Core training is often touted as one of the most important aspects of a strong and functional physique. Many will say that it’s the weak link that can make or break any fitness level. While a strong core is a must (is there any muscle group that doesn’t need to be strong?), I would say your grip is far more important. You can take your strong core and six-pack abs, I’ll take a crushing grip and python forearms any day. Here are just a few of the most important things to understand about the importance of your grip and how best to train it.
Reason #1: You’re Only as Strong as Your Grip
Your entire body, from your feet to your shoulders is only as strong as your grip will allow. Much of this is due to the fact that over half of the muscles in your body are designed to help you hang and lift stuff off of the ground. Many strength moves also involve carrying stuff around which requires holding onto and controlling that weight.
Much of the time, it’s the grip that fatigues first thus greatly limiting how much you can work these valuable pulling muscles. Your grip also limits your pushing muscles as well. Because the body likes to keep things relatively balanced, your pushing muscles are only going to become as relatively strong as your pulling muscles. So even though you don’t use your grip much for push ups, your chest is still kept in check for how strong your grip is.
Reason #2: Your Core is Only as Strong as Your Grip
It’s not just the big muscle groups that are limited by your grip. Your core is also greatly limited. Just as all of the major muscle groups are limited by your grip strength, your core strength is also limited by the strength of the major muscle groups.
Think about it this way, the muscles in your core are kind of like an intersection for tension between the upper and lower body. In order for the core to work hard, the muscles in the upper and lower body must also be placed under tension. If either the upper and lower body is weak then that greatly limits the amount of potential work your core can do and thus your potential results. If you want strong abs then you first need strong everything else, especially your grip.
It’s also worth noting that one of the most effective abdominal exercises is the hanging leg raise. There are lots of examples like ab slings and chair-like devices out there but trust me, none of these hold a candle to hanging from a bar and pulling up your entire lower body.
Of course most folks will hang from the bar for a few seconds and then drop down claiming they don’t have the strength to keep hanging. They’ll then run back to the easier methods that don’t require much grip and back strength. This is like a child running back to their tricycle because the 2-wheel bike is too hard to ride. They are literally avoiding getting stronger!
When your grip becomes stronger the hanging leg raise becomes far more powerful for building rock-hard abs, possibly over any other method out there. Unfortunately, many never experience this because their grip is holding their potential in check.
Reason #3: People Notice and Respect Forearms
I remember one of the first times I met someone who impressed me with his strength and physique. The thing is, I was amazed at how strong and jacked he looked, even though he was just standing there in street clothes. He wasn’t even moving!
He wasn’t flexing or anything but his forearms were visible and that was all I needed to see. His forearms were thick and looked like they were etched in stone. Every time he talked he would use his hands in an expressive way. It was just as powerful as if he jumped into a handstand and started doing push ups.
Even though you don’t see forearm infomercial gadgets and diets promising ripped forearms, believe me strong forearms and a strong grip get far more attention and respect than 6-pack abs any day. This is because your forearms are exposed far more than your midsection, plus you use and flex your forearms all of the time through simple gestures. People pick up on the strength flowing through your hands in every handshake, hug and high five. They can even sense it when you use your hands to do things like writing things down or moving light objects.
Grip training is the best way to shape and sculpt your forearms that send out the clear signal that you’re strong, fit and there’s more to see under the rest of the shirt.
Reason #4: Your Grip Potential is an Untapped Powder Keg
Imagine how strong you could be if you could increase your bench or squat strength 3,4, or even 5 times over. You could go from gym weakling to state powerlifting champ within a few months!
While that probably won’t happen with your deadlift it’s most certainly possible with your grip. We humans have evolved to hang and use a strong grip. Everything about your hands, arms, shoulders, muscles and even your legs has evolved to be able to hang strong.
Unfortunately, we’ve neglected this hanging ability in our modern world. The bad news is that our strongest evolutionary asset has atrophied greatly. The good news is that you have a massive powder keg of primal strength just sitting in your DNA waiting to be unleashed! It won’t take a lot of time or effort to increase your grip strength many times over during the next few months.
Reason #5: Use Bodyweight Training For Your Grip
Lastly, there are all sorts of gimmicks out there about grip training, but you don’t need any of them. All you need is a simple towel and a place to hang.
Remember, everything about your grip and pulling strength evolved from being able to hang. Why fight evolution with all sorts of artificial gadgets when Mother Nature built your grip to be strong simply by hanging around?
Simply jump up on a bar and hang. Remember to keep all of your other muscles tight like your lats, deltoids and traps. If there’s tension in your shoulders or neck it means a muscle needs to turn on someplace.
A towel is the greatest grip training tool in the world. Just wrap it around a horizontal bar to increase the challenge to your entire forearm. You can also practice vertical gripping by letting it hang over the bar and then hanging from the suspended towel.
You can do pull ups and rows but it’s not necessary. Just hanging for time is enough, trust me. If 2 arms is easy then go for one. If you can hang your whole body weight on one arm with a towel then you already know the power of a strong grip and what a valuable asset it is.
If you really want to impress yourself over the next 6 weeks, make it a point to include some hanging grip work at the end of at least 2 workouts a week. You’ll look and feel like you’re on a whole different level by the end of the year, I promise.