The importance of grip strength is incredibly understudied, and unrightfully so. Being a competitive athlete my entire life, I had only begun to realize the ineffectiveness of ignoring one simple thing: we can only be a strong as our weakest link.
As a frequent reader of various blogs and strength-training articles, I have come across several key tips for training and one thing I can say I’ve truly benefited from is improving my grip strength. My own personal research on the topic began when I saw a friend training in the gym with blue rubber grips that he had placed around the handles of his dumbbells. When I asked him what they were he said they were called Fat– Gripz and they were helping him develop better grip strength. I was intrigued by the idea of this and began to research the importance of having good grip strength and what it could do to help me reach my fitness goals.
I soon discovered the main reason why grip strength is important: Good grip strength improves overall strength over time AND effectively improving grip strength requires attention to our weakest links at their weakest points.
Have you ever wondered why it’s so much more difficult to throw a regulation size football versus a miniature children’s toy? Things are generally more difficult to do the larger the object being gripped is and that is because our wrists and forearms get weaker as the width of the grip increases. Training with Fat-Gripz or a thicker bar requires the muscles to contract harder because the surrounding muscles are also required to contract in order to maintain grip throughout the exercise. This action causes an increased neural drive (more motor neurons rushing to the area being stimulated) with each muscle contraction, which basically means greater receptivity, greater force and better results!
I have personally tried training with wider bars, Fat-Gripz, and also various grip types (gripping dumbbells without the thumb to further activate forearm muscles), and although my weights went down to begin with, over time my weight climbed back up to normal grip weight and repetition. Not only have I gained increased forearm vascularity, my grip strength is no longer a limiting factor in my training; in fact, I no longer use straps for my exercises, and my strength is only increasing.
For those athletes looking to improve their agility with the ball, stick, puck, racket – whatever it is, developing good grip strength will provide you with more control and stability during your game. Not to mention, strengthening your wrists and elbows is vital for anyone suffering from tendonitis, carpel tunnel or “tennis elbow”!
Overall, grip strength is something that we shouldn’t overlook. Attention to detail WILL help you advance your skills to the NEXT LEVEL.
Poliquin Group (2011). http://www.poliquingroup.com/ArticlesMultimedia/Articles/Article/737/Thick_Bar_Training.aspx