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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Get a Grip: Exercises to Increase Your Grip Strength

GettyImages-505776960How long have you been stuck on your max for bench press or unable to become efficient at
pull-ups or even able to do a good pull-up? More often than not, people have many areas of concern; upper-body strength, stamina, and technique come to mind. Outside these main aspects of lifting weights, what else is there that you can focus on to help improve your personal bests without making it too complicated? One area you can focus on that gets relatively little attention is grip strength. You already use it a lot, right? The answer might surprise you when you take a look at how it can improve your overall fitness experience.

For the most part, most upper-body lifts require some grip strength. The exercises that require the most tend to be the ones for which you have to hold dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, or chin-up bars. Whereas other exercises on machines can provide safety and ease of use, they sometimes lack the grip strength aspect that is required with the free-weight exercises. In the fitness world, there’s a saying that goes, “If you want to get good at push-ups, do push-ups.” You can focus some of your exercise time on developing these muscles.

Exercises That Increase the Strength of Your Grip

Here are some easy ideas to implement into your own workouts next time you are at the gym.

  • Farmer’s carry: This exercise can be a little deceptive to the beginner, but as you will find out, there's more than just legs at work. Other than legs, core, shoulders, and back, you will notice that it is imperative that you have some grip strength to be able to complete the exercise, or else you won’t get too far. Remember the saying above.
  • Weightlifting: When you are lifting weights, be sure to grip the bar tightly. Always practice squeezing against the bar when you lift. Conversely, try to incorporate a grip aspect into other exercises as well. Tools to help you work on grip include Fat Grips, the Axle Bar (aka the Fat Bar), and Grippers. Grippers have been around for a long time, with the “Captains of Crush” being known as the toughest around.
  • Stress ball: The stress ball, which is extremely cheap and easily available, can act as an on-the-go tool. There actually may be more stress balls available in the US than there are people, so if you do not have one, I’m sure someone you know does. Simply put one in your car and while you’re stuck in traffic or at a red light, grab that ball and squeeze out 50 reps on each hand. Not only will your grip strength improve, but you may experience actual stress relief.

Let a NIFS Health Fitness Specialist Help Increase Your Strength

As you can see, there are many ways to help your grip strength. The most important thing to remember is that if you want to improve, you will have to use it and use it often. When you think about all the muscles you use for exercise and how they work together, you must understand that you are only as strong as your weakest link. If your grip is the weakest link, every exercise that requires you to hold weights, or yourself, will be subpar. With increased strength, those plateaus will fall.

NIFS has several options in the fitness center to help aid your quest for improved grip strength, including hand grip dynamometer testing (yes, we can test your grip strength). See a health fitness specialist to schedule an appointment to talk about your goals and fitness assessment options. Take control of your workouts, and get a GRIP on your life.

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To read more about the other NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: grip strength grip exercises fitness assessment NIFS weightlifting carries

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