As CrossFitters we attempt to broaden our skills in multiple domains. Whether it be in gymnastics, weightlifting, kettlebells, etc. In all aspects of our training, few things are more transferrable than functional grip strength. How do you expect to do 25 kipping chest to bar pull-ups without dropping off the bar? Or maybe you need to rep out barbell complexes without putting the bar down. Have you tried swinging a kettlebell overhead for anything more than 10 reps? Grip Strength is paramount no matter how you train.
So how do we effectively train our grip so that it’s never a limiting factor when we are trying to crush our friend in a metcon? Here are 7 movements that you can do at the end of your class or training session to maximize your grip strength. You can alternate through them throughout the week, or just pick a few that you like and run with it. Of course there is one thing we all do to make sure we don’t let go of the bar… CHALK IT UP!!! So rub some chalk on your hands and get started on these exercises right away.
1. Farmer’s/Suitcase Carries
One of my favorites, and if you are not doing carries already these are a must. Farmer’s carries are simply carrying a weight at your side, typically dumbbells or kettlebells, and walking for distance or for a certain amount of time. Not only are you challenging your grip, you are resisting the swing of the weight as you walk, working your entire core and stabilization in your shoulders.
Suitcase carries are similar to farmer’s carries, only difference being one hand will be empty. This is not only a great exercise for your grip, but you will wake up the next day wondering who punched you in your obliques.
2. Pinch Grip Holds
Now these will go from easy to hard real fast! Best if done with plates, for all of us CrossFitters, the competition bumper plates are where it’s at. Iron plates are also good for this as long as they are flat on both sides. All you have to do is bend over, pinch the plate with your thumb on one side and your fingers on the other and pick it up. You can hold and stand in place, or step it up and turn it into a pinch grip farmer’s carry.
3. Hex Dumbbell Holds
First time I did these, I was a little ambitious with my weight and I could not even pick up the dumbbell. So start off light, then progress. Just like it sounds, grab a hex dumbbell, rubber or iron, grab it by the head and pick it up. Just stand there and let the dumbbell do all the work. Grip will go surprisingly quick here, so be prepared.
4. Sandbell or Sandbag Rows
These may be something you might not have tried, or even heard of. Grab a sandbell or sandbag, set up like you are going to do a barbell row. If you are using a sandbell use one hand, like a kettlebell or dumbbell row, and grip the sandbell and start rowing. You can do these is sets of 8, 10, 15 depending on how heavy the bell feels to you. If you are using a sandbag, imagine you are setting up for a barbell row. Avoid grabbing the handle. Instead, grip the material of the bag with some sand and row as you normally would in the Pendlay or the classic ‘bent-over’ variation.
5. False Grip Holds
No one loves the false grip! Unless you are a gymnast, the false grip is probably your worst enemy on the rings. Well it is an incredible way to improve your grip, and wrist strength. Using the rings or pull-up bar, hop up in a false grip and try to hold for an extended time. If you need to place your feet on a box at first to help lighten the load that is totally ok. Describing the false grip is not the easiest thing to do, so I will post a picture below to show the false grip.
6. Axle Bar/Fat Grip Deadlifts
I know what you’re thinking: “Who wants to do deadlifts at the end of a workout?!” Luckily for you, if you use an axle bar or Fat Grips, you will not have to go very heavy. If you do not have an axle bar in your gym, you can purchase a pair of Fat Grips online fairly cheap. Grab an axle bar, or straight bar with Fat Grips, throw some weight on and rep it out. Like I said you will not have to put too much weight on the bar, so you will not be fatiguing much more than your forearms here.
7. Hand Grippers
I am sure we have all laughed at the guy sitting at his desk with his little hand gripper toy, “What? I’m working out at work!” These little contraptions are actually incredible tools for strengthening your grip. Now don’t buy the plastic ones that you grab and can immediately squeeze the handles together. Get the real, metal, hard ones that feel like it barely budges when you squeeze with all your might. These little buggers are good to play with at any time.
Now that you have these tools, I expect to see some videos of you tearing phonebooks with your bare hands. (Though some of you may never have seen a phonebook in real life) Utilize these movements, and don’t let your grip be what slows you down anymore.
Correy Jones is a fitness coach, competitor, and VIKN Ambassador. Head to our Ambassadors tab to learn more.