If you struggle with exercises like pull-ups or the deadlift, chances are your legs and back aren't to blame. It's your weak-ass grip.
Have you ever used wrist straps while deadlifting or doing a back exercise?
If you have, then you know it's usually much easier to go as heavy as possible. Why?
Your limiting factor isn't that your back or legs are weak, it's your grip.
For pull-ups, it's more of the same story. You've probably noticed that doing exercises like rows and pulldowns for 10 to 15 isn't too bad, even when the weight is more than your bodyweight. But doing the same for full range pull-ups is out of the question.
Again, it's not your back that needs work but instead your grip strength.
If your weak grip is an issue and you want to learn some tricks for fixing it, check these suggestions out.
Bodyweight and weighted dead hangs
Thumb-over grip is better for mobility on pull-ups but harder on your grip strength.
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jacob Wilson
If you want a strong grip, try hanging on a bar for as long as possible. While it seems basic, chances are you can't hang for more than a minute, at least at first.
Try jumping onto a pull-up bar with a pronated grip, where your hands are facing away from you. Allow your arms to fully extend overhead and hang unassisted for as long as possible. Then, repeat.
Once a minute is easy, start adding multiple sets.
When that gets too easy, add some extra weight with a dumbbell between your feet or thighs and repeat the process.
If you have access to one of these pinch grip bars give it a shot. You'll be amazed at how much less weight you can handle than with a traditional barbell.
U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik
The best part about building grip strength is that the techniques to do so are simple. Just like with dead hangs, a great way to develop massive grip strength is to hold on to some heavy ass weight for as long as possible.
Similar to dead hangs, set up a barbell in a squat rack with the safety pins just above your knees. Then, work up to a weight that you would come close to maxing out on the deadlift for three reps. Hold the weight for as long as you can and work your way up to 60 seconds per set.
The only thing here is that for maximum benefit, you can't use an alternate grip if you usually do while deadlifting. You do that because it's easier to hold on, right?
Instead, use a pronated or double overhand grip while doing dead holds. It will be humbling at first, but over time, your grip will become unstoppable.
Obviously, grip strength is huge if you expect to max out the deadlift on the ACFT.
U.S. Army Courtesy Photo
If you've got a weak grip, you also need to train the muscles in your hands that allow your fingers to stay firmly wrapped around the bar. One of the easiest ways to develop finger strength is the plate hold.
Depending on your grip strength, you want to start with a 10 to 45 pound weightlifting plate, like the ones you used to deadlift. Turn the plate vertical and grip the edge with your four fingers on one side and your thumb on the other.
Pick the plate up and hold for as long as possible. If you want an extra challenge, see how far your walk while holding the heaviest plate possible with your fingers.
It's going to suck, but your grip will thank you.
Use a towel
No, seriously, using a towel to train is a lesser-known grip training tactic.
If you think doing a pull-up on a bar is challenging, try wrapping a towel around that bar and doing pull-ups while holding the towel instead.
The best thing here is that this tactic can be used with other equipment as well.
You can wrap the towel around the handle of a dumbbell or kettlebell and do curls or farmer's walks. You can even use a towel for machines like lat pulldowns too.
Believe it or not, even repeatedly ringing out a thick towel is an effective way to build wrist and grip strength.
Just keep in mind, not all towels are created equal.
If you're going to try and use this method for an exercise like pull-ups, place a crash pad underneath you, have a spotter or use a pull-up assist machine just in case the towel breaks.
Don't be a looky-loo. Go try some of this stuff and get better.
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Jason Archer)
If you have a solid training program that holistically trains your entire body, then grip strength probably isn't a concern of yours. If you're like most people and lack that training plan then sign up for The Mighty Fit Plan... it's free and the perfect thing to help get your grip strength up to snuff.
Don't forget to check out the Mighty Fit FB group for more Military and Veteran training greatness.
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