This is an underestimated but really important part of any exercise routine – we use our hands every single day, as well as when working out in the gym. Improving grip, mobility and strength in our wrists is key! There are lots of different wrist strengthening exercises you can incorporate into your daily life pretty easily in order to increase your grip strength – some can even be performed at your desk at work!
Grip strength encompasses much more than just hand strength; it also includes all the muscles from the elbows to the fingertips. It is important to bear this in mind as poor grip strength and improper training can lead to pain, as well as tendonitis in severe cases.
Increasing grip strength will improve both the form and the weight you can carry on exercises such as bench presses and bicep curls, as well as big lifts like deadlifts, and will help with endurance, meaning you can perform more repetitions of each exercise. You are less likely to injure yourself when training too, as your muscles and tissues will be strengthened. If you do happen to injure yourself, because of the stronger tissue, you will recover faster. Strengthening your grip will also help with daily tasks such as carrying food shopping, lifting suitcases and opening jars.
This is any movement that involves the fingers closing in and squeezing – such as a handshake. This movement also includes clamping the hand around something, like holding onto a dumbbell.
This involves taking hold of something between the thumb and fingers, placing a lot of pressure on the thumb in order to pinch strongly. An example of this would be gripping a board.
This is the ability to actually maintain the crushing movement, with the fingers taking most of the strain. An example of this in the gym is exercises such as deadlifts and rows, or as an everyday example, carrying grocery bags by the handle.
This is the opening of the fingers and the thumb – it is the opposite to crushing. It is actually really important to keep the muscle balance in your hands and wrists, which in turn prevents injury.
Wrist strength is really important in order to ensure movements such as opening jars are strong.
There are a huge number of exercises you can do to improve your grip strength – it is easier to separate them out into where you should perform these.
The chances are you spend a huge chunk of your day at your desk sitting in front of your computer with your palms facing downwards. Because of this, it is important to stretch your hands out in the opposite direction – supinated (palms turned upwards). Stand up at your desk and place your palms on the desk, with your wrists turned so your elbows are facing away from you.
- Stretch your fingers backwards slowly with your palms on your desk. Feel free to rock from side to side.
- Stretch your fingers back in the same way, but raise your palms off the desk so that just your fingers are on the table. Keep rocking from side to side.
- Make two fists with your hands with your thumbs on the outside and place your fists on your desk together. Bend your elbows to aim to put your forearms on your desk, if you can reach that far. Your mobility will improve over time!
You’re likely to have a rubber band somewhere on your desk, which is great – this is a perfect piece of equipment to use to improve your grip strength! You can even increase the resistance by adding another rubber band when necessary.
- Rubber band extensions: place the band around the outside of your fingers, by the fingernails, and push outwards as far as you can.
Another easy at-the-desk piece of equipment to get hold of is closing grippers. These are really affordable and effective and they last a long time, so you’ll only need to buy them once!
- This exercise is the opposite to the rubber band stretch. With the grippers, push for as many reps as you can.
Wrist wraps can be a great investment if you want to protect your wrists when handling heavy weights. These provide the wrists with added stability and support to prevent injury.
Resistance bands can also be really useful when exercising grip strength at the gym.
- Loop the resistance band around a stable pole and put your wrist through the other end. Face your fingers towards you and pull against the band, so you can feel a stretch in your wrist and palm. This is a great exercise to perform as a warm-up exercise, before heavy lifts such as cleans or snatches.
Other great exercises to perform at the gym to improve grip strength are:
- Dumbbell grab: put a dumbbell straight up and pick it up by the head.
- Bar hangs/pull ups: hang from a bar for as long as you can. There are a range of different grips you can use when performing bar hangs or pull ups to challenge your strength, such as neutral grip, closed grip, using ropes or a towel or alternate grip. Using a towel is also a great way to challenge yourself as the grip will be much thicker than your hands are used to.
- Wrist curls
- Farmer’s walks: walk around the gym with weights in each hand. This works the pinch grip, especially if you use plates or kettlebells.
- Deadlifts: these are great exercises for improving grip strength, as well as working the whole posterior chain. As the weight you can lift increases, you are likely to find the grip becomes more challenging. Try experimenting with different grips, such as the alternate grip: one hand is facing towards you, with the other away from you.
- Kettlebell exercises: holding a kettlebell is a great way to challenge your grip strength, particularly if you hold it “bottoms-up”: with your hands around the base of it. Try performing exercises such as squats, military presses and cleans with this grip.
- Fingertip push ups: these are really challenging but are fantastic for strengthening your extensors (the muscles that open your fingers), as well as your tendons etc.
- Farmer’s walks: this can be performed with shopping bags or even water bottles!
- Bar hang: if you have a home chin-up bar, you can perform this exercise at home.
I hope this has given you some ideas and has encouraged you to start working on your grip strength!
Written by Natasha Howe