Have you been trying to do some weight exercises but struggling because your grip is failing you? Perhaps you’ll have to set aside those weights for a moment and work on your grip strength first.

More than just for lifting weights in the gym, grip strength is necessary for our daily activities. Imagine moving your sofa, or vacuuming, or flipping those pancakes with your spatula (yum!), or maybe lifting your baby up, as well as playing golf or tennis or rock climbing, and also badminton— more reason why grip strength is super important.

Now, bring those weights back in, please. An effective weight training for maximum muscle gains also requires, you know it, a good grip. Your bicep curls, your deadlift, hanging leg raises, you won’t be able to perform them well and long enough if your wrists keep on aching, so you either have to do fewer reps, completely stop them, or worse, risk injuring yourself; these are things we want to avoid.

Importance of Strong Grip

Still not convinced?

Studies found that a strong grip is an indicator of one’s overall health. An article published by Reuters states:

The researchers studied more than half a million participants in the UK Biobank project, who were aged 40 to 69 years when they were recruited in 2007-2010. Periodically over the years, participants underwent medical exams, provided samples and answered extensive questionnaires about health and lifestyles.

Gray’s team also tracked participants through medical records for an average of seven years. During that time, more than 13,000, or nearly 3 percent, had died, while close to 6 percent developed heart disease, about 2 percent developed respiratory disease and close to 6 percent were diagnosed with cancer.

After accounting for age and a wide range of other factors, such as diet, sedentary time and socioeconomic status, the researchers found that muscle weakness, defined as a grip-strength measurement of less than 26 kilograms (57 pounds) for men and less than 16 kg (35 lb) for women, was associated with higher overall risk of death and higher risk for specific illnesses.

Basically, the more active you are, the more strength and muscle mass you will retain and the stronger your grip will become. And while you might not realize it, it would also affect your quality of life. Imagine not being able to carry those grocery bags or play your favorite sports.

Types of Grip Strength

A participant climbs across an obstacle during a Spartan Sprint Race at Fort Bragg, N.C., Sept. 19, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

As listed by Men’s Health, there are four main defined forms of gripping. Each requires different techniques and sets of muscles.

  • Crushing. The act of closing all your fingers against resistance as if you’re wrapping your fingers around something and then squeezing it towards your palm (called clamping) or directing your force with your fingers toward the callous line (called crimping.)
  • Pinching. The act of grasping things (like salt) with the thumbs opposing the fingers.
  • Supporting. This is when you lift something with your fingers to take the majority of the load and;
  • Extension. Simply stretching all your fingers out

Exercises To Improve Grip Strength

Maybe you’re starting to realize, “Oh no, my grip is indeed weak.” Don’t panic because you can work them out, just like all the other muscles in your body. Here’s what you can do:

Walk with Weights

You can start improving your grip and overall strength by picking up something heavy and then walking. If you’re in the gym, you could use kettlebells, dumbbells, or a weight plate. If you’re doing it at home, you could try with a heavy bucket, sandbag, even a packed suitcase. Hold your preferred weights on your sides while making sure that your back is straight and not leaning on either side, backward or forward. Slowly stand tall with shoulders away from your ears and then start walking forward. Stop and put the weights down once you feel that your grip is beginning to loosen up.

Dead Hang

Dead Hang (Adam McCubbin/Youtube)

This is a great way to improve your grip strength if you have access to a pull-up bar or maybe you’re near a playground with monkey bars. To do it, simply grasp the overhead bar with your arms stretched and your body in the hollow position for as long as you can. Make sure that you retract your scapulas so you can draw your shoulders down and away from your ears. You can start with 20 to 30 seconds at a time and add more time once you begin to feel that it’s getting easier.

Battle Ropes

Dennis J. Yeddo, fitness facilities manager, fitness branch, Semper Fit division, Marine Corps Community Services, performs rope battles during a Paddle Fit Boot Camp workout aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, July 23. (Cpl. Charles Clark, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Grab those battle ropes that are usually used for cardio or muscular conditioning, and you’ll find out they could be pretty hard to grasp. Hold the ropes in each hand and try to do alternating double waves by moving both your arms up and down rapidly, or imagine yourself playing the drums.