If you’ve never worked out your forearms until they’ve ached and felt like over-inflated footballs, you may not be as functionally strong as you think. A weak grip puts you at a disadvantage during lifts such as deadlifts and pull ups and many sporting activities, particularly grappling arts (wrestling, judo, catch, bjj, etc.) It can also negatively impact your performance in everyday activities like yard work, etc.
If you have a weak grip, luckily you can fix it! Below is a list of a few grip focused exercises that will dramatically improve your grip strength.
1. Towel Hangs – easy enough to set up, but very difficult to preform (in a good way). Drape two towels over a pull up bar and gather together in bundles shoulder width apart. Grab one towel in each hand and lift your legs off the ground. Hang until your grip fails. Perform three sets to failure. For added difficulty work on your abs simultaneously by performing leg raises
2. Farmer Carries – grab two weights about the same weight as you would for shrugs. Grip the weights as tightly as you can with the weights hanging at your side and walk around in a circle until you can’t hold on any longer. Do 3-5 reps to failure.
3. Plate Clasps – similar to farmers carries, but no walking. Grab two Olympic plates and let hang at sides by holding onto the plate ridges with your fingertips. Pretend like you’re holding onto the plates like you’re a rock climber. 3-5 reps failure
4. Behind the back forearms – hold a straight bar behind your back with your palms facing behind you (both thumbs will be facing each other). Allow the bar to roll out of your palm grip and along your fingers until you are gripping the bar with your last knuckle grip. Roll the bar back up into your palms with your fingers, then once fully into the palms contract your grip fully, pulling your wrists up as close to ninety degrees as possible (or as far as comfort allows). That is one rep. Repeat this motion 20-25 reps for three sets. Then massage out your inevitably aching forearms.
5. Seated inverted forearms – this is the reverse motion as the behind the back forearm, but you far less weight and it’s in front of your body. Pick a weight that’s at LEAST half of what you preform on the behind the back forearms movement. Grab your barbell and sit on a flat bench. With the bar in your hands, palms facing down, rest your forearms on your knees while raising your calves by making a tip toe motion. The weight in this position will be hanging draped 6-8 inches away from your shins. While gripping onto your bar, roll the bar back to you until the backs of your palms are facing you (almost like revving a motorcycle). Then in a controlled motion return the weight to the hanging position. This is one rep. Do 20-25 reps for three sets.
I don’t recommend, nor do I think you could meaningfully perform all of these lifts on the same day. Work these slowly into your workout scheme and watch your grip strength improve dramatically.