How to Improve Grip Strength

by Adam Miezio
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Want adamantium strength hands, wrists and forearms like Wolverine? Hand, wrist and forearm strength is one of the most overlooked aspects of strength training. Ubiquitous technology coerces us to place more stress on our bodies from the elbow down. All kinds of professions require healthy grip strength: baseball players, butchers, carpenters, desk workers, football players, guitaristsesports pros, et al.

Above all, esports professionals need maximum grip strength, with or without savage talons that sprout out of your hands. Esports pros suffer from a laundry list of maladies including cramps, pressure point stiffness (hips, knees, ankles), and weak cores. Not surprisingly, carpal tunnel syndrome and tennis elbow threaten the careers of esports pros the most. Both of these ailments have provoked early retirements for players. Considering the average player age spans from 16 to 23, young players may incur irreparable damage to fingers, hands, wrists, forearms and elbows at an early age.

The best way to manage these injuries, or avoid them altogether, requires strength training. Not many people think about how to improve grip strength, but with the increasing number of people grip strength (or the lack of it) effects, it’s becoming a crucial aspect of health and wellness. We’re going to talk about how to improve grip strength, but first, let’s distinguish between the 2 types of grip strength; precision and power grip.

We all use grip strength on a daily basis: typing, texting, driving, eating, grabbing stuff off a shelf, and holding a glass. Depending on the task at hand, there are 2 different types of grip strength.

Precision grip requires a number of different grips. There’s a pincer grip (like picking up a coin), a key grip (self-explanatory), a pinch grip (holding a needle) and a plate grip (holding a dinner plate).

Power grip is the more traditional idea of grip strength most people think of. The power grip is the handshake type grip we use to open a jar, where our palm and all fingers firmly grip an object. The power grip includes a hook grip (holding a barbell), ball grip (opening a jar) and cylinder grip (holding a baseball bat).

By focusing on your hands, wrists, and forearms, you can level up your power grip, and significantly reduce the risk of repetitive task and gaming injuries like carpal tunnel and tennis elbow. Let’s take a look at some exercises you can do at home to build up your power grip.

 

  1. Farmer’s Walks

This is an overall great exercise for strength endurance. Simply grab a heavy load in each hand, and carry it as far as you can, keeping your chin up, shoulders back and core engaged. It’s a great way to exhaust all your arm musculature. You can use dumbbells or kettlebells for this. You can even wrap a towel around a dumbbell handle to make it harder. When the gripped object gets wider in your hand, your grip weakens. If you’re really serious about going John Rambo on your grip, try these mini farmer’s walk handles with a 1.5” diameter.

Bonus- farmer’s walks also strengthen your core and improve your posture.

Muscles used: flexor digitorum superficialis, flexor digitorum profundus, flexor carpi radialis, flexor carpi ulnaris, palmaris longus and flexor pollicis longus.

  1. Rope Climbs

Find a rope and climb it. Go to your local fitness box, nearby river or creek where a rope might hang from a tree, find a playground with a rope or try ascending rappel. Holding for dear life on a rope will not only ramp up your cylinder grip, but the act of supporting your bodyweight will strengthen your arms all the way up to the shoulder.

Muscles used: flexor carpi ulnaris, flexor digitorum superficialis, flexor carpi radialis, flexor pollicis longus and flexor digitorum.

  1. Axle Bar Deadlifts Holds

If you’re a gamer or office worker, the word “deadlift” might discourage you as it conjures up images of muscle heads. Never fear. With proper training and proper form, deadlifts are an easy movement. An axle bar is the perfect type of barbell to perform this exercise with. The axle bar is a mainstay of strongman competitions due to it’s 2-inch diameter. The thicker diameter stresses your hook grip due to the bar’s thicker diameter, compared to Olympic barbells. You don’t even need to put a lot of weight on the axle bar, as you’ll only be deadlifting it to hold the movement at the top, and let the bar hang in your hands as long as possible.

Muscles used: all your forearm muscles.

  1. Zottman Curls

Again, don’t be put off by curls or images of sweaty behemoths. You can do these at home with a pair of dumbbells. Grab a barbell in each hand, with palm up, and curl the weight up to your shoulder, then turn your palm down, and slowly lower the dumbbell down to your leg. Zottman curls will blast your forearms and test your wrist strength to the max.

Muscles used: brachii (2 heads of the biceps consisting of the small head and large head), brachialis and the brachioradialis.

  1. Bar Work

There are a number of variants you can use to get Popeye forearms, all you need is a pull-up bar at your disposal. You can do simple bar hangs, and hold on as long as you can using a chin up grip. You can also do pull-ups with a rope or towel, which both dial up the difficulty level real quick. Lastly, if you have access to a fat grip pull up bar at a gym or playground, which has the same diameter as an axle bar, doing hangs, pull ups or chin ups on this will blow out your wrists, and arms post-haste too.

Muscles used: wrist and hand flexors, brachioradialis, extensor carpi radialis.

Bonus: Deltoids in your shoulders.

Here’s a treasure trove of forearm and other exercises if you need more ideas. Finally, if you just want to do some simple hand, wrist and forearm stretches, specifically targeted towards gamers check out the “e-sports doctor”, Dr. Levi Harrison on his website and YouTube channel. Look below for some simple, quick stretches.


Adam Miezio
Adam Miezio

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