The strength of your grip is crucial to your athletic and training performance. Whether it's locking out a PR deadlift, choking out your partner in jiu jitsu practice, or giving a firm handshake upon first meeting someone, a strong grip is the ultimate sign of a strong dude.
As an added bonus, training your grip also increases recruitment of the muscles of your rotator cuff, so you get an added benefit of healthier shoulders as well as a vice-like grip.
Carries and deadlifts are the obvious (and best) choices for developing a crushing grip, big traps, and girthy forearms. But these heavily loaded exercises are quite taxing on the CNS, so while they should be staples in your program, you can only do them a few times per week with any substantial load.
Using a battle rope for these common exercises below will give you a big return on your training investment by:
- Increasing the frequency with which you can train your grip.
- Improving your joint positions due to irradiation – when you grip harder, you reflexively contract your rotator cuff, glutes, and abs harder.
- Better joint positions lead to better muscle recruitment, which means more force development and less wear and tear.
There's nothing wrong with doing these exercises with their traditional tools, but if you want to get bigger forearms, a stronger grip, and healthier shoulders, they're worth subbing in.
1. Battle Rope Curl
Set a battle rope up over a chin-up bar or power rack. Using a neutral grip, keep your upper arms perpendicular to your torso and curl your thumbs to your hairline. Keep your abs braced while contracting your glutes and quads to eliminate cheating. Use these in place of your last biceps exercise of the day or at the end of a pull-focused day for 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps.
2. Battle Rope Triceps Extension
This will smoke your abs, triceps, and forearms. Set yourself up with a battle rope over a rack or chin-up bar. Keeping your upper arms perpendicular to your body, bend at the elbows until they pass by your face, but not so far as to lose tension on the triceps, before extending them back out.
Brace hard so there's no lower back extension at any time. The lower the angle, the more of your weight you'll have to handle. Start conservatively and work your way down closer to parallel to increase the difficulty. Perform 2-3 sets of 10-12 at the end of an upper body or arm day.
3. Battle Rope Face Pull
Face pulls are key no matter who you are, but especially if you have shoulder impingement issues. These will give you more activation in your rotator cuff and increase the subacromion space, which will better position the glenohumeral joint, yielding better muscle activation in the rear delts and upper back.
Set up as if you were going to do an inverted row, heels in the ground and upper arms perpendicular to your torso. With your elbows wide, drive them back while pulling your thumbs towards your ears. Do 2-4 sets of 10-12 before, between, or after heavy press sets, or at the end of a pull-focused day.
4. Inverted Row
Instead of traditional inverted rows using suspension straps, try this variation instead. Drive your elbows back and pull your shoulder blades down into your back pockets, without extending through your lower back. Around 2-4 sets of 10-12 reps is a perfect finishing touch on any pulling-focused training session.
Related: Grip Training for the Deadlift
- Sporrong H, Palmerud G, Herberts P. "Hand grip increases shoulder muscle activity, An EMG analysis with static hand contractions in 9 subjects." PMID: 8948256