November 10, 2011|
Last updated: May 14, 2018
In this day and age, we all know (or should know) how important it is to maintain a healthy level of physical fitness in order to live a good quality life, maintain our cardiovascular system, and keep our bodies strong in order to thrive into our later years. For many of us, this means getting into the gym in order to do resistance training — one of the best forms of exercise that is available to us. For those looking to get back into the gym in order to maximize your health, strength, and vigor, one thing to take into consideration that is often forgotten or completely ignored is grip strength. “Grip strength? What does that have to do with anything?” you might ask. It may not make sense to you right off the bat to take time to train the hands and lower arms while at the gym. I know when I first learned about it, it seemed like a complete waste of time to spend valuable training time on less than 5% of your body, but the truth of the matter is having a strong grip pays many dividends both in your training and elsewhere.
What is Grip Strength?
Grip strength is often thought of as simply hand strength, and while hand strength is definitely included, there are actually many other things to consider when thinking of grip. First off, grip involves everything from the musculature near the elbow down to the fingertips. It has to be thought of this way because many of the forearm and hand flexor muscles actually originate above the elbow, and anytime a muscle crosses a joint, it will in some way influence it. As we move downward, the gripping muscles pass through the forearms, the wrists, and into the hands, fingers, and thumbs — and not only through the front of the forearms, but also the back of forearms. This is important to remember. When we look at grip in this manner, we start to see that there are MANY movement patterns that are realized by the lower arm musculature. As we train the lower arms, we must then remember to train all of these movement patterns in order to maintain a suitable balance between the antagonistic muscle groups, such as the flexors and extensors. In fact, many cases of inflammation-related forearm pain such as tendonitis, tendonosis and epicondylitis can arise due to improper training of the forearm muscles or simply neglecting certain muscle groups or movement patterns.
Benefits of Having a Strong Grip
There are many reasons men should seek to have a strong grip. They range from social reasons, to training reasons, and beyond. Let’s highlight a few.
Stronger Grip = Stronger Handshake. Whether it is right or not, men are often judged by their level of strength and by how strong they seem. Nothing is a better example of this than the need for a strong, hearty handshake. When you shake hands with a man and he looks you in the eye and gives you a solid squeeze back, it makes him seem more confident, dependable, and trustworthy. However, if they hit you with the proverbial “dead fish” handshake, they lose credibility and may even seem slimy and weak.
Don’t let this be your handshake…Stronger Grip = Bigger Lifts. When you have a strong grip, you are able to lift heavier weights in the gym. Especially in pulling movements such as deadlifts, rows, pull-ups, and chin-ups, a solid grip that you can call upon will help you increase your training results by increasing strength.
Stronger Grip = Better Endurance. When your hands and lower arms are strong, you can also perform more repetitions than someone whose weak hands are a liability. This means you will be able to perform more repetitions per set of an exercise, thus burning more calories, losing more fat, and building more muscle.
Stronger Grip = Better Later Life Quality. Research has now shown that grip strength has proven to be a reliable indicator for quality of life at an older age. For instance, in 1999 a study concluded the following:
“Among healthy 45- to 68-year-old men, hand grip strength was highly predictive of functional limitations and disability 25 years later. Good muscle strength in midlife may protect people from old age disability by providing a greater safety margin above the threshold of disability.”