Maximize your strength training routine by cutting out these time wasters.Read article
What do golf, motocross, baseball, tennis and bodybuilding all have in common? Grip strength is crucial for success in each of these sports. In weight training, your grip can make the difference between seven reps and 10, between using 225 and 275 pounds, or, to cut to the chase, between stagnation and growth. If your grip gives out before the targeted muscles do, you’re forced to shorten your set, and you likely won’t stimulate any development.
This month, H.U.G.E.™ examines methods, exercises and tools designed to help you hold on to the weight longer and thus grasp greater gains.
Often, the exercise dictates the grip you use. For example, a barbell curl is always done underhand, just as a reverse curl is always done overhand. In other exercises, such as rows, you can go either overhand or underhand, with each style altering the angle of pull. However, in curls or rows, you may still choose to deviate by using, say, a thumbless grip instead of the standard closed grip. These are the major grip styles.
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Let’s focus on three exercises you can do in any gym.
EXPANDED WRIST CURLS
These are performed like standard wrist curls, with the crucial difference that at the bottom of each rep, you uncurl your fingers enough that the bar rolls down to your fingers’ first joints. Roll your fingers back up, curling them around the bar again, and then complete the wrist flexion as usual. You won’t be able to use as much weight, but you’ll work your hands in conjunction with your forearms. Do three or four sets of 10-15 reps as part of your forearm workout.
An underhand grip when performing wrist curls targets the flexor muscles on the underside of the lower arm.
Expanded wrist curls don’t work your thumbs; pinch grips do. Put two weight plates together so the smooth sides face out. While keeping all digits straight, grip the two plates between your thumb and forefinger. Hold for as long as you can, rest for a minute and go again. Do three or four such “pinch sets” for each hand, together or individually, at the end of each forearm workout. If you can pinch-grip the plates for more than one minute, use heavier plates. You can also pinch-grip a dumbbell by the handle, keeping your fingers and thumb straight.
Deadlifts performed off a power rack with the supports set at just above knee level focus more on your traps and upper back than full deadlifts. We’d usually recommend that you use wrist straps, so you can really pack on the plates. However, to focus more on hand strength, forgo straps and use an overhand grip. This way, your grip will probably be your weak link — until you strengthen it.
Straps certainly won’t strengthen your hands. In fact, they’ll probably give them less work to do. Nonetheless, the easiest and most efficient way to secure a better grip during pulling exercises is to use training straps, noosing the hooped end around your wrists and wrapping the tail end around the bar where you hold.
A study conducted by the Weider Research Group demonstrated that, when using straps, subjects got one or two more reps during back exercises than they did without straps. Don’t shortchange your sets of rows, pulldowns and chins. We recommend that you use training straps during back workouts, and you should consider it a plus that your hands aren’t working to their utmost. Focus on grip strength during forearm/grip workouts.
Several tools are designed specifically to boost your grip strength and endurance. Here are three you may want to use.
Gripping strength and endurance aren’t visible onstage. Even formidable forearm size doesn’t necessarily correlate to a walnut-crushing hold. Still, getting a good grip is crucial to bodybuilding success, as it can make the difference between a productive set and one that fails prematurely. If your hold is a weak link, train your hands as hard as you do any other bodypart. We can all benefit from occasional “handiwork” to make sure our grip doesn’t slip. FLEX