Grip Strength – Why It’s Important and How to Improve It
Monday was a grip strength blowout! KB swings, DB deadlifts, DB carry, even wall ball shots contribute to hand and forearm fatigue. We often program one or two grip strength challenges in our WODs (think toes-to-bar plus heavy deadlifts), but four? Not too often. If your GBAR3 experience was like mine Monday, your will to finish the last lap was completely dictated by the ability to hold on to the dumbbells.
Why Is Grip Strength Important?
Grip strength is important because it is a reflection of your overall level of upper body strength. Stronger grip strength means stronger muscles in your arms, shoulders, and back – which leads to better performance in CrossFit workouts (and in life in general!). Additionally, good grip strength can help to prevent injuries. Weak muscles are more likely to be injured, so by strengthening your grip you will also be reducing your risk of injury.
How Can I Improve My Grip Strength?
There are a few different ways that you can go about improving your grip strength. One way is to simply use your hands more throughout the day. If you have a job that requires repetitive motion with your hands (typing, assembly line work, etc.), take breaks often and shake out your hands to keep them from getting too tired. Another way to improve grip strength is to do specific exercises that target the muscles used for gripping. A few of these exercises are outlined below:
- Farmer’s carry: This exercise can be done anywhere – at the gym, at home, even while walking around the block! All you need is a set of dumbbells (or two heavy objects that are roughly the same weight). Simply grab the dumbbells and walk with them, keeping your shoulders down and your core engaged. The goal is to go for distance rather than speed, so take your time and focus on good form.
- Hang from a pull-up bar: This exercise will not only improve your grip strength, but will also help you with pull-ups! Start by grabbing the pull-up bar with an overhand grip (palms facing away from you), then hang from the bar with straight arms. If you can’t hang from the bar for more than a few seconds without your arms shaking, try bending your knees and crossing them in front of you to take some of the weight off of your arms.
- Towel rows: This exercise can be done with a partner or alone. If you’re doing it alone, loop a towel over a sturdy object (a pole or piece of furniture) and grab each end of the towel with your hands. If you’re doing it with a partner, have them hold one end of the towel while you hold the other. Then, pull back on the towel as if you were rowing a boat. Focus on using your back muscles rather than your arms, and really squeeze those shoulder blades together when you reach the top of the row.
- Wrist curls: This exercise can be done seated or standing. If you’re doing them seated, rest one forearm on a stability ball or bench and let the hand hanging off dangle down towards the floor. If you’re standing, let the hand dangling off extend all the way down towards the floor (it should be perpendicular to your arm). Use your opposite hand to hold a weight (dumbbell or kettlebell), then curl your wrist upwards so that your palm faces towards your shoulder. Reverse the motion and lower back down – that’s one rep! Be sure not to swing the weight up using momentum; curl it slowly and controlled using only wrist movement.
- For something totally different, play on the mini-climbing wall in the SW corner of the gym. Your grip will be blown up in about 2 minutes, and it’s kind of fun!
EMOM for 8 minutes
2 front squats, 85%+
5 ring dips
rest 4 minutes
EMOM for 8 minutes
2 deadlifts, 85%+
5 push ups
30 Russian twists