Grip strength is a common issue among powerlifters, CrossFit athletes and anyone else who lifts weights. Your hand and forearm muscles are responsible for holding onto weights; without strong hands you won’t be able to hang onto a barbell or handle long enough to hit rep goals or lift heavy enough for personal records.
Thankfully, there are exercises that can help build the grip strength needed to break through any barriers. And you don’t have to go overboard with these exercises or completely revamp your workout regimen in order to see results.
The initial step is recognizing when stronger hands are necessary. If you find that opening bottles of salsa or doing pull-ups causes your hands to sweat, it’s time for some changes.
Jessica Rios, C.S.C.S, author of The Ultimate Guide to Strength Training, suggests that if your grip isn’t as strong as it could be a sign that you’re not using it properly in daily tasks. “This could include not picking up boxes or carrying bags as easily as necessary or having difficulty performing pull-ups.”
There are some simple exercises you can do at home without adding to your workout regimen. Some require minimal equipment from a gym, while others are suitable for home use only.
Plate curls are an effective way to strengthen your biceps while building grip strength. Begin with a light weight and gradually increase it over time; you can use a dumbbell, cable machine, or barbell.
Rios recommends this exercise for strengthening your forearm tendons and muscle, which is one of the best ways to increase grip strength. With greater grip strength, you’ll be able to hold onto heavier objects when performing pull-ups and other lifting movements.
You can do this exercise with any weight, from a few pounds to several hundred. But for optimal results, keep your wrists in a straight line and your fingers clenched for added support.
Plate pinch is an exercise that can become challenging quickly, so start slow. Grab a lightweight plate and reach down to pick it up with your hand; then squeeze both thumbs and fingers together as you stand up to hold the pinched position for thirty seconds, according to Rios.
Once you feel confident, increase the weight and try to hold it in a pinch position for as long as possible. Repeat with each arm. This exercise strengthens both finger and thumb strength simultaneously, making it ideal for field sports like football or wrestling, as well as climbing.
According to Iowa State University researcher Jennifer Lefkowith, wrist rollers are an effective grip strengthening exercise. You’ll need a towel for this one as it may prove challenging for some individuals.
Towels can be soaked to help develop a crush grip, or simply run under water to make them drier for other grip types. After soaking, twist the towel gently to remove as much water as possible before resoaking.