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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

5 Reasons to Add Carries to Your Workouts

IMG_4805.jpegWe have all seen people in the gym just walking around carrying weights such as kettlebells, dumbbells, and maybe even sandbags. It may look easy since they are just walking, but carries are a complex exercise that, when you give it a try, you will realize are actually pretty challenging. Don’t knock them until you’ve tried them!

Ways to Carry Weight

There are several different carries:

  • Farmer’s carry: Two heavy kettlebells or dumbbells, one held in each hand.
  • Suitcase carry: One heavy kettlebell or dumbbell, held just on one side.
  • Racked carry: Two kettlebells or dumbbells, held in the clean position in each hand.
  • Waiter walk: One kettlebell or dumbbell held overhead.
  • Bottoms-up carry: Kettlebell held upside down. The bigger part of the bell is in the air.
  • Rack and suitcase: One kettlebell is held in the racked position while the other is in the suitcase position.
  • Rack and waiter: One kettlebell is in the racked position, while the other is in the waiter position.

Reasons to Add Them to Your Workouts

Carries are total-body exercises that have many benefits. Here are five reasons you should add them to your workout.

  • Work capacity—do total-body work. If you want to work on building overall strength, adding farmer’s carries or any type of carry to your routine will be beneficial. It’s a total-body exercise that should not be left out. They are taxing and will help increase your heart rate.
  • Improve grip strength. Carrying weight is one of the best exercises to improve your grip strength. Farmer’s carry really works in the development of your grip and the strength of your forearm. If you want to step it up and really challenge your grip, try kettlebell bottoms-up carries.
  • Help with your posture. Doing carry exercises forces you stand upright. If you round your shoulders and have a forward head position during the carry, you will not be able to hold the weight. The carry forces you into good posture and helps build posterior strength (for example, the backside).
  • Build a stronger core. No matter which type of carry you choose to do, your core is firing and working. If you choose to do a carry on one side like the suitcase carry or single-arm racked walk, you will really feel your oblique muscles working.
  • Shoulder health: Farmer’s carries help build shoulder stability. Gripping the weight turns on the rotator cuff and shuts off the deltoid, allowing the shoulder to get into the right position.

Carries are one of the most functional and effective exercises. You should add them to your program if you are not already doing them and see the many benefits in a short time!

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This blog was written by Kaci Lierman, Health Fitness Instructor. To read more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: workouts core grip strength posture carries total-body workouts weights

Get a Grip on It: Four Powerlifting Grips

Alex-grip.jpgOne of the most important (and sometimes overlooked) pieces of the resistance training puzzle could be right in the palm of your hands. Have you ever thought about the way you hold onto an Olympic or powerlifting bar? For some, the answer may be no. You may be worried more about other techniques, such as posture or breathing. For others, the answer may be yes. The effort you put into how you grip the bar may be your key to success in lifts such as the snatch, deadlift, and clean, among many other resistance exercises.

But how should you grip the bar? Are you sure that the grip you are currently using is the most ideal for that lift? Maybe a switch of grips is what you’re looking for to break through your current plateau.

Here is a breakdown of four grips and different ways that they can be used in the gym for exercises or other technique purposes.

1. Pronated (or Overhand) Gripovergrip.jpg

The pronated grip is generally the most common grip used during resistance training. You place the hand over the bar, dumbbell, or kettlebell with your knuckles up. Your thumb can either be wrapped around the bar (closed grip) or not wrapped around the bar (open or false grip). I would not recommend the open grip because you do not have full control of the bar. The closed grip allows the thumb to prevent the possibility of the bar slipping from the hands, especially during exercises where the weight is held above the body (for example, during pressing movements).

When to use a pronated grip: You can use a closed-pronated grip for pretty much every lift that you perform in the gym. I would recommend this for many of the pressing movements and for stability during the squat.

  • Bench press
  • Shoulder press
  • Barbell squat
  • Basically anything

2. Supinated (or Underhand) Gripunder.jpg

The supinated grip is the exact opposite of the pronated grip. The hands are placed underneath the bar so the knuckles aim backward or toward the floor. I generally only categorize the “closed” variation of the supinated grip versus the open/closed options in grip #1. The thumb being wrapped around the bar allows for maximum grip throughout any lift you are performing. I utilize this grip during many of my pulling movements.

When to use a supinated grip: You can use a closed-supinated grip as a variation for many of the main vertical and horizontal pulling movements.

  • Row
  • Inverted row
  • Chin-ups
  • Bent-over row
  • Lat pulldown

3. Alternated Gripalternate.jpg

The alternated grip is a combination of the preceding two grips. In the alternated grip, one hand is pronated and one hand is supinated. It is common for grip strength to be a limiting factor in your ability to lift heavy weight, especially when performing a pronated grip. The bar tends to roll out of the hands very easily, especially during maximal-effort lifts. The alternated grip places the hands in a more favorable position to prevent the rolling or slipping of the bar from the hands. This is also a useful grip to use when you are spotting someone, especially on the bench press.

When to use an alternated grip: You can use this grip for deadlift variations as well as spotting.

  • Traditional/Sumo Deadlifts
  • Spotting

4. Hook Grip hook.jpg

The hook grip is a nontraditional grip that can sometimes be difficult to master, but could yield great results in terms of the lifts you use it for. It is similar to a pronated grip, but the thumb is placed underneath the middle and index fingers. The benefits of this grip are similar to those of the alternated grip. It prevents the bar from rolling out of the hands because of the placement of the thumb and fingers. This makes it an ideal grip for heavy and explosive movements like the clean and snatch.

I recently finished a new certification course called the CWPC or Certified Weightlifting Performance Coach. This certification is based on two Olympic lifts, the snatch and the clean and jerk. I gained a lot of great information through that course, but one key piece of information that I took away to implement into my own training program was the use of the hook grip. I had previously used a closed-pronated grip for both the clean and snatch, but have switched to the hook grip over the past five weeks. I can definitely see improvement in my ability to grip the bar, but there was definitely a bit of a learning curve.

My main issue was the comfort of the grip itself. It was definitely not pleasant through the first couple of weeks; however, the last couple have been some of the best weeks that I have ever had in Olympic lifting. I feel like I have more control of the bar in my hands, and now I do not have to worry about the bar flying out my hands when the weight becomes challenging. If you can get past the discomfort through your first few training sessions, it will be well worth the switch.

When to use a hook grip: You can use this grip for just about any exercise, similar to the pronated grip.

  • Clean and Jerk
  • Snatch
  • Pullups
  • Deadlift

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When choosing a grip, go with what makes sense to you. For many exercises, you have a variety to choose from. This just adds more options to your training regimen. By simply switching the grip, you are essentially switching up the exercise as well. Play around with them and see which one feels best!

For more on how to improve your grip strength, see this post.

Source: Baechle, T. R., Earle, R.W. (2008) Essentials of strength training and conditioning (pp. 326-327). Chicago, Illinois. National Strength and Conditioning Association.

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This blog was written by Alex Soller, Health Fitness Instructor. Click here for more information about the NIFS bloggers.

Topics: NIFS weightlifting powerlifting grip strength grip

Effective Grip Strength Training Solutions

ThinkstockPhotos-472123412.jpgGrip strength is quite a conundrum in the fitness industry. It is so often called upon during training, yet grip-strength training itself can be overlooked.

Many people don’t even think to train grip strength, or they don’t think that grip training will benefit them. Have you ever had trouble opening a jar or a can? Have you ever dropped a bag of groceries while trying to carry in every single bag from your car (like I do every Saturday)? Now do you think grip training might benefit you?

How Can a Better Grip Help You?

Any activity that involves holding something is going to require grip strength to some degree. Here are a few activities that may or may not come to mind when you think grip strength.

  • Golfing: When playing golf, every shot you take requires you to hold a club. When holding the club, it pays to have a tight grip. Why? When you hit the ball, there is a transfer of energy from your hands to the club, and from the club to the ball. To get all of the energy from your hands to the club and the ball, you need to allow for as little movement of the club as possible when striking the ball. Grip strength is required to minimize the movement of the club upon striking the ball.
  • Carrying a suitcase: Whenever you carry anything, you need grip strength. This usually isn’t a concern when the item you are carrying is light, such as a book or a cup. However, an item like a jam-packed suitcase can really test your grip when you are running through the airport to catch your plane. And if you work grip strength exercises into your workout routine, you can catch that plane and make it to family Christmas on time!
  • Picking up a heavy object: This one seems like common sense, right? That’s because it is. When lifting a heavy object, such as a piece of furniture, grip strength is what keeps that object from crashing to the ground. You may have very strong legs, arms, and back, but if your grip is too weak to hold the object, you can’t move it!
Training Your Grip

So how can you train your grip to be stronger and have more endurance? There are many different ways, and here are a few (for more exercises, see this article):

  • Using a thicker bar: A larger object is harder to hold onto than a smaller object. Therefore, a thicker barbell will be harder to hold onto than a thinner barbell. You can incorporate a thicker bar into your normal weightlifting routine by substituting it into every exercise you would normally do with a regular bar. Don’t have access to a thick bar? You can create a thicker bar. All you need is a couple of towels. Just wrap them around the bar to the thickness you desire, and you’re ready to go! (CAUTION: Be careful and use a spotter when weightlifting. A new technique means you will need to take time to get used to it.)
  • Plate pinches and flips: If you’re lucky, your gym will have bumper weight plates (and yes, we have plenty here at the NIFS Fitness Center!). These work great for either plate pinches or flips. In a plate pinch, you pick up a bumper plate between your thumb and your other four fingers, and you either stand still to go for time, or you can walk with them and try to go for distance. In a plate flip, you grip the plate in the same way as you would for a pinch, and you do a half flip, catching the side of the plate that was just facing the ground. (Again, use caution when doing these exercises. These plates can be heavy, and if the exercise is done incorrectly, somebody could get hurt.)
  • Dead hangs: For this, all you need is a pull-up bar. From a pull-up position, just hang freely from the bar for as long as you can. This will test your grip strength endurance, which is very functional for things like carries and holds.
Grip strength has been a crucial part of my recent training. I like lifting heavy weights, so it was frustrating for me when my grip strength was my limiting factor on lifts such as the deadlift. I have incorporated a few of these techniques, and after a couple months I saw progress. Weights that used to slip from my hands felt much more manageable in several different lifts that involved gripping and pulling. If you don’t believe me, try these for yourself! Give it a little bit of time; soon enough, your grip will be stronger and your days of struggling to open that pickle jar will be over.

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LIFT_logo_white.jpgNIFS introduces a new Lifting program in 2016! LIFT is for all levels wanting to learn proper Powerlifting and Olympic lifting techniques. Our expert trainer will teach fundamentals, evaluate movements and help build a customized training program around your lifting goals. If you would like more information contact Aaron at [email protected]

This blog was written by Aaron Combs, NSCA CSCS and Health/Fitness Instructor. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.


Topics: NIFS fitness center weightlifting golf grip strength