The concept of hand strength is not only a element of overall hand health, but it is inexplicably crucial to the strength and combat sports athlete. Your hands are one of your most invaluable physical links to the world. The very electronic device that you navigated your way onto this site was most likely controlled by your hands. Yet, to the strength and combat sports athlete, strong hands are the link between the strength and technique of their body and the objective at hand. The development of a strong grip allows the athlete to express their strength and technique from the basic warm up drills to raw powerlifting deadlifts.
Royler Gracie in our exclusive interview said it best- “In my opinion grip makes a big difference, if you have a good grip, you can do whatever you want. As soon as you have the grip that’s it. Everything starts with the grip, you have a good grip, you can control and then start to go for what you’re looking for.”
Here are some techniques and methods for strengthening your hands.
Grippers- Every man at some point growing up was exposed to the adolescent muscular development phase and either you or one of your hulkamaniac friends had a set of grippers. Generally bought from the local sporting goods store and so weak your grandma probably used it while you were sleeping. Now, it is time to set aside childish things and look into high poundage grippers. These grippers are all over the internet and are excellent for developing grip strength. Limit their use to no more than a few days a week to avoid over training and build up with progressive increases in weight like any other exercise. Start at the weight that is right for you and increase as you go along. They range from the average 30 pound sporting good special to nearly 400 pounds. Buy a few within your range and get to work.
Pinch gripping plates- This is an excellent exercise for developing ‘pinch grip’ strength in your hands. Place several 5-10 pound places in your hand and hold them with your thumb and opposing finger tips in a pinching motion while sitting or standing. Increase the number of plates for weight and area pinching. The weights should be held in sets from 10 seconds to over a minute depending on the weight. Increase the weights as you would any other exercise.
Wrist Roller- The wrist roller is an excellent tool for developing hand and grip strength. It is one of the forgotten older strength tools that are no longer prominently used in most gyms. Yet, its current level of exposure is not a determination of its effectiveness. These are essentially a metal or wooden (metal is recommended) rod with a rope or cord coming out of the center attached to weight. These have been homemade and sold for years and can be found everywhere from ebay to your local sporting goods store. Roll the weight backwards in an upward motion to work the often under developed upper forearm in 3 progressively increased sets. Then repeat in an inverse downward rolling motion in the same structure of sets.
Card tearing- As pictured above. Take a deck of cards and using only your hands, pinch the deck as hard as possible at each end and slowly begin to tear. The strength of your pinch grip will allow you to keep the cards together and thus grip them. Buy several decks and build up by ripping smaller increments of cards at a time to develop your hand strength.
Phonebook ripping- This is not the typical, egotistical, and technique driven phone book rip. Grip each side in the familiar pinching motion, and slowly begin to tear it without any pre-created creases and limited body involvement. Begin with smaller books to develop this overall real world hand strength.
Training- This is by far the best way to develop a strong grip. Train (pull ups, deadlifts, etc) with limited or no assistance straps. The increased weight and training time frames will allow you to develop a hand strength that matches your body’s strength. Training grappling, on a consistent basis will also develop your hand/wrist strength in a sport specific manner that cannot be replicated by any other exercise.
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