By Jeremey DuVall, M.S., CPT Men's Fitness
Having muscular forearms isn’t just beneficial for giving a firm handshake. Building up your grip strength is imperative for lifting more weight in the gym on powerful moves like pull-ups and deadlifts. Hence, building a stronger grip translates to building more muscle all over. Many guys working in the gym, however sabotage their grip strength either by masking their weakness with tools like straps or just avoiding it all together and relying solely on machine-based work that neglects to challenge the forearms. Building a superhuman handshake requires more than just a few wrist curls at the end of a workout. Incorporate the following tips into your routine for sleeve-busting forearms.
1. Stop encouraging weakness.
Using tools like wrist straps and other grip aids in the gym put a band-aid over a weak grip. Rather than challenging your grip to become stronger, using those tools actually encourages your body to rely on help and may actually make your forearms weaker. Put aside your pride for a few weeks and lift slightly less weight that you can actually hold without help. By improving your grip strength, you’ll be able to lift more weight and challenging your entire body with a greater stimulus for growth.
2. Train your grip often.
Your grip is something that you can and should be training every day. Chad Howse, trainer and owner of ChadHowseFitness.com, adds that every time you’re in the gym pulling or lifting anything is an opportunity to train your grip. Incorporate pulling and lifting in every routine. The repetitive stress will cause a quick jump in grip strength and will immediately help to further develop your forearms. Slide core exercises like farmer’s walks that employ your grip in at the end of a workout for both a midsection and forearm finisher.
3. Lift heavy.
Rather than training your grip with tons of light wrist curls for an endless amount of sets, consolidate your workout and train your grip at the same time as the rest of your body. By incorporate heavy deadlifts, pull-ups, and bodyweight rows, you can develop your entire arm, not just your grip. Work on adding weight to rack deadlifts, a variation that emphasizes the top portion of the lift and allows for more weight on the bar hence a larger grip challenge. For pull-ups and bodyweight rows, constantly challenge yourself by switching grips every few reps during a set. By releasing and then grasping the bar, you’ll challenge your forearms to adjust and adapt to a variety of positions. Also, don’t neglect exercises like walking lunges while holding dumbbells as they present a great opportunity for building a strong grip.
4. Use grip builders.
Towels and a variety of other tools like Fat Gripz can be added to your workout for an added stimulus. While adding weight to the bar is usually enough progression on your grip, these tools can help to amplify your results by increasing the strength demand. Try wrapping a towel around a bar or handle on any exercise to increase the thickness of the hand hold. Squeeze the towel while performing the exercise, but just be aware that you will likely need less weight than usual do to the added challenge. Similarly, hanging from two towels while doing pull-ups turns what may otherwise be a simple exercise into torture for a weak grip.
5. Squeeze the bar.
According to Chad, the simplest and most powerful tool is one that we often forget. Actively squeezing the bar with your hands during a set leads to greater grip activation and therefore more gains in grip strength. Avoid letting the bar slide towards your fingers during a set. Instead, keep it locked firmly in the palm of your hand and wrap your thumb around the bar to hold it in place. During a set, focus on squeezing the bar as hard as possible. By engaging your grip more during the exercise, you’ll likely find that your strength numbers will shoot through the roof.