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Increase Grip Strength

There is nothing worse than powering your way through a course, getting to an obstacle, then dropping to the ground because your grip strength isn’t what it should be.  Let’s face it, many of us have been there, I have done more burpees than I can count due to grip failure.  A strong grip can be the difference between first and second place.

While there isn’t any one proven method that will work for everyone, I have compiled a list of exercises that have been proven to increase your overall grip strength… pick and choose as you see fit.

The Hand Gripper

The hand gripper is nifty little tool that you place in your hand and squeeze away.  The idea is to squeeze your fingers to your palm, like you are making a fist, until the to handles are touching.

  • Sets: 5 each hand
  • Reps: 10

Bar Hangs

This exercise can be performed virtually anywhere you can find a kid’s jungle gym.  The idea here is to hang from a bar as long as you can till your hands can support at least the weight of your body.  This exercise is preferred over things like the hand gripper as this activity is more representative of what you find on a course.  While this exercise increases your grip strength, it has the added benefit of allowing your arms to support the weight of your body.

  • Sets: 4 each hand
  • Reps: To failure

Slow Negative Muscle-Up

Not many have heard of a muscle-up… However, it is one of those exercises that works right out of the box.  The idea here is to hang from a bar and perform an explosive pull up until your body is above the pull-up bar, triceps fully extended pressing your upper body up and over the bar.  Think of it as a pull up and a dip combined… if that makes any sense.  The negative is when returning to the hanging position, perform this action as SLOW as possible, squeezing the bar as tight as you can with your hands.  FYI, this exercise works a lot more than just your grip, every aspect of this exercise is a positive.

Chris Heck has a great video:

  • Sets: 4
  • Reps: Start with 1 and work your way up

Finger-Tip Push-Ups

I think we can all agree, a push-up is typically not meant to increase your grip strength.  However, a slight variation to the push-up can provide your fingers with a much needed increase in strength.  While grabbing and gripping exercises  involve squeezing or holding, counter movements are just as important.  Finger-Tip push-ups work to strengthen the muscles that extend your fingers as well as the tendors and connective tissues.

  • Sets: 4
  • Reps: To failure

Dumbbell Holds or Inverted Dumbbell lift

A dumbbell hold is an extremely easy exercise.  The idea is to grab some dumbbells and simply hold them as long as you can.  The trick is to grab them from the ends, not the bar between them.

  • Sets: 4 each hand
  • Reps: 1 rep, hold as long as possible

Farmer’s Walk

The farmer’s walk is one of those exercises, again, that will benefit far more than just your grip strength.  In many obstacle course races, there are a number of activities that require you to move a heavy object from one place to another.  The farmer’s walk mimics this but can be done just about anywhere.  The idea is to grab a pair of heavy dumbbells or kettlebells and walk from one end of a room (or the gym) to the other until you can no longer hold onto the weights.

  • Sets: 3
  • Reps: To Failure

Plate Pinches

Plate pinches require that you hold two plates, smooth sides out, and hold them as long as you can.  Keeping the smooth side out forces you to avoid edges that can provide you with an advantage.  Start light and work your way up.  While many of the “crushing” exercises above will increase your grip strength, this pinching exercise incorporates your thumb.   Make sure you keep your toes protected… If you can hold it longer than 30 seconds, increase the weight.

  • Sets: 3
  • Reps: To Failure

About Joe DiFiglia

Fitness and sport enthusiast. Spartan Race Junky. I have been a martial artist since the age of 4 and addicted to anything challenging. Years of Martial Arts training provides the ability to keep going when my body really wants to quit.

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