Emily Beers Breaking Muscle
Though your impetus to improve your grip strength might be as simple as wanting to be able to stay on the pull-up bar longer during a conditioning workout, science says grip strength might even be more important than just for gaining serious pull-up prowess.
A 2018 study published in the British Medical Journal looked at more than half a million people from 17 different countries around the world and determined that grip strength—which they measured through a handgrip dynamometer—was a better predictor of how long a person would live than looking at their blood pressure.
Specifically, for each 5kg decrease in grip strength, the study found the participant to be 17 percent more likely to die from cardiovascular complications, 7 percent more likely to succumb to a heart attack, and 9 percent more likely to have a stroke.
Whether you take this study seriously or not, grip strength is important. It is critical for day-to-day activities like grocery shopping, and also for success in the gym.
So, if you find yourself feeling like your grip gives out before your strength or muscular endurance fatigues, it’s worth devoting some time to improving it.
Below are two ways to test your grip strength and three exercises to include in your training plan to improve it.
Grip Strength Test 1: Dead Hang Hold
How long can you hold from a pull-up bar until your forearms start burning, or your grip gives out and you peel right off?
- Less than 30 seconds: F
- 45 seconds to 1 minute: C +
- 1 to 2 minutes: B
- 2 -3 minutes: A –
- 3 minutes or more: A +
Grip Strength Test 2: Farmer Carry
Can you farmer carry with your body weight (50 percent in each hand) for 50 meters without stopping?
If not, work toward the goal of a bodyweight farmer carry by including the following three exercises in your training plan.
Grip Strength Exercise 1: Farmer Carry Hold
With a kettlebell or dumbbell in each hand, stand with perfect posture with the weights in the farmer carry position for 1 minute.
- Work up to 3 sets of 1 minute as heavy as possible.
Grip Strength Exercise 2: Plate Pinch Hold or Walk
Do the same as above holding on to 15-25lb plates, or even two if you can manage it. You can also do these as a walking plate pinch.
- Work up to 3 sets of 1 minute or 3 sets of a 40-60-meter walk.
Grip Strength Exercise 3: Dumbbell Head Hold
Place two DBs on their ends and pick them up by their head. Hold a farmer carry position this way.
- Work up to 3 sets of 30 seconds to one minute hold.
Bonus Grip Exercise: Towel Chin-Ups
This one is a fairly higher level movement, but if you have the strength, toss a towel over the bar and hold onto the towel as you pull your chin over the bar into a pull-up. The Rope Towel Pull Ups movement is demonstrated here as part of the Breaking Muscle Movement Library.
• Work up to 3 to 5 sets of a rep range that’s appropriate for your strength level.