3 Easy Tips for Improving Grip Strength

The benefits of having a strong grip go beyond just making a good impression when shaking hands or opening jars of tomato sauce. There are serious performance benefits from developing some good, old-fashioned “old-man” grip strength. Sadly, a direct focus on increasing grip strength is often neglected in strength training programs—and more grip strength can translate to better sport performance. Increasing grip strength for sports like baseball, lacrosse, and hockey helps improve the force transfer from the arms through the bat or stick. And contact/combat sport athletes can benefit from having hands like vices, which make tackles and take-downs much harder to escape. Adding focused grip work into your program doesn’t take much time or planning, and can keep your workouts fun by challenging new areas of improvement.

1. Add a Towel

Wrapping a towel around the bar during bent-over rows or around the handle of a dumbbell adds more stress to the muscles of the forearm and hands, due to the larger circumference of the weight being grasped. You can also run towels through plates for farmer carries and increase the demand on grip strength and endurance while also developing the musculature of the upper back. Throwing a towel over the pull-up bar or during supine rows is a great way to maximize the grip demand to an already grip-challenging movement. The thicker the towel, the more challenging the movement becomes.

2. Utilize Finishers

Throwing in a finisher at the end of a workout is a great way to maximize your output and challenge yourself and your teammates. You can do farmer carries for distance/time, plate pinch challenges with two 25-pound plates, or add in high-rep wrist flexion/extension movements. It's worth being cautious in-season or during heavy practice weeks, since your wrists will probably already have received a ton of work from practice or competing. Of course, there is always the Volt Grip Strength Finisher, designed to improve every facet of a crushing grip in simple and easy protocol.

3. Participate in Grip-Dominated Activities

Activities like rock climbing and rowing are good ways to train grip without thinking about training grip. They are also fun side activities to do during your off time that get you focusing on something other than your normal sport. Rock climbing will put you in very unique situations where different grip strategies are essential to solving problems. Rowing on the water or on the erg places a high demand on grip endurance, and is also a great way to help get some more aerobic work. You'd be surprised how easily your hands and fingers fatigue when introduced to new challenges either on the rock wall or in the boat.

Any sport that uses the hands either as a point of action or to manipulate an implement can be benefited from increased grip strength. Due to the relatively small muscles in the hands, wrists, and forearms, the recovery time between training stimuli is shorter than that with larger muscle groups. This allows for more frequent training and improvements can be seen shortly. So get out there and grip it—grip it good.

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Jace Derwin, CSCS, RSCC, is the Head of Performance Training at Volt Athletics and is one of the regular contributors to the Volt blog. Jace manages Volt program design, content development, and educational resources for schools, clubs, and organizations. Jace is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist® (CSCS®) and holds a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science from Seattle Pacific University. Follow Jace on Twitter @VoltCoachJace.