You can tell a lot about a person just by the strength of their meat paws. I can’t even describe how happy it makes me when I become interlocked in a seemingly regular handshake when in turns into an unspoken metacarpal crushing competition. You may think I am biased about the benefits of grip strength, being a fanatical meathead, but science has some interesting things to say for all you “normies” out there:
Why normal people should give a shit about their grip strength:
Quality of life: If you are anything like me, you judge the quality of a person’s whole being on this planet by their ability to be open tightly sealed pickle jars without someone else’s help. Apparently, I am not the only one that thinks this way. A study consisting of almost 3,000 assisted living 59 to 73 year olds concluded that not only is a high level of grip strength congruent to general health, but it also is an accurate marker of self-reported quality of life (1). Men and women with lower grip strength were, pretty much across the board, miserable human beings. Going along with that theme, one study put together by some guy, who has greatly surpassed me on the “Complete and Total Asshole of a Human” spectrum, came to the conclusion that a lower grip strength can also attribute to social inequalities (2). This jerk-ass pretty much came right out and said, if your grip sucks, the likelihood of you owning your own home is significantly reduced. Also, when compared to those with more grip strength, apparently, weaker digit-ed people won’t own as many cars. Other cool findings were that those with higher grip strength had a significantly lower chance of accidentally falling down (I don’t know, maybe because they are strong?) and had significantly higher scores on physical performance tests/frailty assessment tests… both of which contain a grip strength component (2).
Less instance of disease: I found a bunch of studies on this one. But, one of them was awesome enough to get the point across. If your hands are strong enough, you will never die (3). Through mechanisms that seem to more mysterious than the loaded “I just need to find myself” break-up mantra, researchers found that regardless of muscle size, grip strength can actually predict all-cause mortality. Including cancer and cardiovascular disease. Think about that. Basically, this is saying if you have trouble opening trouble opening a jar of peanut butter, go to the doctor because you are probably having a heart attack.
Grip strength tests may also be an accurate measurement in nutritional assessments for children (5).
The only factor any of you vain, psychopaths care about: Improved body composition: Even though the above mentioned study specifically said that muscle size and body composition was not attributed to the associations made with grip strength specifically, let’s just ignore that. Mostly because it contradicts the next point I am trying to make. Plus, I found studies that say differently. I love science. You can pretty much find anything to back up whatever point you are trying to make if you look hard enough.
One study found direct relationships between higher grip strength and lower body fat percentage (4). The catch here is the control group was a bunch of people who don’t do any kind of physical activity what so ever and the other was a group of people working full-time in a brick field. So, one could make the argument that the brick field workers were stronger and leaner because of the intense physical activity they go through on a daily basis… well, duh. Working your ass off is pretty much the only way to get anything positive done with your body. Another came to the conclusion that “normal weight individuals with lower bf%” had higher scores on grip strength and grip endurance (6). The point is, stronger hands suggests you are more active. Insert the argument between which is more important between nutrition vs exercise here. There is no healthy sedentary person and there are no healthy weak/frail people. There also are no weak lean people who look good. Key words: who look good.
Why meatheads should give a shit about grip strength: The no science version:
- The stronger your hands, the more steaks you can hold.
- The more steaks you can hold, the more steaks you can put in your mouth without reaching for more.
- Rolling up cast iron frying pans is an aphrodisiac.
- Every handshake will turn into a battle of wills.
Try to control your pants explosion.
So, how can you turn your wet noodle fingers into rebar-like power digits?
I like to break grip training down into three categories:
Flexion: This is what is typically first thought of when grip training comes to mind. You really can’t go wrong here. Go online and get yourself some Captains of Crush Grippers and use the crap out of them. When you close the number 4, you get your name in the Guinness book of world records. I suggest alternating set and rep schemes. Personally, I like doing 50 reps with an easy gripper, or 3 sets of 10 with a moderate one, or 5×5 with a moderate, or a butt load of singles with a really hard one. This is not complicated. Just do it and get stronger at it.
Extension: This gets a little tricky. The BEST exercise I have found for this is simply using the Ironmind Expand Your Hand Bands for the same set and rep advice as above. The Expand Your Hand Bands are basically like rubber bands but with a little more ass-kicking built-in. Also, these are the cure for pretty much any and every hand/wrist pain issues.
Isometric Grip: Here is where the fun can start. This is the most used function of our hands in everyday and training life. Your ability to grab and hold onto to things is not only good for your health but it could potentially save your life one day. Just imagine if a pissed off polar bear burst into the room right now. How do expect to rip its head off with a pair of kitten mittens attached to the ends of your arms? You won’t. Now that bear is going to have a people face dinner and you are the main course. I have several different protocols that I like/recommend.
- Captains of Crush close and hold for time: Take those grippers I mentioned above, pick a moderate one, and close it/hold it for different timed intervals. I like 30 seconds, 15 seconds, 10 seconds, 6 seconds (recruitment threshold for most people. Thus a heavy deadlift can only be grinded for this long before something fails), and 3 seconds for super hard grippers.
- Pinches: take two 10lb plates, sandwich them so that the smooth sides are facing out, grab them in one hand and try to keep them together. Add plates as needed (always the smoothest side out, you cheater) and use the same above time intervals.
- Double Pronated (overhand) Deadlifts: I like to go heavy on these. Find 10, 5, and 3 rep max’s with the heaviest weights possible. Use a fat bar if you’ve got one and don’t have any intention of ever being a hand model.
- Same as above but instead of just a straight rep, pick it up and hold it. Use the above mentioned time intervals as well.
This stuff takes about 5 minutes and can be done at the beginning or end of a workout. Don’t workout? Then it is not ok to call me when you need help moving heavy furniture.
Go be a better human.
Sprint. Kill. Eat. Arm wrestle a polar bear.
1. Sayer, AA.(2007). “Is Grip Strength Associated with Health-Related Quality of Life?” Age and Aging.
2006 Jul;35(4):409-15. Epub 2006 May 11.
2. Sydall, H. (2009). “Social inequalities in grip strength, physical function, and falls among community dwelling older men and women.” Journal of Aging Health.
2009 Sep;21(6):913-39. doi: 10.1177/0898264309340793. Epub 2009 Jul 13.
3. Gale, CR. (2007). “Grip strength, body composition, and mortality.” International Journal of Epidemiology.
2007 Feb;36(1):228-35. Epub 2006 Oct 19.
4. Bandyopadhyay, A. (2008). “Body Composition and Hand Grip Strength in Male Brick-Field Workers” Journal of Medical Science.
2008 January; 15(1): 31–36.
5. Kenjle, K. (2005). “Grip strength as an index for assessment of nutritional status of children aged 6-10 years.” Journal of Nutritional Science Vitaminol.
6. Lad, UP. (2013). “A Study on the Correlation Between the Body Mass Index (BMI), the Body Fat Percentage,
the Handgrip Strength and the Handgrip Endurance in Underweight, Normal Weight and Overweight Adolescents.”
Journal of Clinical Diagnostic Research.
Jan;7(1):51-4. doi: 10.7860/JCDR/2012/5026.2668. Epub 2012 Oct 31.