Old school bodybuilders were like pseudo strongmen in some ways. One of the most obvious aspects of this was their incredible grip strength. Guys used to do fun tricks like rip a phonebook in half to impress people. Of course, now finding a phonebook is nearly impossible, plus a lot of guys just aren’t putting much focus on their grip strength like they should.
In a way, advances in equipment is to blame. Gyms aren’t the same as the used to be; dark and dang dungeons filled with heavy iron and the occasional machine. Free weights in the form of barbells and dumbbells dominated the scene. Now most gyms have more machines and stations. Sure, they have barbells but usually only a handful of Olympic bar stations. Instead there are more “small” barbells on pyramids for east access. You don’t see ‘grip crushers’ or handles with a rope attachment for weight plates to work on the wrist and forearm strength anymore.
That shift, along with less people doing specialized forearm work, has lead to the reduction in grip strength by the average lifter.
Why Does it Matter?
A stronger grip means you can lift more weight and hold it for a longer time. If your grip gives out then you drop the weight. So one of the best ways to improve your weight totals across the board is to work that grip!
Old school bodybuilders got plenty of work lifting barbells racked with weight while doing deadlifts and other heavy iron lifts. Plus they made a point to include specific grip work at least once a week. They considered forearms something to be trained like calves and abdominals. Now, a lot of guys use machines with padded, soft grips which just isn’t the same. So how do you fix this deficiency? You need to add a specialized grip routine to your program.
- Warm-Up – Spend a few minutes doing no-weight hand rotations and wrist curls to get the joints warm and blood flowing.
- Grip Crush – 2 sets to failure (each hand) – You can use grippers or stress balls. The point is to squeeze hard and hold it before releasing. This works great to improve your handshake as well.
- Plate Reverse Curls – 2 sets to failure – Grab a weight plate by the top ridge and use that to perform reverse curls working both the wrist and forearms.
- Farmers Walk – 2 sets to failure – Grab the heaviest pair of dumbbells you can find and simply hold them while walking in a small circle.
Along with adding a grip specific routine to your program it is important to not rely on straps when lifting. Many people use straps because they see other lifters use them in magazines and such. One thing to consider is that often these lifters (such as powerlifters or high level bodybuilders) use straps only on specific lifts when attempting very heavy singles. Strapping up for work sets is more of a detriment than a help because in the long run as your grip strength does not increase you will only be able to lift so much weight even with the straps.
So how is your grip? If you think it is lacking then you need to add some grip training to your routine. It is a great way to boost your strength.