Improve grip strength for overall strength and function

By: Steven Ashton

grip strengthMost of my training career I have not really done a formal grip training program. Occasional use of a fat bar for the fun challenge. I played with the old school plastic handled grippers on and off. We have recently been introducing some great grip training implements to CrossFit9. This is just a fraction of what is actually available.I have learned that the grip is underrated and misunderstood. 
 
Grip is more than just about the hands. It also involves the forearms and rotator cuff. A stronger grip means a stronger forearm which can balance out the strength of the elbow flexors and alleviate some of that “itis” pain in the elbows. 
 
Some practitioners actually use grip strength testing as a function of overall health and nutrition. I believe grip training is even more important for us boomers as we need to maintain and or improve overall strength while not losing what we have. 
 
The grip is blamed for being the “weak link” in most lifting and pulling. This is because we don’t work the grip throughout its full range of motion. We tend to use the same thickness of bars because that is what we can grip. It becomes a real challenge to grip a fat bar and as a result this range of motion in the grip seldom gets used.
 
Personally, I have witnessed a marked improvement in grip strength by timing bar holds and deadlifts. 
 
Perhaps most remarkable is the complete disappearance of all my elbow and forearm pain after one month of formal 3 day a week grip specific training. I have also noticed some rotator cuff recovery and more shoulder strength which allows me to do handstand push ups better. Grip strength recovers quickly and can be trained several times a week using various implements and movements. 
 
Grip protocol should be just like any other body part where you train specific sets and reps.
 
Some examples: 
 
Hang from pull up bar. Use Fat Gripz to make it more difficult. Try to hold on for a minimum of 60 seconds. 
 
Sets of gripper exercises, i.e. crush and hold for time, negatives. 
 
Grandfather clock and cannonball grip pull ups and or hangs. Use of FatGriptz on barbells and pull up bars. Farmer carry, Supinated grip barbell holds. One can be resourceful and come up with limitless ways to train the grip and forearm. 
 
Supinated bar holds. Dumbbell holds, plate holds Fat bar deadlifts. 
 
Always do grip training at the end of the regular workout Max grip can be obtained with the arm in a straight position. Don’t forget to train the pinch grip by carrying bumper plates in a vertical plane. 
 

Here is a grip specific workout I created. It should take less than 20 minutes and can be scaled accordingly. 

3 rounds for time: 
10 fat grip pull ups. 
100 meter dumbbell hex holds (dumbbells held on end) #25 men, #15 women 
10 fat grip deadlifts #135 men, #95 women
50 meter bumper plate farmer carry (pinch grip) #35 men, #25 women. 
This is a no joke wod will really stress your grip and forearms.
 
Some useful links to further your study on grip training: