Grip strength can often be the limiting factor in the Olympic lifting, deadlift, muscle-ups, max numbers of pull-ups, or even your back squats and handstands. In part one of this post we talked about the importance of the pinky finger, in this post we will take a look at some different ways to test and train grip strength.  

Have you ever specifically trained grip?  If not, you should give it a try.

1. Can you perform a dead hang from a pull-up bar (pinky knuckle on top) for 1-minute (minimum), 2-minutes (strong), or 30minutes (superhero)?  Try hanging with a pronated grip, a supinated grip, a neutral grip, or from gymnastics rings with a false grip, bent arms or straight arms to improve forearm strength and endurance.

2. Can you perform chin over the bar (bent arm strength) for 1-minute (strong), or 2-minutes (superhero)?

3. Can you perform a 1-arm dead hang from a pull-up bar for 90-seconds?  Are your right side and left side the same strength?  An imbalance could impact your overall performance.

4. Can you spend 7-minutes hanging from a pull-up bar changing grips, single arm, both arm?

5. How long can you hang from a rope?  This can be an important one if you plan to start performing rope climbs.  Do you want to get to the top of the rope and have your grip strength fail?

6. Can you farmers walk body weight in each hand for 50 feet (strong).  1.5 x body weight in each hand for 50 feet (super hero level)?

7. Overhand deadlifts with no straps for high repetitions.

8. Reverse Bicep Curls or Zotterman Curls for high repetitions.

9. Pinch grip weight plate / upright dumbbell farmers carry.

10. Have you ever used a giro ball?

Another crazy fact: one study showed grip strength is linked to mortality! A good strong grip can help you live longer – really! Why?  Because grip strength is very highly correlated to overall strength, stronger people are simply harder to kill.  Further studies have also shown that training grip strength has been linked to a decrease in blood pressure in general population. Other studies show that chicks dig guys with massive forearms, as massive forearms are often attached to massive biceps, massive shoulders, and massive lats.  But we knew that already, right?

Fat grips and fat bars are another great way to train grip strength (Best Results with Thick Bar Work, Poliquin).  Fat grip deadlifts, fat grip dumbbell rows, or even fat grip pull-ups are all great exercises to train grip strength. Legless rope pull-ups, rope climbs, or towel pull-ups can be used to improve grip strength and endurance.

For structural balance purposes, and injury prevention, it is important to perform pulling movements with a variety of grips. One of the major downfalls with CrossFit training is the overuse of the pronated grip. We need to train supinated, pronated, and neutral grip (semi-supinated) positions to balance out the strength of the connective tissue and muscle fibres in the wrists, elbows, and shoulders.  Changing the grip in pull-ups, bent over rows with barbells and dumbbells, or even ring rows, can dramatically increase pulling strength and decrease the chances of injury.

Shoulder Injury can also be caused by weak muscles and poor mobility in the shoulders, wrists and elbows.  The primary joint (in this case the shoulder) is directly impacted by the secondary joints (elbows and wrists).  Take the front rack position for example: athletes with poor shoulder mobility often feel pain in their wrists due to the constant wrist extension. If you never take time in your training to address your mobility issues and fix them, you will never improve as the ceiling of your ability will be capped by your limited mobility. 

When was the last time you worked on your grip, your wrist mobility, your forearm pump?