How To Improve Your Grip Strength
The Importance of Grip Strength
Far too many athletes neglect training their forearms and grip strength. A lot of the time this isn’t an issue, until you sign-up to your first obstacle course racing (OCR) event. It doesn’t matter how fit you are, how much you can lift or how fast you run, if you haven’t factored grip strength training into your True Grit event preparations, you will have a tough time.
Picture this, you have just run, crawled, and climbed your way through 10km of the lush, muddy terrain at Dargle Farm, NSW. You have had to carry the Dingo Sandbags, climb across obstacles, and roll under barbed wire with your Torsion Bars. This final kilometre is the hardest. If your grip hasn’t given up by this point, it’s about to. In front of you is the Rope Climb, Roman Rings and the infamous Traverse Ropes. When your grip fails on the traverse ropes, you’re in trouble…Your forearms are searing by the halfway point and once your grip fails, you plunge two metres into the murky Dargle water below.
Poor grip strength isn’t just a hinderance in True Grit and other obstacle course racing events, it can also have a detrimental impact on your regular training. Here’s an example everyone has experienced at some point in their strength training. You’re training in the gym trying to progressively overload from your previous session on deadlifts. You’re working to complete 8 repetitions as opposed to the 6 you got last week on the same weight. The rest of your body feels ready and capable to push for the extra two repetitions, but you fail to get there, only because you can’t hold onto the bar any longer than the 6 reps you did last week.
Both scenarios highlight how by neglecting to train your grip, you are limiting your potential to perform well in the gym and in obstacle course racing. How are you supposed to get stronger if you are unable to push for more reps or move heavier weights around? How are you supposed to successfully complete the Traverse Ropes? And how are you supposed to reach your full potential?
It is important to note that in some forms of training the use of grip assistance is necessary. For example, when you’re deadlifting well over your bodyweight. At that point, you may need to use wraps and wrist guards, just like having training wheels on a bike. There is only so much human genetics will allow us to achieve with our own strength. For most of us everyday fitness enthusiasts however, sufficient grip strength should be enough.
Naturally, the emphasis an individual needs to place on grip strength training varies. For some genetically blessed individuals it comes naturally, and they don’t have to train it because it is maintained through everyday activities. People who work in hands-on day jobs such as tradesman, mechanics and labourers usually don’t have to factor in additional drink strength workouts as they are activating their grip and forearm muscles every single day.
For some though, it doesn’t come as naturally and needs to be trained specifically to prevent limitations to performance in obstacle course racing, training and even work. The good news here is that it is not a big issue that needs its own designated day to train (unless you’re a free climber). Usually spending 10 minutes on it at the end of a workout is enough to improve it and assist in your training progression. Below we have included our three favourite grip conditioning exercises, as well as a full 20-minute grip strength conditioner workout made by Personal Trainer and True Grit Enduro competitor, Brodie merchant.
Best Grip Strength Exercises
Three Favourite Exercises:
- Farmers carries: these are not just for grip, but for overall strength too. They are super simple, just pick up two heavy kettlebells or dumbbells, and start walking!
- Chin-up bar hang: get into your chin-up position, and hang there until failure. It’s going to hurt, but it will translate well into your next obstacle course racing event.
- Plate pinch curls: hold a light plate in your hand and move it to a horizontal position in front of your body while keeping your wrist locked.
To see when our next True Grit event is, head over to our Events page