specific grip strength. Start with a light plate; pick it up by the narrow edge and hold for as long as possible. Try bigger plates and longer holds over time.
- Gripping and squeezing a stress ball a few times a day will help improve grip strength, as well as providing a good mindfulness exercise!
- Flexed arm hangs from a chin-up bar are awesome, too! Jump up so your chin is above the bar and lower yourself until you have a 90-degree bend in the arm. Make note of the time and hold for longer each session!