How to Improve Grip Strength in Weightlifting

Weight training is, undoubtedly, one of the best ways to improve overall physical strength and fitness. Serious weight lifters like powerlifters, strongmen, bodybuilders, and CrossFit junkies use an array of supportive equipment such as lifting belts, knee wraps, elbow wraps, wrist wraps, deadlift/ squat suits, and bench skirts which are designed to prevent their bodies from collapsing under tremendous amounts of weight.

Traditional and amateur lifters may use some supportive equipment, but not to the extent of that of a competitive athlete. Athletes who engage in strength training typically don’t focus on improving grip strength, but there is something to be said about training the muscles which physically connect you to the weight.

For those “raw” lifters, the only thing used to enhance grip is chalk, which helps increase the amount of friction between the hands and the barbell. According to a study conducted in 2010, “…results suggest that grip strength is a good indicator of total body strength in competitive raw powerlifters.” “The correlational differences between the Raw and Equipped powerlifters is likely due to the role that the supportive equipment (wrist wraps, knee wraps, squat suits, bench shirts, and deadlift suits) plays during the execution of the lifts. Kilogram for kilogram raw lifters displayed a stronger grip…” (Grip Strength and Powerlifting Performance [2010]) 

In order to pull the same amount as an equipped lifter, a raw lifter must have a stronger grip since they wouldn’t be using wrist wraps to help the hands. The beauty of the VariGrip is that it strengthens each individual finger rather than just the back fingers like traditional grip exercisers like barbell collars. If we were to work out our hands with the same mindset that we work out our other parts of the body, we would work isolate each individual muscle.

There are several other great exercises that build hand and forearm strength. Farmers walks are a great example; they are a great back, shoulders, and core exercise which also puts a tremendous amount of stress on your grip. Another great thing about farmers walks is that you can use a variety of equipment; dumbbells, hex-bars, loaded carriers, plates, and kettlebells can all be used to perform the exercise.

Deadlifting is another classic compound lift that works your whole body. Depending on what type you do (RDL, sumo, or traditional), you will probably work just about every major muscle in your body. Raw deadlifting is something that you should take some precautions with. Without the aid of a belt or wrist wraps, it’s going to be important that your form is right so you don’t blow out your lower back. The best way to ensure safety is to either lift with a partner, record yourself lifting light so that you can correct your own mistakes, or just hire a personal trainer to help you (which probably the best option if you’re just getting started.)

There are a variety of different types of grips you can use depending on what type of equipment you are using. Most people, when using the barbell, stick to the typical over hand grip. If you really want to challenge yourself, add some chains and rubber bands to add some instability. Having that instability requires a more involved holding of the bar and core engagement since it’s going to be moving back and forth so much.

There are also some good bicep curl variations, particularly the “Zottman curl,” which combines both movements of the bicep curl and the reverse curl into a compound movement. The key is to control the decline so that you’re flexing your forearms as the weight is being lowered to your side. Combine these with wrist curls for a great finisher since they put a tremendous strain on your arms and grip.

The goal of any weight lifters grip training should be one thing: an ability to hold more weight. Training your grip and forearms ensures that your body can lift the maximum amount of weight it can bear without being impeded by the weakness of your forearms/hands. Develop a strong grip with some exercises put together by VariGrip by clicking here.

 Sources:

Morrison, Scot & Schoffstall, James & Kozlik, Blake & Boswell, Barry. (2010). Grip Strength and Powerlifting Performance.