Grip Strength Training Guide | 4 Pillars for Better Grip Strength

By 3 December 2020Training

Grip strength is a performance attribute that can be a make or break for lifting and sports. Oftentimes, adding grip strength work is viewed as a simple task, but it’s actually a little more complicated than simply selecting extra exercises and programming them arbitrarily.

At Pheasyque Lab, we love talking about grip strength training because it’s something everyone could use more of. Even if you have a strong grip now, it’s never a bad idea to have some strategy behind your training to increase grip strength over time.

When adding grip strength training to our programs, we like to view the topic with four key pillars. These pillars help us be much more strategic with grip training exercise selection and they account for a lifter’s goals and needs.

To view more on this topic check out the video below from Coach Jake and read on the grip training pillars below.

[Follow a calculated strength training plan that provides lessons along the way so you can build your body and brain!]

4 Pillars of Grip Strength Training

By breaking grip strength training into multiple sub-categories we can be a lot more strategic with our exercise selection based on our goals and needs. Remember, grip strength is specific in nature, so we need our training to reflect that.

Pillar 1: Consider Different Types of Grip

The first pillar entails the different ways we can express grip strength. Far too often, we only think of grip as one thing, but there are multiple ways we can grip different objects and each should be trained differently.

The three main styles of grip include:

  1. Pinching: This is the grip where we use the musculature of our hands and fingers to grip objects and surfaces.
    • Example: Plate pinches.
  2. Gripping: Using our hands and forearms in conjunction with one another to grab and hold surfaces.
    • Example: Gripping and holding a barbell.
  3. Crushing: Using the hand and forearm to actively crush things
    • Example: Squeezing a stress ball.

When we strength train, we use exercises that guide us towards our goals. A similar flow needs to be taken with grip training, as all three of these grip styles will have different benefits and effects depending on the task we’re working towards.

Pillar 2: Remember to Be Specific

The principle of specificity is huge for grip strength training success. When we train athletes in the gym, we rarely want to hammer movements that they’re already performing frequently in their sport, but with grip training, this logic is slightly different.

Since grip training is local (hand, forearm, and parts of the arm) and specific to the task at hand, we need to be highly specific with our training so it shadows and replicates the tasks we’re trying to improve on.

For example, if you want to improve your deadlift grip strength, then your training should have specific exercises that cater directly to this goal. A few great examples include:

  • Deadlifting more with a double overhand grip.
  • Performing holds on reps that you can manage with your grip strength.
  • Doing carries and other holds for accessories to replicate the process of holding something heavy.

The best way to improve grip strength is to do more of the activity you’re trying to improve on, then add in even more strategy as you push toward more elite levels.

Pillar 3: Active Vs Passive Grip Strength Training

The next pillar is for lifters that are deciding on the logistics of their additional grip work. Essentially, we want to change as little as possible to our current strength program and look for easy ways we can increase grip strength work in what we’re already doing. Grab the low hanging fruit first!

  • Passive Grip Training: Some examples of passive grip training include swapping out straps for accessory work, using a true grip over suicide, and modifying other variables in your program that can easily be swapped without much change.
  • Active Grip Training: Unlike passive grip training, active grip training is the act of adding in supplemental work or swapping out accessories for others. Basically, there’s more of a lift when adding active grip training because we have to modify the program to a higher degree.

Whenever we add supplemental work into a current program, especially something like grip training that could hinder our bigger goals (deadlift strength, sports performance, etc.), we always want to opt for options that are easier to implement so always take the passive route before going active if you can.

If you do add in more grip strength training, remember to do so in a means that doesn’t take away from the bigger picture of your program. For example, don’t do a ton of grip training right before a deadlift day.

Pillar 4: Establish a Solid Grip Training Ratio

Once you’ve established your grip strength training goals, you can start to build a programming flow that works for you.

Our advice is to create a hierarchy of specificity, then build a ratio of movements that caters from specific to non-specific for the task at hand.

So, let’s say you want to improve your deadlift grip strength. A good ratio that you could use is as follows:

  1. First Priority: Doing more deadlift grip work with double overhand and holds.
  2. Second Priority: Adding in a few exercises that are similar to the deadlift’s grip style (carries, holds, etc.).
  3. Third Priority: Add in a couple of exercises that can indirectly relate to deadlift grip strength. So, using a few pinching and crushing exercises could be useful to build a well-balanced grip.

The ratio for the grip training would be 3:1, so 3 first and second priority movements to 1 third priority grip exercise.

Note, the numbers above are arbitrary as they don’t account for your individuality, so use the above as an example to build your grip training framework!

Grip Training Takeaway Points

If you want to improve your grip strength, then you need specificity and strategy. Instead of arbitrarily adding in grip exercises, create a flow and plan that accommodates your goals and needs best.

Jake Boly

Jake Boly

Jake Boly, CSCS, M.S. is a weathered veteran of the fitness industry. Prior to Pheasyque Lab, he was the Fitness Editor at BarBend.com for four years. To date, Jake has written over 1,700 articles about fitness and health and has trained hundreds of athletes all while continuing to push the boundaries of fitness and health content creation.

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