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Don’t ever use grip strength as an excuse again!

Posted by: Emily Beers

 Have you ever been held back because of your grip in a workout with high reps of toes-to-bar, pull-ups or hang cleans? Your shoulders or legs weren’t even lactic yet, and your lungs were breathing comfortably, but your damn small hands (or at least that’s what you told yourself) just couldn’t hang onto that bar any longer.

What a shame! You have worked so hard to improve your pulling strength and barbell cycling only to have your grip fail…

Don’t blame your small hands. Work on your grip strength instead!

Seven Ways to Improve your Grip Strength quickly

7. Deadhang Holds

Some high level gymnastics coaches don’t teach their young athletes any great swinging moves on bars until they can hang from a bar for a certain number of time (I have heard anywhere between 3 and 5 minutes from different coaches).

In gymnastics, it comes down to safety: If grip strength isn’t up to snuff, the chances of the athlete ‘pinging’ off the bar (where the grip gives out and the athlete flies off the bar), is much higher.

Something like this:

 Practical Application:

 For 6 weeks, include the following in your warm-up:

3 sub-maximal deadhang holds. (By sub-maximal, I mean if you think you can hold on for 1 minute before your forearms seize up and you feel like you have a claw, then try 3 sets of 30-40 second holds. Increase the time as your grip strength improves).

• Make sure you keep active shoulders as you hang!

• Try a reverse grip deadhang hold, as well.


6. Farmer Carry

What’s the worst part about grocery shopping?

Carrying those bags to your car, and then from your car to the house, of course. 

 Farmer carries suck. But they’re great for building grip strength.

Practical Application:

Twice a week for six weeks, add the following to your cooldown:

• 2 x 200 meter Farmer Carry with KBs. Pick a weight that allows you to go the entire 200 meters WITH GOOD POSTURE without putting them down. 

• Rest as needed between sets

Pick your poison. One in each hand. Walk 200 m 

5. Plate Pinch

Like farmer carries, but on steroids!

Practical Application

Twice a week for six weeks, add the following to your cooldown:

• 3 x 30 second plate pinch carries (Hold a plate, or several together, with just your grip)

•Make sure your posture is on point

•How heavy/thick can you go?

4. Single-Arm KB work

Have you ever met a certified Russian KB Instructor? If you have, he/she likely has insane grip strength! There’s no secret to it: They spend a ton of time under grip tension.

Practical Application:

Try this sequence:

 •3 rounds unbroken of: 5 single-arm Russian KB swings + 5 single-arm KB snatches + 5 single-arm KB cleans + 5 push press

•Do the entire three rounds in one hand, and then switch hands and repeat

•How heavy can you go for these 60 unbroken reps?

Make sure you take the time to ensure you're learning the proper technique:


3. Barbell Cycling

Barbell cycling is a great way to increase your grip strength, and perfect your hook grip and barbell efficiency in the process.

Practical Application:

Try this:

 •20 unbroken hang cleans and/or 20 unbroken hang snatches

•How heavy can you go for 20 unbroken reps?


2. High-Rep Deadlift

High-rep deadlifts are great because you can go quite heavy with the weight—very taxing on the grip.

Practical Application

Build into your strength program:

•3 x 10 (and later 15, and even 20 reps) as heavy as possible (without compromising form)

•One test my coach had me do once was 60 unbroken deadlifts (the weight was light, but my grip was worked hard!)

1. Go Rock Climbing!

 Or train for American Ninja Warrior!

Posted by Emily Beers on

Emily Beers, hailing from Vancouver, crosses bridges by being not only a CrossFit athlete, but also a journalist. She has been a regular contributor to the CrossFit Journal since 2011. She qualified and competed at her first CrossFit Games as an individual athlete in 2014.

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