Why grip strength matters and how to build it

Tuesday June 2 2020


By Joan Salmon

We use our hands for everything, so it is annoying to carry a few groceries only for your fingers to start hurting. That is why Brian Kasasa, a sports scientist, advocates for grip strength training. He says grip strength is the ability for the smaller joints (in your fingers) to withstand the stress of weight during an activity.

“Grip strength keeps wrists strong and helps one avoid repetitive and unstable motion and stress injuries,” he shares.
One may wonder how they can tell that they need to embark on grip strength training and Kasasa says some signs could be continuous pain in the wrists during exercises such as push-ups or chin ups, failure to handle basic workout exercises such as push-ups, swelling and constant pain during and after an activity such as carrying groceries, and difficulty performing routine activities such as standing up or sitting down.

However, it does not mean that one has reached the end of the road as there are exercises one can do to boost their grip strength. That is what Benedict Ziraba calls grip strength training. Some of these exercises include:
Bend over rows
This exercise works not only your lats but also your biceps. Ziraba shares how this workout can be done:
With your hands stretched wider than your shoulders, lift a barbell off the ground. “Remember to bend your legs slightly, keep your back straight while your upper body is bent as you lift,” he says.
As you haul this weight up and down, Ziraba says not only will your upper body be strengthened but also your grip. “It takes a lot of grip strength to keep lifting this weight. Doing it repeatedly will make improve yours,” he says.
While it also works well for strength training, Ziraba says for purposes of grip strength training, cut out the chalk. “Deadlifting without using the chalk causes one’s grip to work harder hence building grip strength. More to that, performing static holds will challenge your grip,” he shares.
However, Ziraba advises against mixed grip deadlifting.
This is where one hangs on a bar and pulls their body up until their chin goes above the bar. While this workout does more than strengthen your grip, Ziraba says without your grip in right shape, you cannot sustain yourself up there.
“At the bottom, your arms should fully straighten and tension should be felt at the shoulder blades and collarbone rather than at your biceps. In the halfway position, your elbows will move towards your ribs as you control your shoulders and shoulder blades. All that and more causes your grip to get stronger,” he adds. Ziraba says while the start will not be easy, diligence will give you results.
Lat pulldown
This exercise will work your grip and arms, not forgetting your middle and upper back muscles. Ziraba says when engaging in this exercise, one ought to be slow and controlled in their moves.
He says before you start, adjust the cylindrical pad so that it sits perfectly well on your thighs. “That is to ensure that movements are minimised. Then, get a hold of the bar with a wide grip as you look forward with an upright torso. Pull back your shoulder blades and pull the bar down to your upper chest. As you hold onto the bar and pull, your grip strength will definitely improve,” he says. However, he cautions against leaning back to aid the bar movement.
While those workouts are best done in the gym, there are some that you can do in the comfort of your home. Elly Barangi, a fitness coach shares these:
Pinch: With this, you could hold two metal bolts together and the workout will majorly work on your thumb. “It is crucial because a strong thumb means a strong grip,” Barangi says.

Crush: In this workout, your whole palm closes in on an object. “It could be you squeezing an orange or a lemon. Whatever you choose to hold will make your grip firmer with time,” he shares.
Support: It is akin to pull ups. “If you have a tank stand, you can do your exercise there. Your ability to lift yourself up will test your grip strength,” Barangi says.
Wrist work: The stability and movement of your wrist is important in the strength of your grip. As such, getting a pipe in each of your hands and continually moving them back and forth will test your wrist. “The pipes should not be heavy,” he shares.

Exercises at your desk
Do you know there is already an excellent piece of grip strengthening equipment present in many offices? The rubber band. This is a super easy exercise to do while you are on a phone call or that conference call that gets the blood moving through the hands and helps balance out your vice-grip like hands.
To do: Wrap a rubber band around your hand at the base of your finger joints. Gently move your thumb away from your fingers as far as you can. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds and release. Repeat 10 to 15 times with both hands.