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February 24, 2013 6:07 AM   Subscribe

Following the numerous recommendations here for Starting Strength, I've been at it for a month or so, and have joined a proper weight lifting club as well. But is there a similarly simple program for grip strength?

I'm still on low weights, but already at a 90kg deadlifting my grip is slipping. Instead of doing a reverse hold I'd rather increase my hand strength, so am curious what programs my fellow mefites have employed for this purpose. I've seen some Tubious of CoC grippers and others, and there are a bunch of exercises all over the place, but I'm looking for something simple to follow (like SS) which might not be perfectly tailored to exactly my hands but works well enough to be worthwhile. Crushing soda cans optional.
posted by monocultured to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I hear good things about farmers walks. Just pick up the heaviest dumbbell you can carry in each hand, and walk up and down the room for as long as you can. Chalk is also good for grip if your gym allows it.
posted by roshy at 6:22 AM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

At 90 kg, I doubt your problem is actually a lack of grip strength. Troubleshooting steps:

1) Use chalk. Since you said you're at a proper weight lifting club, I imagine that won't be an issue. If it is, you're not at a proper weight lifting club, but you can try using liquid chalk that doesn't leave any residue. I'd be surprised if this didn't solve it, but if not:

2) Use a mixed grip. It's not as though it takes your grip out of the equation, like using straps; it's just a more secure hold. It still trains your grip strength. Use it only for your heavy sets.

If you still think you need extra grip work, do farmer's walks and heavy one-arm dumbbell rows (aka Kroc rows). You can also do static holds with a barbell for time (e.g. hold a bar in the DL lockout position).

CoC grippers and the like train your crushing grip strength, which isn't what you need to hold onto a deadlift.
posted by ludwig_van at 6:26 AM on February 24, 2013

Response by poster: Chalk is no problem, so I'll start with that. Static DL hold seems reasonable — Some of this is surely technique. I'll do the farmer walks as well.

90kg is my max atm, but I figure that my hand strength doesn't increase as quickly as the rest of the chain, and that grip will become a weak point. I'm a lifelong joint-cracker and have somewhat reduced grip strength, but perhaps that has more to do with having a crushing grip than deadlifting. (I'm not really clear on the differences though — care to break that down?)

Should it come to that I'll use a mixed grip to increase DL, but since I'm doing SS mostly to increase strength I might as well push my hands as well. (goes my thinking)
posted by monocultured at 6:54 AM on February 24, 2013

My coach recommends the following:

Use double overhand as long as possible during training, use straps when your grip gives out. Don't train with a switch grip.

You'll get stronger the more you keep at it, and it's not a big deal if your grip doesn't exactly stay in lock step with your max DL. Training with a switch grip leads to being more asymmetrical, and twisting of the back and sometimes even snapped biceps. There's nothing dangerous about competing, doing heavy singles, setting PRs with a switch grip, it's just not great to rely upon for day to day training.
posted by wrok at 7:18 AM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Are you using a hook grip? If you're talking about increasing grip strength and not using correct technique... Well, we train in positions of strength before we train in positions of weakness.

Grip training is also going to significantly slow your progression. But yes, farmer's walk.
posted by bfranklin at 7:55 AM on February 24, 2013

Kettlebells improve grip strength. Here's one video demonstrating the technique.
posted by dfriedman at 7:58 AM on February 24, 2013

Response by poster: I'm trying to use the grip in SS3 — something like the lower grip here — but iirc used the "thumb under" grip last time. Looking at the image, I'm holding the bar too high on the palm and get folding, but even besides that I could feel the bar slipping on the last two reps… So chalk and farmers walks it is. But how about an actual exercise plan? SS is good because it takes my intuition and mood out of the equation, and I have a schedule to follow which paces the exercise and rest periods.
posted by monocultured at 8:21 AM on February 24, 2013

I'm not really clear on the differences though — care to break that down?

Closing a gripper is a concentric contraction; holding onto a deadlift is isometric. There's some carryover, but you're better off keeping your assistance work specific to what you're trying to improve.

I'm trying to use the grip in SS3 — something like the lower grip here

Maybe I'm misunderstanding you, but the correct deadlift grip in that image is the one in the top row, with the bar held closer to the fingers.

I'm confident that when you chalk up you'll realize that you don't need to do anything differently, let alone an entire program for your grip. But if you want to add more work, just put it at the end of your workout once or twice a week.

But again, there's no good reason to avoid the mixed grip. It will still make your grip stronger -- increasing your DL with a mixed grip will also increase your double-overhand DL. You only risk biceps injury if you don't keep your arms straight, which is easy to avoid. If you're really concerned about asymmetry, you can switch up which hand is supinated every workout, but it hasn't caused me any issues in nearly five years of deadlifting.
posted by ludwig_van at 9:49 AM on February 24, 2013

I, too, think the chalk will help. The bar slipping out of your hand isn't the same thing as your hand muscles failing.

I do the SS schedule that alternates pull-ups and deadlifts sometimes. If it really is your hand strength, that seems to help - pullups use your hand grip, too.
posted by ctmf at 10:04 AM on February 24, 2013

Unless you mass substantially less than 90kg, there's absolutely no need for grip-specific work. Chalk and double-overhand (i.e., not alternated grip) hook grip all the way. Your hand strength will improve as needed. Chalk makes a dramatic difference.

With the chalk, don't just smear it all over. What I do, which is not as technically specific as Oly lifters, is "paint" any sweaty or moist parts of the hand with broad, light strokes, then fill in any calluses (after removing loose skin) and then finishing off with a layer on the parts of my hand that have the most potential to move: the thumb (front and back because I'm using a hook grip), the pinky, and the top of the palm where calluses form.
posted by daveliepmann at 11:06 AM on February 24, 2013

If you do any pulling after your heavy deadlifts, you can try using a "thumbless" overhand grip with your thumb resting on the front of the bar parallel with your four fingers. I do this for lat pulldowns, and usually have noticeably sore forearms by the end of three sets. I would not recommend this for fast lifts (e.g., snatch, clean) because muscle memory is so important on those that it'd be dangerous to train your lighter sets any differently than your heavy ones.

Ultimately, a hook grip with your thumb wrapped back and around underneath your fingers is the correct way to go. However, it hurts (a lot!) at first and you can go a long way with just a mixed overhand grip.
posted by d. z. wang at 7:20 PM on February 24, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for all the replies. I'll replace the beanplate with chalk until I really start dropping the bar. I'll probably lessen the increase between sets soon, as the beginner gains will slow down, so this might sort itself out. Cheers.
posted by monocultured at 1:24 AM on February 25, 2013

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