Good morning Small But Mighties! Today represents the start of a brand new training week, so I thought I would share a quick tip you can work into your training this week: Grip Training!
Why is grip training important? Well, at the most basic level: If you can't hang on to something, you can't lift it! In a more practical application, I know of a lot of women who are working their tails off to get their first pull-up and (lack of) grip strength is often a limiting factor when it comes to pull-ups, deadlifts and rope climbs!
One other interesting reason why having a strong grip can have a major impact on your lifts revolves around the Central Nervous System and Motor Unit Recruitment and is summed up in the Principle of Hyper-Radiation. A few weeks ago I wrote about Post-Activation Potentiation and Heinemann's Size Principle: Motor units are recruited from smallest (least powerful) to largest (most powerful) based on the demands we place on muscles. You can take advantage of this principle by gripping the S@*t of the bar when doing deadlifts, olympic lifts, Pendlay rows, or pull ups or any type of dumbbell exercise -- gripping the bar tighter (placing higher demand on the intrinsic muscles of your hands, and forearm muscles) in fact leads to greater activation of the arm and shoulder muscles, allowing you to create even greater total body tension, and thus move more weight.
So does this mean you have to start carrying Captain of Crush grip trainers in your purse? Certainly not, and I wouldn't recommend them because as you know, I'm all about efficiency, safety, and functional training. My suggestion is simple: train your grip by using it! Here are a few exercises you might consider:
- Hang Out
- Hanging from a bar or rings is a great exercise for training your grip! You'll want to make sure when you first start out that you're not too high off of the ground, and also that you begin gradually (try supporting some of your body weight with a resistance band and slowly work towards holding your entire weight). To advance this exercise, you can work towards scapular pull-ups, full pull-ups, tempo pull-ups, or even pulling up (SAFELY & WITHIN REASON) on 'weird' objects like beams and ledges.
- Carry Stuff!
- Farmer's Carries, Suitcase Carries, Trap Bar Carries... you name the carry, and its probably good for your grip and wrist strength (including carrying your groceries!). You can even train your grip by carrying heavy plates with a pinch grip if you don't have access to heavy bells! Remember, the carries should be HEAVY; if you can pick up the dumbbell or kettle bell with one hand and swing it around, its not heavy enough! Focus on creating total body tension and gripping whatever you happen to be carrying as tight as you can.
- Fat Grip Handles
- Many companies now make fat-grip dumbbells; you can also use fat grip foam sleeves, or even more simply: wrap a small towel around the handle of the dumbbell you're carrying to make it thicker and harder to grasp, whether its during lunges, step ups, or dumbbell rows (or a variety other exercises). When it comes to barbell exercises, you can switch up to using a men's bar (45 lbs) as they have a greater diameter; this would be a great strategy for deadlifts, especially if you're planning on competing in the future.
The Fine Print
Although this article specifically addresses grip strength, as you probably deduced from the principle of hyper-gradation, our 'grip' muscles don't work in isolation. A great degree of our grip strength is dependent on our forearm muscles, particularly our forearm extensors as our wrists naturally deviate into slight extension when gripping. The wrist extensor muscles found in our forearms actually insert as a group via a common extensor tendon into the lateral aspect of our elbow and can lead to a variety of overuse issues if not properly trained and cared for. This means that if you're constantly working on your grip, you need to sure to give your forearm muscles some TLC: self-myofascial release, stretching and mobilizing are crucial to keeping these muscles functioning fully and efficiently, and to avoiding tennis elbow!
You also want to be sure that when you train your grip, you're actually training your grip! This sounds like common sense, I know, but its actually quite common for people to resort to over-recruiting their upper traps and many of the muscles in their neck (in addition to holding their breath) when trying to lift or carry heavy objects. When you're training your grip, be sure to maintain proper positioning of your shoulders (relaxed away from your ears) and your shoulder blades (drawn back and down towards your pelvis).
If you're working on getting your first pull-up (or even increasing your reps), deadlifts or are just interested in getting stronger, work some of these exercises into your training this week! Be sure to prep your wrists before you train, and to show them some TLC afterwards!
Happy Training Friends!
p.s Don't forget to check out the Small But Mighty Build and Burn Program starting July 4 in Toronto! We still have space and would love to have you join us!