Blog
11
03
2012

Don’t Lose Your Grip

I posted a few weeks ago on Facebook about how tired and rickety my hands have been feeling.  At the end of some workouts they are shaky and weak.  I took some time off and felt better, but as soon as I returned to heavier lifting sessions, the ailment resumed.  I did some research.

“…during relatively light lifting, grip strength inadequacies will probably not cause you too many concerns. However, if you start to develop your training through enhanced resistance then you will potentially reach a plateau whereby your target muscles will be able to lift more but your grip strength simply cannot cope.”

This quote by Marcus Day elegantly sums up the situation.  I’ve been lifting heavy for 16 months now, and my strength is outpacing my grip.  To quote a reader who responded about this issue, “What’s a strong girl to do?”

Well, I noticed some of the big lifters at my gym use straps.  I looked into this, and apparently it’s a bad idea, and only helps if you already possess a grip of steel.  The squeezy hand-gripper thingies are out as well.  To those of us who need to work on this lesser-known muscle-set, it’s advised to incorporate a regular routine of diverse strength building exercises.

ixnay on the adgetsgay

I researched quite a bit and would like to recommend Marcus’ article, How to Increase Your Grip Strength from Fitnessbeans.com.  It’s short and sweet, and lays out 4 simple exercises to help alleviate the problem.

I plan to build this into my plan once a week so I can continue to go big.  I’ll keep you posted on my experience.  In the meantime, let me know if you’re experiencing this issue, and if you’ve got any tips or suggestions.

Comment
10
garagegym107

Hi Cassye,

Another thing you could try to strengthen your grip is towel pull-ups. You can put the smith machine bar as high as it will go and set the safety stops. Or if you have access to a good pullup bar use it. Loop a bath towel over the bar and twist each end of the towel once or twice until you can fully grip it. Allow yourself to hang from the towel and pull-up. Just like doing a pull-up except it’s more of a rope climb grip. It will really do a number on both your forearms and your hands. I am tall so I end up bending at the knees to fully hang from the towel. If you are not strong enough to fully pull-up, use just your toes for assistance.

Cassye

Thanks for the tip, that one is on my list of “to dos”!

GymRockStar

OK – my two cents…

Who said straps are bad??? No way!* The point is to work the larger muscles you need to work. Grip strength comes along later. Think about lat pull downs. You probably have to sit with your knees under the pads so the bar won’t pull you up. Someone could make the case that you aren’t strong enough if you need those knee pads, yet everyone uses them. Straps are like that. I also use hooks when I’m doing higher reps. They work really well with db rows. You didn’t mention chalk. I use Liquid Grip. It helps a little bit

As far as forearms – I don’t work them. And I don’t think mine are too big or too small. They develop naturally with the all the other lifts.

*Dead lifts are the only lift I do that I was told not to use straps for, which might be the one you heard about too. I guess the idea is to be able to drop that bar fast if the weight is too heavy. I have used straps with that lift when the weight is lighter and I’m doing high reps. My hands will give out before my butt, back, and hamstrings.

Cassye

Thanks for the input, RockStar! Your points are well taken, esp. about the lat pulldowns. However, what do I do in the meantime about my hands being all shaky and weak? I guess I just live with it, soldier on and hope the grip catches up? Do you think it’s worth doing the grip exercises? I’m having a lot of trouble with curls, overhead presses and strt legged deadlifts.

GymRockStar

Oh no – I didn’t mean to not use the grip strength things. I had a stress ball I kept by my chair in the living room and worked the heck out of it for about 10 minutes a day. You can use the straps for sure on the straight legged deadlifts. For curls, you could try bands. Maybe even cable curls? It will still work the biceps very well, but you won’t be dealing with a db or barbell. I’ll think about the overhead press…

Donna

On the wrist roll…. how do you not create big Popeye arms? I’d love to be able to hold onto more weight, especially for leg exercises, but I’d rather not pump up my forearms in the process. Do you feel this exercise in your forearms?

Cassye

Oh yes, I definitely feel it in the forearms. I was thinking the very same thing as I was repping them out and watching the veins surge. However, I couldn’t move much weight, 7.5 lb to be exact, so I’m not worried. Plus, I truly believe I’d need to be a man or on steroids to really bulk them. I can’t imagine that forearm muscles are different than any other muscle in the body.

Anyway, I find that my palms and fingers are the pain points with my situation, and I for certain noticed those areas worked by the plate pinches and the bar hangs. Almost every article I read included the forearms in the routine, but didn’t detail how they fit in. I guess we’d need to find out just how much the forearms are involved in overall grip strength. It may not be wise to neglect the forearms if they truly are necessary to achieve overall balance.

Cassye

Tried the grip exercises yesterday. As with any new move or exercise, some of them were a little awkward. The wrist rolls, in particular felt odd, but after 4 sets felt better. The plate pinches made me grumpy because after the first round with the 35 pounders, my hands were smoked. I kept picking them up though, despite my dropping them almost instantaneously. Wish I’d had the video for y’all, I’m sure it was entertaining to watch! Hung on the pull up bar, and had to use the neutral hand grip to help the shoulder. This one felt kind of good due to the stretch action. After that I was too tired to try the pullups with the towel. Maybe next time! Let me know what you think!

Low Carb Jabberwockey

Those straps look scary….no way out if you have to drop the bar !

Cassye

That’s so true, Jabberwockey! I actually hadn’t thought of that. Thanks so much for reading, and for your comments!

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