You can rattle off your deadlift PR and max pullups, but how good is your grip strength? It’s an overlooked aspect of fitness that’s gaining attention. For starters, it can help you lift more and do more pullups; often, small muscles in the hands and fingers give out on holding the weight or pullup bar before the major muscles that drive the movements. It’ll improve sports like rock climbing, golf, and tennis. And grip strength can help reduce hand and wrist injuries while improving fine motor function. Plus, researchers at the University of Vienna in Austria suggest that grip strength is a fairly accurate measure of overall health as we age. So New York City–based trainer Chris Ryan developed a three-move routine to challenge the crucial skill that you can do once a week.
1. Dead Hang
Hang from a pullup bar, body straight, elbows locked out. Squeeze the bar hard with a full grip, focusing on the ring and pinkie fingers, which tend to be weaker. There should be no space between palms and the bar, Ryan says. Keep tailbone tucked under, with spine aligned from ears to ankles. Start with 10 seconds, and add time in 10-second increments until you’re hanging 1 to 2 minutes.
2. Farmer’s Walk
Hold a heavy kettlebell or dumbbell in each hand. Squeeze shoulder blades and pull them down to create a “proud chest.” Staring ahead and squeezing triceps, walk 15 to 60 seconds, reset, and repeat twice.
3. Dumbbell Head Hold
In each hand, hold the head of a 5- to 15-pound dumbbell with fingertips, arms at sides. Avoid wrapping thumbs around the head or using palms. Do 3 sets of 10 to 20 seconds.
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