BY JOSEPH ARANGIO Men’s Fitness
If you’ve been hitting the weights for years yet struggle to hold onto the bar during deadlifts and pullups, it’s time to focus on training your mitts.
“Having strong fingers, hands, and wrists helps you lift more weight and allows you to hold the weight for longer time and more reps,” says Jedd Johnson, strength coach and co-founder of DieselCrew.com. “This translates to better results in the gym.”
A 2011 study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that hand-grip strength is a good predictor of total-body muscular strength and endurance. We’re not suggesting you ditch your lifting straps or hooks. Just save them for your last heaviest set when pulling, after your grip is toast. Build maximum strength with these five unique moves designed to boost performance in the gym.
Each of these exercises is designed to improve one particular component of your grip: crush, support, pinch, extension, and monkey (yes, monkey). Add these moves, twice per week, after your pulling workouts. Perform, 1A, 1B, 1C, and so on, without a break. That’s one set. Do two total sets.
1A. Hand Gripper (Crush)
Reps: 5 each hand
Place a gripper in your hand (we like Captains of Crush from ironmind.com, $22.95) and flex your fingers inward toward your palm, like you’re making a fist. Squeeze the two handles together until they touch.
1B. Rack Suitcase Isometric (Support)
Reps: Hold for time
Place a loaded barbell in the rack, with safety catches set at knee height. Stand so the bar is on your left side, perpendicular, with your feet hip-width apart. Bend your hips back and grab the barbell in its center with your left hand. Brace your core and, without rounding your back, push through your heels to stand up. Squeeze the bar hard to keep it from teetering. Keep your spine straight and avoid bending toward the barbell. Hold as long as you can. Repeat on the opposite side. “Your fingers must take the brunt of the load,” says Johnson. Side benefit: You’ll strengthen your trunk, too.
1C. Plate Pinch Hulas (Pinch)
Reps: 5 each direction
This lift targets your thumbs. Pick up a few 10-pound plates, smooth sides out, with your thumb on one side and your fingers on the other. Pass the plates around your body from left to right. Repeat in the opposite direction. Another option is to do pinch-grip chinups using Rogue Pinch Blocks (roguefitness.com, $62.50) or a wooden rafter.
1D. Hand Extension (Extension)
Reps: 10 each hand
Lack of strength in the extensor muscles of your arm, combined with overdevelopment of the flexors, results in elbow pain. Use the Hand X Band (handxband.com, $24.99) to fix muscle imbalances by training the muscles that open your hand. Slip your fingertips into the loops. Open your hand as far as you can. Repeat on the other side.
1E. Globe Pullups (Monkey)
Try the monkey grip when the object is just too big to get your hands around, like a strongman’s stone. “Just keep your thumbs on the same side of the implement as your fingers,” says Johnson. For a fun grip builder, try the Rogue 12-inch Pullup Globe (roguefitness.com, $94.50). Grab the globe with your arms perpendicular to the floor. Keeping your arms completely straight and crossing your ankles behind you, hang at arm’s length. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull your chest to the bar. Pause and return to the start.
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