Having the grip strength to climb a rope might just save your life. Not just if it’s your only exit from an Indiana Jones-style snake pit, but because a strong grip is linked with a reduced risk of heart attack and stroke, according to a study in The Lancet. The research, which canvassed 140,000 subjects, found grip strength is a greater predictor of survival than systolic blood pressure, citing it as an indicator of the effects of age taking hold.
Another study in the Journal Of Strength And Conditioning Research found a strong link between grip and total-body muscular strength and endurance. In other words, a weak grip equals a weak body and a mighty grip equals a mighty body.
That’s why Coach‘s sister brand Men’s Fitness spoke to functional fitness expert Andrew Tracey (wayofthenomad.co.uk) on ways to build your grip – and how this’ll boost your gains.
Rope climbs are a phenomenal way to challenge your grip while also building a strong upper body, but you can also make minor tweaks to regular gym moves. “Swap half your pulling exercises in the gym with rope variations,” says functional fitness expert Andrew Tracey. Use the rope attachment instead of the metal handle for rowing moves – and even pull-ups. “As well as a bigger range of motion, you’ll get an added grip challenge and the harder you grip, the more muscles you engage in your forearms, biceps and deltoids.”
Try to get out of the gym too. “A weekly climbing or bouldering session will develop your finger strength and make workouts more fun and varied,” says Tracey. Not to mention boosting your chances of getting out of that snake pit alive.
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The Best Kit to Build Grip Strength
Looking for gym kit that’ll help you strengthen your grip? One thing you don’t want is wrist straps, which are designed to let your grip off the hook. “If you must use them, save them for the final, heaviest deadlift set or your grip will limit your potential for strength gains,” says Tracey. He recommends these three grip-enhancing bits of kit for one session a week to activate your forearms and crush the life out of your workout.
How: Slip them on dumbbells for curls and presses.
Why: “These transform standard dumbbells into fat ones, doubling the amount of work your forearms have to do to hold on,” says Tracey. “You’ll have to reduce the weight at first, but you’ll be able to lift way more in the long run.”
How: Attach them to an overhead bar for chin-ups and pull-ups.
Why: “These spherical grips test your finger strength – another common weak link – and give you similar benefits to bouldering. Use them for the first couple of sets before your fingers tire,” says Tracey.
How: Use them on barbells for biceps curls and overhead triceps extensions.
Why: “These force you to squeeze them shut around a dumbbell or barbell handle, so they’re more versatile,” says Tracey. “Use them for hammer curls and you’ll add a wedge of muscle to your biceps.”