By Zach Even – Esh

If you haven’t realized how critical hand and grip strength is yet, you’re missing the big picture. A weak grip and weak hands will limit how heavy you can train in and out of the gym.

It can also mean the difference between making that tackle, getting the winning takedown, or hitting the ball the extra few feet that helped you knock it out of the park!

Back when bodybuilding was in the “Golden Era”, none of those guys used wrist straps, wraps, wrist support or any other “helpers”. They may have used a weight belt, but even their belts were thin, wimpy leather belts.

These men also did tons of volume when they trained so not only did they have strong hands and grip, but they had the strength endurance to boot. Try doing a back workout that included a total of 25 sets performing heavy deads, heavy barbell or t bar rows, weighted pull ups and heavy shrugs!

Talk about getting a grip workout in! Then these guys finished off with wrist curls. Although wrist curls don’t do much for stronger hands and grip, they will add size to the forearms which can transfer over to your ability to improve grip strength.

The first thing you’re going to need to do is drop your wrist straps and wraps and start training with no assistance. At first, pull ups will seem challenging. Your hands will give quickly and you’ll be hanging by your finger tips. Quickly those hands and your grip strength will rapidly climb.

Start deadlifting with overhand grips and mixed grips (over – under). This will be one of the best movements you can do to develop your grip into a powerful “vise grip”. Not to forget that the deadlift is one of the best movements out there for full body strength and muscle building.

Make deadlifting even more challenging by using a thick bar! If you don’t have a thick bar, then use a towel where each hand goes and now you’ve got a homemade thick bar!

You can also use a towel on your kettlebell handle during one arm swings. These will really make the grip work over time, not just because of the thicker handle, but the speed of the kettlebell will amplify your necessity to hold onto that kettlebell with all you’ve got!

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The best way to work your grip is not through specializing only after a workout, but during the workout you should make almost every movement involving your grip.

Some examples are:
•The use of sandbags where you must grab the canvas
•Thick bars or handles for any free weight movement
•Towel or rope pull ups
•Towel or rope attached to the kettlebell (great for rows, swings, pulling movements, carries)
•Stone lifting, specifically pulling movements (dead lifts, bent over rows)
•Small stone lifting w/one hand – shoulder raises from all angles
•Heavy farmer walks w/thick bar and / or heavy implements
•Pole climbing
•Hand over hand rope or tow strap pulling
•Sledge hammer work

The big mistake is to throw in a few sets of wrist curls or captains of crush grippers at the end and hope for that to be enough. You’ve got to push the limits to develop your lower arms to their maximum and a few sissy sets at the end won’t cut it!

Let’s take a look at how you can incorporate grip training into a full workout:

The Vise Grip Workout:

Warm up:
A)100 push ups, hands on stability ball or on floor
B)100 squats

1)Thick bar dead lift w/over – under grip: build up to 3 heavy sets of 1 – 3 reps
2A)Thick bar military push press (clean from ground on 1st rep) 4 x 4 – 6 reps
2B)Rope or towel pull ups 4 x max reps
3A)Step ups or reverse lunges with kettlebells in ea. hand 3 x 12
3B)Plate pinching 3 x max time ea. hand

Another favorite grip movement that has proven to be very effective are the dumbbell hex holds. Just stand them upright and hold for max time! Go for 3 – 5 sets at the end of your workout resting only 30 seconds!

About the Author
Zach Even - Esh is a Strength & Performance Coach from Edison, NJ and is the owner of The Underground Strength Gym and creator of Underground Strength. Zach's Underground methods have spanned the globe and have helped men and women of all ages to dramatically improve athletic performance, pack on rugged muscle and develop brute strength. Zach is the Strength & Conditioning advisor for TapOuT Magazine and is also a featured writer for Men's Fitness Magazine. To learn more about Zach and his methods visit his website.