In previous LBEB articles, we have detailed how to build stronger upper backs, bigger glutes, and more powerful legs. One question we routinely receive, however, is how to increase grip strength. Common questions usually resemble "my grip is the first thing to give out on deadlifts, how do i get it stronger?" Well fear not, master Baggins: LBEB is here to help you step up your grip game.
Grip strength is one of those interesting facets of lifting, because it is such a small part of your body that will either assist or inhibit almost all of your lifting endeavors. It is one of the most simple and straight forward muscle groups to train, but often overlooked or simply not understood in the average training arsenal. Lets look at three of my favorite ways to train for grip strength and forearm improvement.
1. Stone loading
When you tell someone that you train in a Strongman style, the thing they usually ask "like those guys on ESPN2 that load the big rocks?". Common folk usually remember stone loading over other events because it it probably the most badass test of strength in existence. It is a full body movement that combines a deadlift, a squat, and an explosive triple extension in order to load a stone to a platform or over a bar. Before a stone can be loaded, however, it must be picked up. People sometimes ask "What is a good substitute for stones?". Well if your grip is weak, that stone isn't going to budge off the ground, plain and simple.
Because of this, the best way to get better at stones is to to simply get better at stones, they don't exactly have a substitute. You can practice stone loading to platform, over a bar, lapping a stone or even stone holds (pick up a stone and lock legs out while holding stone for 10-15 seconds). Stone loading also increases the thickness of tendons of muscles around the elbow and brachial head in the forearms when done in a programmed manner (READ: don't load stones every day). The nice thing about stone work is that you will notice an increase in back and bicep strength as well.
Farmer Walks/ Carry Events
What do you know, another Strongman event makes the list! These walking events make up about 70% of my grip work, and these are my strong point. My barbell lifts aren't spectacular, but if you give me a heavy odd object, i am going to sink my grip into it and not let go and carry it until I fall over. I like to use thick farmer handles for my farmer walks because I feel stronger with things like an axle bar or fat handle versus a thinner bar like a conventional barbell. Marshall says "Unlike other some other strength sports that involve picking up objects and putting them down, Strongman involve picking up objects and putting them down OVER THERE." BY training these walking events, your grip strength will explode in a very short period of time.
Carrying objects like Husafel stones or heavy sandbags will also increase the thickness of your forearms and biceps, since there is much involved in squeezing the forearms together. these objects typically need to be picked up more like a straight leg deadlift than a squat, as you will see in some of our videos. Walk these objects for 3-5 sets of 100ft and I promise that your grip strength will go up dramatically, just keep it hot, heavy, and fast.
Unless you are a very light and small person, standard kettlebells or dumbbells are not a great substitute for carrying events simply because they are not heavy enough. Even if you have 100lb dumbbells or three-pood kettlebells, your grip strength will quickly surpass the strength requirements of these objects. Invest in a 2-300lb sandbag or some farmer handles as quickly as you can.
This is something we use for conditioning more than anything, but it will still smoke your grip for days on end. I like to use these Special Thor Hammers, pictured below:
Ryan from StrongerGrip.com made these for me, he is not compensating me for posting this, I am simply a huge believer in his products. Take a hammer in each hand and find a tire to beat the living daylights out of for 3-5 sets of 60 seconds each, alternating the hand you strike with each time. This can be done about once per week, most advisable after your pressing or medley work is completed.
Implement some of these grip training methods to your programming in the appropriate places in order to help you increase your grip strength. Even adding some Captain of Crush exercises or phone book ripping will help you, along with one-arm bar hangs and hook-grip deadlifts. 10lb wrist curls aren't going to get you there, because like so many other things in lifting: Heavy weights and a powerful grip is what moves you from the kids table to the grown up table.