I recently had my first Spartan Race last September 2018 and it was a great experience! The trail and the obstacles like the Multi-Rig, Atlas Carry, Hercules Hoist, Rope Climb and more, required full-body strength and muscular endurance.
But one of the defining factors during these obstacle racing events is having a strong grip. A strong grip helps you carry heavy stuff, hold on to monkey bars, squeeze things hard and also protect your shoulder from getting injured.
Besides that, in almost all sports; athletic and training performance may improve by increasing grip strength. Try and work out with these 5 exercises in the weight room to strengthen your grip.
1. Pull-up/ Chin-up Variations or Dead Hang
The Pull-up/ Chin-up is perhaps one of the best tests for upper-body muscular strength and one of the toughest bodyweight moves there is. This exercise requires the back (lats, traps, rhomboids), shoulders, arms, forearms to work hard in order to pull yourself up above the bar.
If you can’t do a single repetition, try band-assisted versions or negatives wherein you jump to pull yourself up and slowly lower your body until the arms are straight. Work with different types of grip like, overhand, underhand, neutral, mixed, and even with a towel grip pull-up which is very difficult even for an advanced lifter.
Also, do dead hangs and hold for as long as you can. Just by holding the bar while hanging from it for timed sets will make your grip stronger. Try to do a 1 minute dead hang and progress from there.
Deadlifts are considered as one of the best exercises for building and strengthening the posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings, spinal erectors, and trapezius) yet also great for improving grip and stability of the core muscles. Train with different variations of deadlifts, like conventional, Romanian, and with different implements like barbells, kettlebells, and dumbbells.
Allow your body to adapt to one type of deadlift then you can change the type during the next phase of your training program. When doing barbell deadlifts, I suggest train with the overhand grip rather than the mixed grip for grip strength enhancement purposes.
3. Bottoms-up Kettlebell Shoulder Press
Not the usual exercise you see in the gym, the bottoms-up press is a great drill to build shoulder strength, mobility and teach you to grip the kettlebell tightly. The challenge in this exercise is to hold the kettlebell upside down. In order to maintain that, the grip, shoulder stability, and core tightness should all work together.
I suggest training with kettlebell cleans, rack carries, as well as core training exercises and then try the bottoms-up kettlebell press. Learn to keep the kettlebell stable then attempt to press it overhead, for safety keep the free hand near your face for protection just in case the kettlebell flips over. Train with light to moderate but challenging weights at 8-12 reps per set.
4. Farmer’s Walk
The farmer’s walk, long embraced by strongmen, is an exercise that involves a set distance or time while carrying weight. This exercise engages all muscle groups from the arms, back, shoulders, core, and legs and gives you a solid conditioning workout.
Here’s the standard way of doing it, grab two heavy dumbbells, kettlebells, or farmer’s bars and walk as far as you can or by a set distance. You can also train with time limits by carrying the weights for 30-60seconds per set. Try to maintain good posture during the exercise. This will strengthen up your traps and forearms and make you physically stronger in general.
5. Kettlebell Swings
If you want a single exercise that develops power, full-body strength, coordination, work capacity, and make you more athletic overall then kettlebell swings should be or at least have been part of your training program. Doing kettlebell swings especially high repetitions as a finisher at the end of your workout tests grit and challenges the forearms to work hard to hold the kettlebell during the swing when your body is at its limit.
Always remember that this exercise is a hip hinge type of movement and not a squat, it’s a pure hip-extension exercise. You need to swing hard with maximal effort, squeeze the glutes, grip-it-and-rip-it every repetition. To maximize grip strength improvements, add kettlebell swings as a finisher and try doing 25-50 or more reps per set. Choose a challenging weight that you can do with proper form. The glutes, core, forearms should be burning while you’re almost out of breath at the end of a set!
Add these to your training program and be amazed by your stronger grip!