Grip Training Tutorial, Part One

Posted: February 13, 2012 in Articles
In the next few weeks, I’ll be discussing ways that anyone can increase the strength and toughness of their hands and wrists. Today, I’ll be going over the various types of hand and wrist strength, as well as how those types of strength can be useful in daily life. Here we go:

Considering the great amount of energy and time that we spend thinking about how to condition our bodies, a surprisingly small amount of that goes into the consideration of grip and wrist strength. In fact, the average gym-goer or athlete may have never thought about these types of strength at all. I fell into this camp until a few years ago, when I was introduced to the idea.

This blind spot in our exercise philosophy is intriguing, when you really think about it. Without hands and wrists that are of sufficient strength to allow us to express the strength in the rest of our upper bodies, we are creating a physique that cannot be used to its best advantage. You can’t pick up something you can’t keep a grip on. While the various tools we use in a modern gym are expressly designed to allow us the easiest possible grip on them, such cannot be said of the average object we might have to pick up in daily lift. Your roommate’s couch doesn’t have handy, knurled grips on it, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have to help him move it.

Okay, I’ll get down off the soap box for the moment, and we’ll talk about the various types of hand and wrist strength.

Crush Grip: This is the type of hand strength that we most commonly think of when we imagine a person with great strength. It’s the strength that allows a firm hand shake. It’s one of the most manifest and basic expressions of a hardy, capable person. Simply put, crush grip strength allows us to squeeze whatever we’re holding, creating pressure upon a malleable substance such that it is compressed.

Pinch Grip: Just what it sounds like, this hand strength measure allows us to clamp down on an object, opposing one or more of our fingers with the thumb. Pinch grip is primarily thumb strength, and is one of the least-trained qualities. When grasping and manipulating objects that are too big to get a traditional grip on, this sort of strength can be very beneficial. Within this classification is also fingertip strength–the ability to express the hand’s power through the fingertips, rather than the larger, tougher parts of the finger and palm.

Static Grip: Probably the most easily trained grip, this is the quality that allows us to grasp and hang onto an object that is regular in shape and hard (like a barbell). As the name indicates, the hand is neither closed further or allowed to open, instead simply containing and controlling the load that the object held expresses.

Finger Strength and Toughness: It’s important to remember that the fingers can also be conditioned to open, spread out, and remain straight when load is being expressed upon them. This type of training is primarily done by people in the boxing and martial arts arena, but should be a consideration for anyone who wants their hands to be up to whatever challenge may come.

Wrist Strength: The wrist moves in many directions and orbits, so any consideration of wrist strength will, by its nature, be somewhat involved.

Rotational Strength: The wrist spins on the end of our arm, pronating and supinating. When turning your right wrist clockwise, it is supinating. When turning the same wrist counter clockwise, it is pronating. This sort of strength is important when we’re carrying something that twists in our hands, or when we are trying to express our strength through a tool like a lug wrench or a screwdriver.

“Hammer” Strength: For lack of a better term (I’m sure the exercise scientists have one), the strength that allows us to bend our wrist along the axis of the radius and ulna, as one would do while swinging a hammer upward and down, is an important concern. Again, this strength is valuable when we’re dealing with a dynamic load, where the object we’re contending with can move around and present us with various challenges, moment by moment. Think of doing a pushup while holding a basketball, for instance, and you’ll see the benefit of this strength. Also, any activity where we’re bending something will stress this.

Forearm Strength: While much of the strength that the hands and wrists express is due to the action of the forearm muscles, in this case we are discussing the ability to curl or extend the wrist, as one would do while using the throttle of a motorcycle or wringing out a dish towel. Perhaps the most widely trained type of forearm strength, this one allows us to oppose or create twisting forces.

With the wrist being a complex and highly flexible joint structure, these strength components are highly interrelated, and cannot be considered in a vacuum. The hand/wrist complex works as a unit, and training for one sort of strength tends to have some bleed-over to other types. That said, if we have a weak area, where we cannot express as much strength in a particular vector, our ability to respond to the demands of a shifting, unbalanced, or ungainly load will be diminished.

Next time, I’ll begin going into the various types of training that can be used to improve our hand and wrist strength.

  1. I’m looking forward to this! This was a great post, Pat! My Hands,wrists and forearms are probably my weakest part right now.

  2. Chris,

    More will come, soon. I’ve got the first few articles written already, so I’ll be pushing them up every few days.



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