Our bodies are amazing ‘beings’, designed in a way to minimise the harm we can cause to ourselves. Grip strength is a good example of this. It creates a buffer to test whether or not the rest of our body is strong enough to move an object. When trying to pick something heavy up, it is generally our grip that will fail first which then protects our back from an injury that could potentially be more serious if it’s not ready for that weight yet. When training, a lack of grip strength can be a limiting factor for many movements, not just deadlifts & pulls. Pull ups & other hanging bar work can also be restricted if your grip is not strong enough to hold your bodyweight on the bar.
The use of straps can overcome this lack of grip strength for deadlifts, clean or snatch pulls etc, allowing us to lift far more than our forearms would allow, otherwise creating arguments for & against the use of them. There are a number of factors that I take into consideration when using straps for both my own training & when coaching.
- Am I training or am I trying to max out this lift? If I’m training… I also want to strengthen my grip at the same time so won’t use straps most of the time.
- Does having a weak grip in this movement limit my potential for improvement in this lift? If it does… try not to use straps.
- Am I doing a larger number of reps (more than 5) at a relatively heavy weight (90% of max & above) where the focus is on movement pattern? The example I’m thinking of in this case is a heavy snatch pull or snatch deadlift for 5 reps at 100% of snatch. The weight is not heavy enough to cause injury to you but is heavy enough that your grip strength may fail.
- Am I trying to max out a lift that I know sits outside my strength capabilities? In this case I’m considering a heavy deadlift. If my grip fails when trying to max out my deadlift, I’ll listen to my body telling me I’m not ready to pull that weight yet and will go back to strengthening my grip until it is.
Training grip strength doesn’t need to be boring. There are heaps of ways to integrate it into your program & picking one of these each session to use as a finisher can be a great way to improve in a short period of time.
Heavy Farmers Carry’s – Load up the farmers carry or use dumbbells or kettle bells & take them for a walk. Extra points for using a fatter handle than usual. You can add ‘fat grips’ to dumbbells to make your hands work extra hard to hold on.
Plate flips – These are fun. Grab a bumper plate pinching it between your thumb & other fingers. Now flick it up into the air & catch it using thumb & fingers on the opposite edge. Start at 5kg & see how far you can get. Bumper plates can really vary in their design so some will be harder than others. See if one hand is easier than the other & make sure you’re training both hands.
Bar hangs – Bar hangs are exactly that… jump up to the bar & hang. Keep a strong position with shoulders locked in back & down rather than hanging off your traps. This is good for the pull up positioning too. Start by trying to accumulate 3 minutes holding on as long as you can each time. Once you’ve mastered that, try for four minutes & so on.
Fat bar/grips – Things with a thicker width generally are more challenging to hold on to. Vary things up within your training by using a fat bar or fat grips rather than a regular bar on occasion. You may not be able to lift as much but the improvement in grip strength will pay off over time.
A strong grip is the foundation of overall strength. Invest in the time & unlock your strength potential at our Gold Coast Personal Training Gym.
By Jen Davis