A wet-noodle grip makes you seem weak when you’re shaking someone’s hand, and it also limits the amount of weight you can control inside of the gym or on the field.
“Whether you’re throwing a baseball or football, swinging a bat, or performing a bench press, your grip and wrist are essentially tied together to form a ‘super stiffness,’” says Brian Matthews C.S.C.S., a trainer at Phelps Gym in Albany, NY. “In other words, when your grip is strong it helps as an all-around force transmitter. With the bench press, for example, when your grip is weak the force you generate from the trunk and torso dissipates. So instead of going through the bar, it has nowhere to go.”
Dedicating an entire workouts for grip or forearm development makes about as much sense as an hour-long hardcore calves workout. Instead of going overboard, try slipping in specific exercise a few days per week, or tweaking your pull-ups to shift focus to hand joints, wrist flexors, forearm flexors, extensor muscles, and brachioradialis — parts of the body that are activated when you grip — on days you develop your back.
“The Captain’s of Crush Hand Grippers ($23-$30 @ Amazon.com) are the toughest grip strengtheners available,” says Matthews. “Your average Johnny Gym doesn’t need to attempt the Captain’s highest level … but finding [a gripper] that you are able close and doing things like isometric holds, a close-and-holds for five or ten seconds at a clip, or trying to set personal records (PRs) with grip holds will definitely help develop grip strength.”
“Inside of a power cage, set it up so the bar and crash bars are at about mid-thigh height,” Matthews says. “Load 10-15 percent more than your one-rep max on the deadlift. Then grab the bar, pull the weight up and hold for as long as possible. Try to set a new PR each rep.”
Sub towel or T-shirt pull-ups for standard or machine pull-ups to add more forearm and grip development into the movement. “You’re working with an unstable surface and working your forearms as well as intrinsic muscles in the fingers,” explains Matthews.