When starting a training program, you rarely think about grip strength. You want to lift heavier, so you focus on improving your form and developing strength everywhere except your grip. But neglecting grip strength in CrossFit accessory work can significantly hold back your performance.
Let’s bring this commonly weak area up to boost your performance!
For those wanting a free 3-week program to boost your grip strength, check out our Grip Strength Overhaul program!
Exercises to Improve Grip Strength for the Fitness Athlete
The simplest way to improve grip strength for CrossFit is to do grip training exercises! Here are some examples:
Hand grippers require using hand or torsion grippers. They are very easy to do. You can either squeeze for a few seconds, release, then repeat 10-15 times. Or you can go ahead and hold the grip for as long as you can. Take a break and repeat a couple more times.
Grip squeezes. Whether performed while you workout or as standalone work simply mindfully squeezing a barbell/dumbbell/kettlebell during exercises can be great grip strength work. Squeeze as hard as you can for a few seconds, release and repeat 10-12 times.
The Farmer’s carries is another fantastic exercise to work your grip. It is usually done with two dumbbells or kettlebells, one in each hand. All you need to do is walk a certain distance holding the weights. The bonus here is you’re adding motion. So, on top of the grip, you’re also working on wrist stability. (For more great carrying exercises check out this post)
Towel or rope pull-ups might not be accessible to beginners, but for intermediate to advanced people, it’s an amazing exercise for grip strength. All you need to do is drape a towel or a rope over a pull-up bar and do your regular pull-ups. You’ll see at first it will be more challenging as opposed to holding on to the bar, but as your grip gets stronger the exercise will become easier.
Plate pinching trains your grip in a slightly different way, so it’s a great addition. All you need is two plates. They don’t have to be very heavy. About 5-10lbs should be enough in the beginning. Now you simply pinch them together for 30 seconds, then repeat for a few sets.
Think Twice About How You Are Using Lifting Straps
Many think using straps is going to help them lift heavier. However, for many people, over-reliance can be a hindrance to their progress.
By using them, you’re reducing the amount of motor unit recruitment that is needed throughout an exercise.
Straps are OK when you need a backup when you lift at your maximum and beyond. But in all other cases, you don’t need them to help you train your grip.
We recommend performing all of your sets without straps until you reach a point that continued progress without them would be impossible. Then put your lifting straps on and continue lifting while staying focused on gripping the barbell as hard as possible.
Working on building your tolerance to hook gripping will also allow you to grip heavier weights without utilizing straps.
Use Thick-Handled Bars
They are barbells and dumbbells that have handles with a diameter of over two inches.
You don’t have to do anything fancy. You just do your normal routine, but instead of classical barbells or dumbbells, you use the ones with thick handles or add FatGripz (affiliate link) to your barbell to quickly transform it into a great grip movement.
In addition to improving grip strength for CrossFit, they protect your joints by providing increased stability. They also help you work more muscles by increasing the contractions in your chest, back, and arms.
Grip strength for CrossFit performance is crucial for both performance and reducing injury risk.
When trying to improve grip strength, think twice about using wrist straps. They are useful in some cases, but for most people, they are unnecessary.
Thick-handled bars are another easy trick for a better grip. Just replace your normal barbells and dumbbells with thick-handled ones, then do your workout as usual.
And speaking of your normal workout, think of squeezing the bar as hard as you can whenever you get the chance.
Of course, specific grip strengthening exercises shouldn’t be overlooked. Examples include hand grippers, barbell holds, farmer’s carries, towel pull-ups, and plate pinching to name a few.
Finally, hand extensions and wrist stretches will improve mobility, balance, and flexibility, helping you stay injury-free.
About The Author
I’m Daniel DeMoss, a personal trainer with an MSc in Physical Therapy and Nutrition.
On my website, you’ll find tips on how to choose the best gear for your home gym and how to live a healthy lifestyle.
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