You’ve seen them before – forearms the size of legs, bursting through rolled up t-shirts with reckless abandon. There is never any question that the owners of these super-strong arms is a man’s man; someone who can protect, lead, and won’t take no for an answer. Why is it then that most of us train our forearms and grips like second-class citizens? If anything, grip and wrist strength should receive at least as much dedicated effort as chest and biceps: the beach muscles.
The fact of the matter is that your wrist, grip, and forearm strength would be extraordinary if it responded to secondary treatment by way of bicep curls and pullups. In all honesty, ordinary men don’t develop above-average grips, which is all the more reason to train them like an obsessed orangutan, hell-bent on standing out from the crowd and challenging lesser men to arm wrestling contests…
In fact, the secret of grip strength is the common ingredient that all strongmen must possess. What upper body exercise doesn’t involve your grip? What is the one task that all women rely on men for in the kitchen? If you said opening bottles and jars like a manly champion, you would be correct. Well, that’s all well and good but how do you go about building better grip strength? Details below.
Different Kinds of Grip Strength
So, down to business with the skinny. The magic to grip strength, and most functional strength for that matter, is tendon and ligament strength – not muscular strength. If that last statement was a shocker to you, you might be in store for a rude awakening.
Grip strength can be divided into at least three categories: pinching, crushing, and supportive.
- Pinching grip is the strength between your fingers and your thumb. (Imagine holding a thick book)
- Crushing grip is the strength between your fingers and your palm. It can be used to pulverize another man’s hand during a handshake, or to show a victim that you expect no funny business.
- Supportive grip is used for holding onto bars during pullups, holding grocery bags, or hanging onto a cliff.
Training the Grip
Just looking around at the paltry wrists and forearms of patrons at your gym should tell you that traditional training will not lead to success. You cannot look over the shoulder of the textbook nerd on this test, it must come gradually with consistent, diligent effort, so set your future self five years forward on this one. The best grip training is done in the wild jungle outside of the gym.
Variation is key, so while there’s always the option for traditional plate holds, bar hanging, and kettlebell carries, the best thing to do is use any and everything to tax your fingertips to your elbows. If you’re not much for ideas and inspiration, the following exercises should get you started.
Gripping dumbbells where the sun don’t shine is known as blobbing. Haven’t seen it done before? Not surprised at all. The blob is just the fat, hexagonal part of the dumbbell. Grabbing both nads – one with each hand – or grabbing a vertical dumbbell with just one hand is a painful task worth exploring.
Grabbing some plates by the lip, either parallel to your feet or perpendicular to your feet, and performing curls taxes your supportive grip, and might make you cry just a bit.
Bending immovable things is a feat that many old school strongmen used to build crowds. Remember that they too had to start somewhere. Bending green branches of increasing sturdiness works your forearms as well as any gym exercise. Trying to bend actual immovable objects, like a chair leg or a baseball bat proves very well in building tendon strength.
In fact, isometric and isotonic exercises have proven to be more effective in building tendon strength due to the philosophy of stored power as opposed to dissipated power. Traditional dynamic lifts like bicep and tricep curls don’t allow optimal contraction levels to stress stubborn tendons.
Go to any baseball gym and you will likely find a 5 gallon bucket filled with sand – it is not for cats. Sticking your hand down in there as far as you can and moving your fingers around will make you feel like your skin is being peeled off of your arm. If you’re like Paul Muad’dib, chosen leader of the Fremen, you will retract your arm back to safety without first being killed. This exercise is great for the extensors of the hands, an often neglected aspect of grip training.
When all else fails, or you missed a training day, go crazy on some towels. This could mean wrapping towels around branches, swaddling them around dumbbells, or pulling the two ends of a towel apart in separate directions. If they’re gonna hand out towels when you get to your gym, you may as well use them for more than just waxing off schweaty spots.
You use your grip everyday. An easy way to get into the habit of training your man-grip is by making easy tasks that extra bit harder by challenging yourself. If you get bored at your desk, grab it between your fingers and your thumb, and squeeze the lifeblood out of it instead of your boss. Next time you walk through a doorway that has a frame, do a partial hang, American Ninja Warrior style off of it; the grip is always the weak link that sends ANW contestants home.
When all else fails, just remember how emasculating it is when you can’t open a jar and another, manlier man has to do it. That is why we must train our grips – to make all of our training worthwhile, to be the one to always open that jar, and to be the one riding off into the sunset with the prettiest girl in the room.