Recently, after returning from Australia and getting back into training, I discovered my grip strength had decreased. Heavy things that were not hard to grip before almost seemed impossible to do when I got back. Grip strength is a use-it-or-lose-it deal.

Since then, I’ve been working hard to regain lost grip strength. But why is grip so important? Here we’ll dive into the benefits of having grip strength and 4 exercises to incorporate into your current routine.

3 Benefits Of Grip Strength

You like pickles on your hamburgers, don’t you? That’s one benefit of grip strength, being able to open the pickle jar. Because those jars are hard….geez. Here are a few significant benefits of prioritizing grip strength in your workout.

Improves Your Quality Of life

Grip strength for the gym is great, but it is also needed for many of your activities of daily living. You need it to open doors, carry all the groceries from the car, and you guessed it, open the pickle jar. A decrease in grip strength has been associated with an eightfold risk of developing muscular disability among older adults.

The same study found poor grip strength is associated with weight gain among women and mortality among men. This doesn’t mean you’ll keel over or get fat, but it’s more likely to happen if your grip strength is weak.

You’ll Live Longer

A 2015 Lancet study covered the health outcomes of 140,000 people across 17 countries, and they were tracked over four years via various measures, one of which was grip strength. Grip strength was  “inversely associated with all-cause mortality,” and every 5 kg decrease in grip strength was associated with a 17 percent risk increase in death.

Better Predictor Of Heart Disease

Heart disease is one of the biggest killers of the human race, and improving your grip strength can reduce your heart risk.  The Lancet study in 2015 found that a reduction in grip strength was associated with increased heart attacks and strokes. Grip strength is a better predictor of cardiovascular mortality than systolic blood pressure.

4 Grip Strength Exercises

There are three types of grip strength: crush grip, support grip, and pinch grip. Think of a crush grip like crushing a soda can, a support grip like carrying the grocery bags in from the car, and a pinch grip, like pinching a baby’s fat cheeks. Just not too hard. There are several ways to go training this, but here are a couple of my favorites that cover all three grips.

Chaos Suitcase Carry

The chaos suitcase carry will strengthen grip imbalances between sides and train your love handles too. The band around the kettlebell horn creates instability because of the oscillating band. The band is great for additional rotator cuff recruitment and for adding more core stability while increasing your supporting and crushing grip strength.

How To Do It

Wrap a heavy looped band around the KB horn. Holding the band close to the horn makes this exercise easier and further away more difficult.  Keep your shoulder down, chest up, and shoulders even walk for 40 yards and put the KB down. Swap hands and repeat.

Programming Suggestion

You can either do it as part of your warm-up or pair it with an exercise that doesn’t require much grip strength. For example:

1A. Shoulder press variation eight to 15 reps

1B. Chaos suitcase carry 40 yards on each side

Dumbbell Reverse Biceps Curl

Well, it works on the biceps, so it cannot be all bad, right? Reversing your grip will help you build size and strength on the forearm extensors of the neglected part of the forearm. Reverse curls train the smaller forearm extensors, which help your biceps to look bigger and strengthen your supporting grip. Strength imbalances between the forearm extensors and flexors may lead to sore elbows, so training reverse curls will help prevent this.

How to do it

Start with a weight that’s approximately five to 10 pounds lighter than what you would use because the forearm extensor muscles are weaker than the forearm flexors.  Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding your arms by your sides and your knuckles facing towards you. Keeping your elbows tucked by your side, slowly curl the dumbbells up slightly above 90 degrees. Reverse the move slowly to the starting position and repeat. 

Programming Suggestion

Training this near the end of your workout after you have trained your larger muscles works best IMO. Pairing it with another isolation exercise that trains the triceps or shoulders works well. For example

1A. Dumbbell reverse biceps curl eight to 15 reps

1B. Dumbbell lateral raise eight to 15 reps  

Bottoms Up Kettlebell Carry

Holding a kettlebell bottoms-up strengthens your support and crushing grip and forearm strength. Flipping the kettlebell upside down so the heavy portion sits above the handle, and the horn sits in your hand forces you to recruit all of your grip strength to control the unstable load. But wait, there is more. This exercise improves your posture and lateral stability and strengthens your entire shoulder joint too.

How to do it

Stand up straight, holding a kettlebell in one hand, and curl the kettlebell in front of your shoulder to chin height with your elbow bent at 90 degrees. Make sure the KB horn is sitting in the meat of your hand, and your wrist is in neutral  Grip tight and walk slowly for 20 to 40 yards. Lower down slowly, switch hands and repeat on the other side.

Programming Suggestion

This is best done when your grip is fresh at the start of your workout. Pairing it with a pressing exercise works well. For example

1A. Dumbbell floor press six to 15 reps

1B. Bottoms up kettlebell carry 20 to 40 yards per side

Plate Pinch

Your fingers are strong enough for some people to climb mountains while supporting their weight with a few fingertips. While the three exercises above train crush and supporting grip, the plate pinch trains the pinch grip, strengthening the fingers, thumbs, and forearms. This builds strength and endurance in your forearm muscles, so opening the pickle jar will be easier.

How to do it

Hold two or more five to 10-pound plates, smooth side out, and hold for time. Or if you want to make things more interesting, take them for a walk.  Make sure you have your chest up and shoulders down to maintain good posture.

Programming Suggestion

Training this at the end of your workout, pairing it with biceps or another grip strength exercise works well. For example

1A. Plate pinch for time or yards

1B. Farmers carry variation 40 yards

Wrapping Up

The grip is a use-it-or-lose-it deal; by improving it, your quality of life will skyrocket. Not only will the pickle jar not be a problem, but you’ll lift more weight in the gym, and your forearms will be sexy. It’s what I call a win-win.


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