Carrying five grocery bags requires not just strong arms but a powerful grip too! In fact, studies back this up.
Grip strength is a predictor of muscle strength and endurance and is linked with a number of health conditions, such as mobility, cognitive function, bone mineral density, heart health, and overall strength.
Not sure if you have a good grip strength?
Well, if you are experiencing wrist or palm pain when you lug weights or you are shortchanging your workouts, these may be signs that you need to strengthen your grip. But before that, let’s first find out…
What is grip strength, exactly?
Grip strength is the measure of maximum force/tension generated in the hand and forearm muscles or a measure of muscular strength.
Having a strong grip is an indicator of overall strength, particularly upper body strength because you need to hold onto weights to increase your muscle strength.
When you do an exercise with challenging weights, the first thing that often fails is grip strength. That’s because grip strength involves smaller muscles that quickly tire and are trained less frequently than other parts of the body.
How to measure grip strength
A dynamometer is used to measure your exact grip strength. The first step that you need to do is to bend your elbow at a 90-degree angle and squeeze the dyno as hard as possible.
Next, apply a grip force. At this point, avoid jerking. Repeat the motion twice more for a total of three readings.
The average of the three readings is your grip strength. You may also have your grip strength measured in a doctor’s office or a gym and the person doing the test will explain to you your results.
How grip strength varies
But, take note, that grip strength varies based on gender, age, and which hand you measure. The dynamometer manual has a table that tells you the low, average, and high grip strengths for your gender and age for your right or left hand.
15 Ways to Build Powerful Hand Grip
Some of these tips are actual workouts while others are everyday activities that count as an exercise too.
1. Do wrist rotation
Wrist rotation is an exercise designed to strengthen and stretch your wrists, hands, and forearm.
Grab a handle of a cast-iron pan or an unopened wine bottle, keeping your upper arm side by side. Bent your elbow at 90 degrees and start rotating the pan or bottle toward your midline. Then, bring it back again to the center and then rotate your wrist in the opposite direction.
Two or three sets of 20 to 30 reps make an ideal wrist rotation exercise. Then, switch hands. While doing a wrist rotation, breathe normally.
2. Book pinch
Imagine making an alligator mouth with your hands. When doing this grip, there tends to be more stress or work on the thumb. And as you know, your thumb is an important part of having a strong grip.
Use two books, preferably of the same size. Grip one book in each hand while your arms are at the sides. Next, squeeze with your fingers for the next 30 seconds and relax for another 30 seconds. Three to five sets of this book pinch strength exercise is recommended.
3. Squish a stress or tennis ball
This is one of my favorites, aside from using a grip strengthener because you simply have to squish a stress or tennis ball with your entire hand. The squish should last for 5 to 10 pulses and repeat using only your pointer finger and thumb.
Progress the handgrip exercise through each finger. Then, repeat the sequence by switching the stress ball to another hand.
4. Use a hand grip strengthener
Hand grips work on making your wrist muscles, palm, and finger stronger. Even beginners can use a hand grip strengthener to prepare themselves for lifting weights. The handgrips will work by training the muscles first before the heavy weights.
5. Use a push lawnmower
Who thought that cutting grass using a lawnmower can keep not just your lawn tidy, but also your grip powerful? But it’s true!
Mowing and lawn maintenance using a push lawn mower instead of a riding mower will increase your grip strength. Plus, you will be working your hamstrings, shoulders, triceps, core, hips, glutes, and back – you name it!
6. Open your garage door manually
You may not think of this, but opening your garage door is one of the best ways to increase your grip strength since you take the handle to lift the door open.
Of course, you don’t have to make your garage door your exercise tool and do this repeatedly, just like other exercise tools. It would be enough that you incorporate this into your everyday routine.
7. Carry your groceries
Carrying your shopping bags will not just help you build a powerful handgrip, it will also help you lead healthier lives for longer, physiotherapists claim.
So, instead of driving your grocery bags and having them loaded into your car when you shop, carry them instead. Depending on the size of the tote or grocery bag, a full bag may weigh at least 20 pounds, meaning that’s enough resistance to work your muscles!
8. Wash your car
Step away from the car wash and swap a bucket of water and a sponge for the gym and do it in your driveway. In fact, washing your car for 30 minutes can help you burn 135 calories because you are constantly moving.
To make it more heart-pumping and extend the benefits beyond just improving your hand grip, try the following when doing this home exercise.
- Hold a squat when washing each tire
- Swipe your sponge as you do side to side lunges
- Do calf raises when reaching up to clean the car roof
- Do bicep curls each time you pick it up
- Push-ups off the bummer
9. Shovel your snow
Shoveling snow can be grip training and an overall workout. Pushing and throwing that heavy snow is likened to weightlifting or an aerobic workout.
As to how it improves your hand grip, well you are griping near the shovel blade, after all, and you are working out different muscles of your body as you switch between left-handed and right-handed stance.
Don’t forget to wear a good jacket and the right footwear!
10. Squeeze the bar
Now here we go with some of the best grip training exercises. Let’s start with squeezing the bar with your hands.
This act leads to greater grip activation and eventually more gains because you are keeping the bar locked firmly in the palm of your hands. Then, hold it in place by wrapping your thumb around the bar.
Try to squeeze the bar as hard as possible as you will eventually increase your grip strength.
11. Lift heavy
If you don’t prefer training your grip with plenty of wrist curls, you can incorporate heavy deadlifts, bodyweight rows, or pull-ups instead. This will develop not just your grip, but your entire arm.
You can also add weight to rack deadlifts to emphasize the top part of the lift, which consequently allows more weight on the bar. This means a harder grip challenge as you adapt to a variety of positions.
12. Flex and extend
This grip exercise doesn’t need any equipment. Simply make a fist and then squeeze as hard as you can. Wait for two to three seconds then open your hand.
Next, extend your fingers as wide or long as possible, holding such a position for five to ten seconds.
13. Perform the farmer’s walk
Another best exercise to improve grip strength is the farmer’s walk. You can use any object or equipment as long as you walk while carrying the weight.
When you start to tire, just shake it off or put the weight down and then start the exercise again. As simple as that!
Other muscles that are most significantly affected by this exercise include the lats, upper back, lats, quads, forearms, glutes, and hamstrings.
14. Do a pull-up
Pulling your body up to a parallel bar is a functional bodyweight exercise that is great for overall body strength. This exercise requires solid grip and serious strength.
So, perform this upper body exercise and you will reap the physical benefits of having a powerful hand grip.
15. Do a hammer curl with dumbbells or kettlebells
Hold a pair of dumbbells or kettlebells and stand with feet hip-width apart. Your palms should be facing inward, chest upright, and back straight.
Slowly bend your elbows and curl weights toward the shoulders. Lower the dumbbell or kettlebell back to the starting position and that’s one rep.
Building a powerful hand grip is important so you can lift more weight or do powerful moves, like deadlifts and pull-ups. Hopefully, with the grip strength training exercises shared above, you can increase your grip strength and translate such to building more muscle all over!
If you’ve put together a grip routine of your own, it would be best if you cycle through the different types of grips in a week so you can target different angles or work different muscles.
Good luck with your training!
Nathan Lloyd, MSc is a licensed personal trainer based in Boulder, Colorado. He helps his clients through his online or in-person personal coaching programs at ONE Boulder Fitness Gym. In his spare time, he loves to write about his favorite gym equipment at ExpertFitness.org.