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How to Improve Your Grip Strength

Posted by Nathan Lloyd on Jan 7th 2022

YBell founder Aaron “Az” Laurence holds a YBell in a double grip.

How to Improve Your Grip Strength

A proper grip is essential when doing activities such as carrying, lifting, swinging, or throwing. Our hands are the first body part that we use to hold any object. A tight grip is needed to complete a lift, so it’s vital to learn how to improve grip strength.

Whether you're planning to lift weights or have difficulty carrying heavy objects, improving your grip strength is one way to solve this problem.

Unfortunately, grip exercises and workouts are often excluded from exercise programs. If you’re interested to know more about how to improve grip strength, keep reading.

There Are 5 Types of Grips to Consider

1. Crush

One way to improve grip strength is by crushing — this is where your hand is closing around something. This movement mostly resembles grip-specific machines or grip training devices.

You can do this by finding activities that require squeezing your fingers into the palm of your hand. Some examples are shaking hands, squeezing a tennis ball, or gripping a barbell.

YBell Fitness creator and founder Aaron “Az” Laurence constantly urges his clients to “crush the YBell” when performing any ground-based exercises such as chest push-ups or push-up rows. Crushing enables you to slow down your repetition and focus on time under tension for each movement.

2. Pinch

Another way to improve your grip strength is by pinching. This grip involves a lot of work and stress on the thumb, which is essential for a strong grip. Pinching also refers to how you can firmly grip an object between your fingers and thumb.

Try to imagine making an alligator mouth with your hands and champing down. Other examples of pinching activities include rock climbing, throwing a ball, and simply opening a jar.

3. Support

Support is slightly similar to crush. However, it focuses more on the ability to hold rather than the ability to close. You can think of it as the ability to hang or hold onto an object for an extended period. Support is also the most critical type of grip to master if you plan to do weight lifting.

This type of grip is used when hanging onto a bar, such as pulling-ups and hanging leg raises. You can also do it by carrying groceries and pushing shopping carts.

4. Extension

An extension is a type of grip exercise that focuses more on strengthening the opposing muscles. Research shows that doing the flexion-extension grip force positively affects the muscle groups of the forearm.

According to studies, the measurement of extension grip strength can also be a valuable tool to cure the diagnosis of lateral epicondylitis (LE) patients. People diagnosed with LE have a decreased grip strength when moving from flexion to extension.

5. Wrist Work

The main focus of doing wrist work is to improve your wrist stability and wrist movement. You want to ensure that every link in the chain is strong so that energy can be transferred from the body through your hands.

This type of grip work is also commonly used by weightlifters. You can do wrist work by opening pickle jars.

Additionally, the YBell Neo is a fantastic tool for improving flexion-extension grip force by holding the YBell by its outer handle. Start by holding the YBell with an outer grip with your arm completely extended. Then, simply flex your wrist downward toward the floor and back up to the ceiling while your arm stays in that extended position.

You might notice that the weight distribution of the YBell is not as harsh as a kettlebell, which allows this movement to be performed much more effectively.

5 Exercises to Improve Grip Strength

These five functional exercises can be done from the comfort of your home gym, without the need for special grip machines or grip equipment.

1. Dumbbell Head Grabs

Dumbbell head grabs are one of the most straightforward grip-training exercises. You can use a dumbbell or a YBell for this exercise. YBells are compact free weights designed to improve your grip strength and give you a full-body workout. Holding the YBell in outer grip directly ties to your wrists, forearms, and shoulders during exercise, which allows you to save more time for your workouts.

Here’s a sample exercise: Using a loose grip or top grip, hold a YBell in each hand at your sides for as long as you can. You want to aim for 45 to 60 seconds. Keep your head looking forward and your core tight. Once you can hold one pair for three sets, you can then move to a heavier weight.

2. Farmer’s Walks

Farmer’s walks are another fantastic exercise for improving your grip strength. Farmer's walks offer multiple benefits such as enhancing structure, reducing the chance of injury, rapidly building muscle mass, and developing core stabilization.

To do this type of grip work, you can grab a pair of heavy weights or a pair of YBells. Hold one weight in the front rack grip with your right hand and the other down by your side with your left hand. The goal is to keep your posture as straight as possible and your core engaged while squeezing the weights at your side while walking.

3. Plate Curls

Plate curls help you strengthen your wrists and work the biceps as well. This exercise isolates your biceps while assisting you to develop a firmer grip. For first-timers, start with a light weight and gradually increase it as you progress.

Grab a plate with your hands at 9 and 3, with the plate sides against your palms. You can also hold a single YBell in a double grip and do a curl while keeping your fingers and wrist straight. Repeat ten times.

4. Plate Pinches

Plate pinches are another type of exercise that increases your pinch grip strength. By using smooth metal plates, you can sandwich them together with the smooth side out. However, you can also use thick bumper plates.

To do this:

  1. Grab one or two weight plates in your hand.
  2. Hold them with your fingers and thumb for 30 seconds.
  3. Put them down on the floor and repeat.
  4. Do it with your other hand as well, with three to four sets on each side.

5. Towel Work

Did you know you can simply use a towel for pulling work to improve your grip strength? Towel training also contributes to your general strength, endurance, and maximum strength. Some examples of towel work are towel chin-ups and towel pull-ups.

In short, if you want to improve your overall physical performance, then it’s time you start focusing on your grip strength.

Make an effort to incorporate some of these exercises into your weekly routines, and you’ll start to feel the positive impacts.

Nathan Lloyd

Nathan Lloyd is a personal fitness coach and trainer with a Master’s degree in Health and Exercise Science. He is passionate about helping his clients become the happiest and healthiest version of themselves.

When he's not coaching clients online or in person at ONE Boulder Fitness Gym, he writes about his favorite gym equipment at ExpertFitness.org.