While lifters will spend hours writing programs that target every possible angle of their pecs, grip work is commonly overlooked... and that's probably what's holding them back from getting bigger and stronger.
If you've used straps pulling 225 pounds from the floor, your grip sucks. Sorry, it's true. Here's what to do about it.
The Dead Hang
Just the act of holding a dumbbell engages the forearms to some degree. But how do you train your grip strength directly? There are some foolproof training methods that you probably already know about, like farmer's carries and barbell holds.
But what's the missing ingredient in most strength programs? Dead hangs. Unless you have shoulder issues, these are a must.
How to Do It
- Hang from a bar for at least 30 seconds
- Rest 15 seconds
- Hang for another 30 seconds
- Rest 15 seconds
- See how many sets you can do (cap yourself off at 10)
Too easy? Add bands:
- Place a couple of heavy dumbbells on each side.
- Loop a band around each dumbbell and then loop each band around your shoulder on the same side.
- Hang for 30 seconds.
- Rest 15 seconds.
- See how many sets you can do. It will be a lot fewer than with bodyweight alone. You'll feel a good stretch in your lats as well.
Do this at the end of your squat and deadlift workouts for spinal decompression. To avoid grip fatigue, don't do it the day before heavy deadlifts.
Still Not Convinced?
"Wait, can't I just build grip strength with big, compound lifts?"
You're thinking about it backwards. Don't let your grip be the limiting factor in the lifts you COULD be doing with more weight. Here are a few things that'll motivate you to do direct grip work:
- Strength increases in the main lifts: Your forearms are typically the weak link during compound lifts like deadlifts and pull-ups. Why? They're smaller muscles. And with the overuse of straps and false grips during compound lifts, our forearms rarely get the attention they deserve.
- Muscular endurance: Again, the forearms are usually the weak link. And again, since they're smaller muscles they're going to fatigue faster and hold you back from completing sets. Ever do pull-ups and all you can feel are your forearms and not your lats? Yeah, do more grip work.
- You'll look jacked: Get some beef on those forearms and let people know you actually lift weights.
- Injury prevention: A stronger grip means stronger wrists which are a couple of the smallest, most vulnerable areas of the body.
- Athletic performance: Punching, throwing, climbing – it all improves with grip work. I don't recommend testing your new punching power on some rando at the gym, but if he's doing a burpee-pull-up circuit combo in the power rack, you might have to.