First off, let me share a personal story with you guys: I have really small wrists.
Like ridiculously small.
Every time I buy a watch, I have to ask them to decrease the diameter with like 50% so it doesn’t fall off my hand. This makes my grip strength my weak point in many lifts in the gym. The first time I tried a deadlift, I dropped the bar on the floor because I couldn’t hold on to the damn thing. I couldn’t do a single pull-up because my grip failed. When doing biceps curls (yeah, I sure did a lot of those when I was 17 years old) my forearms burned as hell and drove me crazy as soon as I tried the 17 kg dumbbells.
So what did I do? I used straps.
Now I don’t know if you can see it yet, but here’s a lesson to be leaned.
When we face an obstacle, be it in training or other aspects of life, what do we often do? What did I do? Work around it. We find a way to cheat ourselves that the weakest link isn’t there and find a way not to depend on it. But you will never be stronger than your weakest link.
What results did I get from wearing straps all the time? I could start doing heavier deadlifts, with more weight than my body was ready for, compromising technique and ended up hurting my lower back. I was unable to deadlift with the empty bar for 13 months. I increased my pull-ups but still couldn’t do a single one when my friends wanted to compete in school. I couldn’t do bicep curls without the straps since I dropped the dumbbells as soon as they were heavier than 12 kg. And then I injured my left wrist doing preacher curls.
So the lesson here is to not look beyond your weaknesses but to indentify them, and put full focus on improving them, instead of closing your eyes and pretending they’re not there.
Now I don’t spend a lot of time on grip-training. I don’t have some kind of absurd fetish for grip-training, I tend to stay away from religious love for fad stuff, be it some modern diet or training. I just refuse to let grip strength be my weak link. And neither should you.
First off you should try to include as many grip taxing exercises as you can into your ordinary routine.
Stuff like deadlifts (preferably double overhand grip), weighted pull-ups, rows, lunges, rack-pulls and barbell shrugs. You should include at least some of them in your routine anyway. The rack pulls and shrugs allow you to use a heavier weight than you deadlift, allowing you to strengthen your grip so when you reach the same weight with your deadlifts, you’ll be ready!
Specific grip training: This basically means lifting something really heavy and holding it. Sound easy? It might be simple, but definitely not easy.
Farmer’s walk: if you have enough space to perform them –do it! Grab a heavy dumbbell and walk with it. Progress by increasing speed, distance or load. If you do it unilaterally (one dumbbell at the time) it will also be extremely taxing on your core musculature.
Grip training in rack: One of my personal favorites. Set the pins at different heights. Load one side with a 45 lbs plate and the other with desired weight. DO NOT forget the safety pins on this one. Hold the thick part of the bar (on the lower side). Lift it up and hold for time. I like to alter between loads so heavy I can barely lift the thing, and loads I can hold for let’s say 30 seconds.
Here is a video of me doing it so you get the point.
Dead hang in pull up bar: Great way to strengthen your grip for heavy pullups. Basically add a lot of weight onto your weight belt (more than you use in your regular pull-up sessions) and hang onto the bar like your life depended on it.
Competition holds in rack: Now if you have a training partner, this might be the greatest thing you can do to increase grip strength. When trying to strengthen the grip, great stress is put on your pain tolerance and patience, because it hurts and burns like crazy. Competition might give you that extra motivational spurt to complete the task. Set up two bars in the rack. Load the bars. Face each other, (psyching and name calling is OK). Lift the bar and see who will hold on the longest.
Deciding on some kind of punishment is great to. Just please don’t run naked through the gym when I’m there.
If grips strength is the limiting factor in your lifts you should definitely try to implement some of the exercises above in your routine. It has made the world of difference to my own training and will do the same for you. Use chalk when the grip starts to fail, if you really have to.
If your gym doesn’t allow chalk – change gym.
The big forearms that often come with increased grip training will also give you more muscular look, even when you’re not wearing bizarrely tight T-shirts.
So stop bitching about your bad genetics and get down to work.
And for myself: I haven’t used my straps in years. I deadlift more than ever, and always with a double overhand grip. I do pull ups with more than half my bodyweight in the belt, and the grip is never the limiting factor.
And sometimes when I feel like checking out my awesomeness in the mirror, I do some bicep curls too, without dropping the weight (just please don’t tell anyone).
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