Does grip strength matter in weightlifting? 3 facts you should know
In just about all strength training exercises, the hands are involved, even when they are not.
From curls to compound movements – squats and deadlifts that don’t specifically target our mitts – how we grip the barbell is how we meet it. Grip, at the gym, is the tip of the iceberg.
And just as weak feet can hold an otherwise strong athlete, so can a poor grip. A weight that cannot be held cannot be lifted. But what else can grip tell us about strength and health?
A little. Improving it doesn’t just make you a better weightlifter, it makes you a healthier person. Many studies have shown that grip strength acts as an indicator of health: the stronger it is, the more likely you are to be healthy.
Why grip is important
Grip is a function of the strength of the hand, which is made up of muscles, tendons and finger pulleys. When we squeeze and fold our hands, we are exerting our grip.
Grip strength is essential inside and outside the gym. A study of geriatric women showed a positive relationship between grip strength and lung function – the proper functioning of the lungs – as did a study of adults living in the UK. Another who focused on adolescents found grip strength to be a positive marker of future health. Conversely, poor adhesion is associated with the development of the carpal tunnel.
Good adhesion doesn’t just happen. People who have firm handshakes or who can hold onto a pull-up bar for the duration of a Megadeth song have these abilities because they worked to get there, and because of good neuro-connections. space between their brain and their fists.
Firmly and forcefully flexing your hand signifies both the presence of muscle and your neural pathways being healthy enough for your muscles to take charge and do the things your brain wants them to do.
The grip is the most outward example of the production of force: when you want to show strength, you clench your fist. It’s the most common way to express our strength – even the biggest gym rat hasn’t squatted more in their life than they’ve punched.
But even though a fist is instinctive, it’s also mentally taxing: it triggers neurons between our brain and our body, making it seem like we’re trying hard. (Try to hold a fist and tie yourself in for 30 seconds – no one is calm when they hit.)
This effort is one of the reasons that the grip can loosen early in an elevator. Fortunately, training can help.
How to improve your grip
Adhesion is built, like so many others in the body, through repetition and work. And although the tendons and pulleys of the fingers require longer recovery times than muscles and do not need to be worked out every day, they can still be pushed.
Traditional strength training can help. Compound lifts that strengthen the body also require tension, which means that the production of force is exerted by a grip on the barbell.
Squats are the best example of this: to perform one correctly, a weightlifter will squeeze the barbell hard enough as they will make their body rigid while sitting up and down with the weight. This expression of strength turns into a strong grip: if you squat regularly, you will have a good handshake.
But while standard lifts can increase grip to respectable levels, they can’t always increase grip at the same rate that muscle is put on the body.
Heavy deadlifts, for example, build up the grip accidentally while exposing it. The hands get strong on a deadlift, but the posterior chain muscles get stronger, and so when the weights get really heavy, weightlifters tend to drop the bar with their fingers. Many weightlifters pull limited deadlifts with straps – ties that go between the hand and the bar – to make sure weak hands don’t get in the way of a good workout.
But sometimes we have to lift without straps. And so, to catch up with the rest of the body, specialized work is required.
Gripping work in the gym
When we think of direct gripping work, we imagine grippers – the hand presses your dad might have had at his desk – which, of course, are good options around the house. But specific grip-focused programs like David Horne’s Beginner’s Routine or the one from Reddit that focuses solely on improving the deadlift are actually barbell and barbell exercises. that target the hands and wrists and apply well to barbell programs.
Many exercises can be added after a workout as assistive work to catch the hands up to the body.
A few stand out. Busy transports – bringing your groceries home, but with plates, to the gym – work the hands, core and forearms and improve conditioning.
Plating pinches – standing, pinching a large plate or a few small ones between your fingers – isolates the hands a bit more.
Timed takes might be the best. They are simple: the bar is held in the low position, for maybe a minute, building hand strength, wrist strength and endurance. Because it’s done with a barbell, there is an immediate transfer to the deadlift and squat. Ed Coan, arguably the best powerlifter of all time, swore by one-handed variety. If they’re good enough for Coan, they’re good enough for you.
Special equipment can also be added and should. Rotating deadlift handles – when hooked to a loading pin, clip, and weights – provide a variant of a one-arm deadlift that pulls the grip through the roof forcing the entire body into the deadlift. lift with one hand. (The Rolling Thunder is a good option.)
Fat bars – what they look like, added to a bar or dumbbell, which turns it into an axle bar – are also popular. They force the elevators to be completed with the palms open. It involves different muscles and requires more focus and strength generation. Imagine your hand crushing a clementine against a grapefruit.
Ultimately, focus is the key, and the to concentrate we put the grip could help us make ourselves stronger.
Everything is related to the musculo-neural pathway. A good grip, according to kettlebell impresario Pavel Tsatsouline, spreads the tension from the fist to the rest of the muscles. In his words, it “radiates” the body.
Tsatsouline believes so much in grip strength that he recommends training it, with the core, over any other program. He recommends RKC planks – where one plank is held and the whole body flexed for up to 15 seconds – as a way to activate this irradiation. Other trainers recommend squeezing something with a free hand while doing a lift. The idea creates a situation that has been expressed in Kung Fu for centuries. Neurons activate and the whole body becomes a fist.
It’s an idea of strength training that gets a little less pressure than heavy squats or deadlifts. But it does make sense. We control our hands more easily than any other part of our body. So why not let this proprioception flow?
When we start to control our muscles like our hands, this is when real strength begins. And who doesn’t want that?
LEG DAY OBSERVER is an exploratory look at fitness, the companion to GQ.com’s vintage Snake America column, and a home for all things Leg Day. Due to the complicated nature of the human body, these columns are intended to be considered as introductory prompts for further research, not as guidelines. Read previous editions of Leg Day Observer for more thoughtful approaches to lifting and eating.