Grip Strengtheners: Which type is right for you?

If you’re a fan of NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior,” you’d probably know by now that a person’s grip is important in performing many of the obstacles there. And why do think this is? Well, according to a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, having a strong grip is a good indicator of a person’s overall health and that people with strong grip have lower risk of stroke and heart attack.

Grip strengtheners shouldn’t just be exclusive to people rehabilitating from injury or health condition that affected their grip strength. A strong grip is used in wrestling, gymnastics and various sports. It is also important in day-to-day tasks like carrying groceries, opening jars, playing the guitar, or even giving a handshake.


Benefits of Grip Strengtheners

If you’re thinking if you actually need a grip strengthener or not, here are several benefits of a strong grip to help you decide:

  • Prevent injuries – Simply put, the stronger your muscles and connective tissues are, the lesser your chance of suffering from injuries related to chronic, repetitive movements. For example, tennis players train their grips to avoid lateral epicondylitis, a common condition called “tennis elbow” wherein the connecting tissues between the elbow and forearm muscles get irritated.
  • Faster injury recovery – If you do get injured, your strong tissues help in recovering faster than normal. What people don’t acknowledge is that you don’t have to be an athlete to suffer from injuries near the wrist, elbow or forearms. Those who work certain jobs may also be susceptible to medical epicondylitis.
  • Muscle endurance – This is what narrators of ‘American Ninja Warriors’ are referring to when participants go through the obstacles. As the momentum builds up, the participants continuously manipulate his body weight until they reach the end. Improving grip also increases upper body endurance, which allows them to push their bodies over their limits and reach new heights.
  • Improved dexterity –  Some hand grip strengtheners and exercises improve the dexterity of each individual finger. This can be a career-changing workout for musicians and artists who rely on their fingers for their craft.
  • Muscular forearms – Ever wonder how to make your forearm look stronger and bulkier? Well, you should strengthen your grip. Forearm muscles control your fingers, so whenever you open your hand, you work the forearm extensors, and whenever you close it, you work the forearm flexors. Consistently training your hands also improves the forearm muscles.
  • General grip strength – Grip training makes your fingers, wrists and arms stronger. Daily tasks like carrying heavy things, bodyweight training at home, or training weights at the gym can all become easier with a strong grip.


Types of Hand Grip Strengtheners

Contrary to popular belief, training your grip isn’t just about doing 50 reps with a hand gripper, or 100 squeezes of a stress ball.  This is because your hand performs three types of grips (and each one has its corresponding training):

1) The Crush Grip

If you didn’t know there were 3 types of hand grips, this is probably the one  you already know. It involves any grip between your palm and fingers. It is the grip you use when giving handshakes, crumpling beer cans, or breaking any other objects with pressure.

Many hand grip strengtheners in the market focus on the crush grip. Here are several grippers we recommend:

Even these if these 3 hand grip strengtheners lead the market, it won’t cost you an arm and a leg, since they can be as cheap as $15 and high as $70.


2) The Pinch Grip

With this kind of grip, your fingers are on one side of an object, while the thumb is separated on another side. Unlike the crush grip where pressure is focused on the center of the palm, objects picked up with a pinch grip don’t actually touch the palm.

Compared to crush grip strengtheners that look very similar, pinch grip hand exercisers vary considerably. For example,  Simply Solutions’s 2-in-1 Hand Finger Exerciser  doesn’t look anything like the traditional gripper, but it is designed specifically to improve the coordination, strength and responsiveness of fingers (individually or all at once).

If you see hand grip strengtheners that look like mini pool floaters or tiny resistance bands, these finger exercisers help in improving pinch and overall grip. Just look at Diamond Fitness’ Finger Stretcher & Hand Grip Strengthener: whether you buy the 2-pack or 6-pack, you get to reap the benefits of individually training the fingers since it’s connected to your wrist, hand and forearm as well.

If you’re serious about hand grip training, IronMind Hub Pinch Grip Training lets you build and test your pinch grip. This tool is used at grip competitions worldwide.


3) The Support Grip

This is where muscle endurance is measured. If you’re able to hold on something for a long time, such as a bucket filled of water, or shopping bags with clothes, it means your “carrying” or support grip is strong.

Because of the way a support grip is performed, it’s more practical to use day-to-day items than buy hand grip strengtheners specifically to improve a person’s “carrying grip.” You can make your walk to the garbage can outside longer, or do a bit of window shopping, and you’d be able to improve your support grip.


Wrap Up: The Best Hand Grip Strengtheners

Need something to gauge your hand grip strength? CAMRY has an awesome Digital Hand Dynamometer Grip Strength Measurement that allow you to check your gains as you strengthen your grip. Available for about 30 bucks, this tool even stores your past records.

If you’re looking for the best hand grip strengtheners in the market, you need to understand that there is no one-size-fits-all hand exerciser out there. Choose the ones that cater to your particular needs. For example, if you’re into martial arts, you may find support grip training to be most helpful to your workout. Mountain climbers will benefit more for pinch grip exercisers.

For beginners in the gym and those who are not sure which one to buy, your best bet is to go for crush grip strengtheners. The important thing is you start improving your grip today. You’d be amazed at how stronger you’d feel by just exercising your hands a few minutes a day.


Exercises to Strengthen Your Grip

While using a grip strengthener has many benefits (as outlined above), there are many accessory exercises one should try in order to support these tools. Not only does good grip strength indicate a healthy body, but it also acts as a foundation for all other movements and exercises you do in your daily life. So, in essence, when you strengthen your grip you are also strengthening your entire body as it allows you to perform exercises that you otherwise would not be able to. The following exercises will support you in your quest to better grip:

1. Farmers Walks

This relatively simple movement can be done in varying difficulties depending on your current level of grip. Pick up a weight object in each hand, ensuring that the weight in each hand is equal. If you have access to a full fledged gym you may choose to hold dumbbells, kettle bells, or farmers walks bars.

Start by walking 20-30 feet or whenever you feel your grip becomes fatigued. As you progress, you can increase the difficulty by adding more weight or by increasing the distance you walk between sets.

Note: Farmers walks are considered a compound movement. Meaning they actually work more than your grip strength. They also develop your traps, deltoids, back, hips, legs and abdominals. Talk about efficient!

2. Cloth Wringing

This exercise is simple yet effective. Find your favorite towel and wet it under the sink or in the bath tub. Use both hands to wring the towel out until you get all water out. Repeat this exercise several times.

3. Have Fun with Clay

Clay is not just used for making decorative pots. It can also be used for strengthen your grip. Squish a large portion of clay into a ball. Use your palms to form the clay into a “snake”.


Stretches for your Grip

Equally important as strengthening your grip is stretching the surrounding muscles and tendons. Here are a few stretches that can be performed in the comfort of your own home that will guarantee to aid you in developing your wrists and hands.

1. Wrist Flexor and Extensor Stretches

While seated, extend your right arm forward ensuring it is parallel with your shoulder. Grasp your finger tips of your right hand with your left hand and slowly start to pull backwards until you feel a stretch in your forearm. Hold this for 20 seconds before switching the pull so that the right wrist is bent downward. Hold this for 20 seconds as well. Switch arms and perform the same steps as outlined.

2. Thumb Flexion and Extension

Bend your elbow and a 90 degree angle and start with your fingers pointed forward, thumb pointed up. Bring your thumb down, across your palm until it touches the base of your little finger. Hold that position for 10 seconds and repeat 10 times. Do the same movement with your other hand following the same steps.

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