Do your hands give way during pull-ups, press-ups or during those dead lifts? Well, it's not your hands, says VPT George Edwards, it's your wrists. With some focused work on grip strength, you can improve your workouts by up to 40 per cent, he says. Here's how.
PTs often tell you to grip harder when you're struggling to hold onto the bar. Well, this is wrong! When you're gripping an object you need to use your core, and brace your body in the correct position using all of the muscles in the posterior chain. Forearm flexor and extensor muscles need to be strengthened and isolated. These muscles are very well trained in some respects like brushing our teeth and holding our phones but they are neglected in the end range of motion: i.e. Try holding your cup of tea away from your body..
Giving the finger
Did you know we only really use our thumb index and middle finger to grip objects? This is true. Therefore, if you look a little closer, the ring finger and pinky do bugger all. That's 40 per cent untapped strength you're not using for each pull-up! By griping light objects with just our fingertips they begin to respond just like any other body tissue. They adapt and get stronger. However, the growth plates in the fingers can be undermined in young athletes with too much grip work, adults also have to be careful of tendinitis close to the elbow, it's only adolescents who need to be careful with activities like campus boards where too much isolation can lead to injury.
It's not rocket science. Simply hanging from a bar for a period of time greatly improves grip strength. Gloves and jawbones aren't needed, but people who do CrossFit may disagree. I believe that you can't beat human skin for gripping different attachments. Even doing monkey bars in heavy rain at a Spartan race shouldn't hold you back if you do the ABCs of grip work. So here they are. You ready?
Plate farmers walk
Beginners – 5kg per hand, grip using just your fingertips
20 seconds x 5 sets
Intermediate 5kg per hand, fingertips only
30 seconds x 5 sets
Advanced – 5kg per hand, pinky/ring fingertips only
40 seconds x 5 sets
Rope climbing gets you used to gripping in a neutral hand position, rather than always supinated or pronated. The rope is slightly spongy compared to the bar, so biceps have to work much harder in the tendon. Also, as the tendons moves when you pull, the shoulders have to stabilise into the back – and so on.
Grip other objects
Fat grip or numb chuck attachments – don't allow yourself to close your hands around the object, this will test your forearm flexors/extensors. Feel the burn and go with it! Just make sure you rest long enough, this will ensure you won't burn out too quickly.
Kettlebell swings for a time, rather than reps, also works really well. You will need to count 20/30/40 seconds from the moment your forearms feel like they are burning. Aim for 250 reps per day 16kg -24kg for two weeks, and your bar grip will improve. You can do this!
Just working on these tiny muscles alone won't improve strength overnight, but applied with compound exercises and proper scapula retraction protraction exercises (shoulder blades opening/closing) should get you on the right track.
Lat pull down (accessory work)
Bent over row
If you follow all of the above and your grip strength will be improved and you will max out your work-outs!