What are the benefits of hand grip exercises?

A metric for health

Lets talk about a metric for a moment. This metric is one of the most powerful indicators of overall fitness and physical health. It prevents injury, it boosts athletic performance, and is helpful in a myriad of activities around the house. Sounds important, doesn’t it?

So what sort of fitness panacea are we referring to? Your first guess might rightly be cardiovascular fitness, which is admittedly important. But we aren’t talking about that here. Barring the clear lead in the article title, would you have guessed hand strength? We certainly would not have. But there it is.

Hand (or grip) strength is one of the most important elements of overall health. In fact, medical institutions use grip strength as a predictor of this metric as patients age. A weak grip is correlated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and overall mortality. In one study, grip strength even showed a stronger correlation with cardiovascular disease than blood pressure or overall physical activity.

Neglected Hands

Despire its importance, hand or grip strength is one of the most neglected areas of the body among healthy athletes. You’ll even find weightlifters using grip straps to circumvent this critical area. There seems to be a disconnect here.

Why the disconnect? We can only speculate. Lifters and other athletes probably neglect grip strength because it just isn’t sexy or fun to train. Hanging exercises and those squeezy grip trainers lack the panache of heavy compound exercises, and the whole ordeal feels embarrassingly close to masturbation (yeah, Chad, what are you going to use that iron grip for anyway?). But that doesn’t make the exercise any less critical, even going beyond general health correlations.

A strong grip is practical in the gym

If you deadlift heavier weight, or even lug bigger dumbbells around, you are likely already aware of the power of grip strength, and how a lack of grip strength can be a limiting factor. The larger muscles in the body quickly adapt to heavier weights, but grip is often trailing behind. With deadlifts in particular, grip is often the first thing to fail. The problem is that instead of working to improve their grip, many athletes resort to straps instead, circumventing this pesky weak area at the expense of their health.

Grip strengthening exercises

So we’ve established that grip strength is critically important for your overall health and aids in performance at the gym. So now the question becomes, how do you strengthen it? Don’t worry, we wont suggest one of those creepy squeezy tools (though if that’s your thing, have at it). Lets get into it.

1. Dead hangs

Hang from a bar. That’s it. Pretty simple. Do it for as long as you can, then try hanging from just one arm to increase the intensity. We doubt you’ll need instructions for this one, but just in case, here’s what this exercise looks like.

2. Dumbbell Farmers Carry

Remember those heavy dumbbells we mentioned earlier? Pick those up, maintain good posture, and walk around. This exercise has the benefit of being compound—you get your upper arms and shoulders in the action, too. It’s also very manly, and clearly has nothing to do with masturbation. Here’s a video of that exercise.

3. Deadlifts, without grip aids

Deadlifts are a great exercise for improving grip strength. After all, the reason the grip fails first is because the exercise is an intense forearm workout. Here’s a video of that exercise, because so many people do it wrong.

4. Go rock climbing

Really, this should be number one, but we wanted to keep our recommendations low-investment, so threw this in on the bottom. Rock climbing is an especially effective way to improve grip strength, because the sport relies on it so heavily: from pinch holds to slopers, rock climbing provides a myriad of dynamic ways to engage your fingers and forearms, let alone the rest of your body. You’ll also have fun doing it. If you’re solo, or don’t want to deal with finding a spot outdoors, try indoor bouldering.

The above is not a comprehensive list, of course. There are many additional exercises for enhancing one’s grip. We feel, however, that these three are standout in their ability to turn your palms into crushing machines. But ey, you could always get a grip strength trainer.