5 Easy Ways To Improve Grip Strength & Build Bigger Forearms

There are a wide variety of ways to train your forearms - here's a few of our favourites.

Akash Vaghela Akash Vaghela · 27 Mar 2018

Training Intermediate
8 Mins

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I remember back at university I was obsessed with building bigger forearms and improving my grip strength.

It started after I realised I couldn’t perform Romanian Deadlifts with 60 kilos without the use of straps.

Considering I could pull close to 180 kilos off the floor at the time, this was pathetic.

After doing my research on forearm and grip training, I quickly learned that there are a wide variety of ways to train your forearms.

You’ve got pinch grip, crush grip, pronation, supination, radial deviation, ulnar deviation, circumduction etc. The list goes on. This can be overwhelming if all you want to do is improve your grip strength, but don’t want to add an extra workout to do so.

When I was at university, I had loads of spare time. So I bought a pair of ‘Captains of Crush’ grippers, starting at the ‘trainer level’ (c. 100lbs) and worked up to level 2 (c. 195lbs), which is considered pretty strong.

On top of this, I bought a sledgehammer after reading all the old time strongman stories. With this, I’d train levers, ‘finger walks’ and a host of movements which you can see below.

I used to train with the sledgehammer in my university kitchen, so you can only picture the confusion when my flatmates first saw me doing this!

If you look at people with the best forearm development and grip strength, their professions give two clues away:

  • They ‘train’ their forearms daily
  • They use a wide variety of movements

I began to train my forearms daily, picking a different movement each day and training it hard.

However, since leaving university, I don’t think I’ve done any of the direct forearm work I used to.

Time is precious now, and spending 10 minutes during a workout doing wrist curls and extensions isn’t a worthwhile investment when I’ve only got an hour or so to train.

But it is important. Especially when you consider these benefits:

  1. Increased strength on pulling movements. If your chin up, row and deadlift strength jump, your back development by default will follow suit. If you can grip the bar harder, you’ll be able to transfer more force to the muscles in question, and so lift more load.
  2. Increased functionality. There are not many physical qualities more ‘functional’ than a strong, vice-like grip. Picking things up and carrying them in normal daily life will become easier. Plus, you’ll have a firmer handshake, which commands respect.
  3. Men and women with a strong grip tend to have a longer life span. Multiple research studies now support this, even after taking age, sex and body size into account.
  4. Looks good in T-shirts. This is for guys only. Outside of the neck, no other muscle group is more exposed than the forearms.

What I’ve found is that the best way to improve grip strength is to blend it into your normal training, so you don’t think of it as extra work.

Here are my top five ways to do so:

1. Limit Straps For When You Need It


I’m a fan of straps for body composition goals, because it allows you to overload the muscles you want to work in movements that are otherwise limited by grip.

For exercises such as deadlifts, rows and pulldowns, grip strength will usually be the limiting factor before your back and posterior chain. So it makes sense to use straps on your top sets to maximise your strength gains.

What you don’t want to do is use straps for your lighter and warm up sets. Only use them when you need it.

As an example of a recent Romanian deadlift workout, here’s what I did:

60kg x 5 (no straps)
80kg x 3 (no straps)
100kg x 3 (no straps)
120kg x 3 (no straps)
135kg x 1(chalk, no straps)
145kg x 6-8 (chalk and straps)

By limiting the use of straps in my warm up sets, I get a training effect for my forearms and grip. As I get stronger for my top sets, these warm up sets will get heavier too, so there’s a progressive element to this.

When performing your back work, using straps on your top set can help reduce the typical ‘arm dominance’ that can otherwise creep in. Save it for your top sets only.

2. Use Fat Gripz 


This is one of the best ways to kill two birds with one stone. By attaching a pair of Fat Gripz, you can work your grip hard while training your upper body.

Some other lesser known benefits includes improved mind-muscle connection and enhanced shoulder stability.

It works best for pressing and curling exercises, but if you want to really challenge the grip, you could try it on some pulling work too. I’d just make sure it’s not the only pulling work you’re doing, as grip will certainly be the limiting factor (and so limiting overload on the back).

If you’re struggling with elbow pain during curls, Fat Gripz may work in alleviating some of the stress as your hands are in more of an open position.

3. Pick The Right Curls


My two favourite curls that train both the biceps and forearms hard are the reverse and hammer curls.

In fact, I pretty much train a variation of the hammer curl year round. I think they’re one of the best exercises to hit the biceps brachii, brachialis, brachoradialis and the forearms at the same time.

If you add Fat Gripz to it, you can make them even better.

Reverse curls are also great, as they’ll allow you to also train the wrist extensors hard. The key to maximise their benefits is to keep your wrists straight throughout.

4. Squeeze The Bar As Hard As You Can


The easiest way to increase stability in your lifts is to squeeze the bar as hard as possible.

By doing so, you’ll create an ‘irradiation’ effect whereby you’ll activate your forearms, upper arms and rotator cuff to a higher level, and allow them to function in sync together.

This ‘death grip’ on the bar will help protect joints, increase power output, and help protect against injuries.

As an added bonus, you’ll also be training your grip.

However, one word of caution here. Excessive use of the ‘death grip’ can wreak havoc on your elbows, so it’s best to save this for your heavy compound exercises. Squeezing the dumbbells as hard as you can during a lateral raise or face pull may be overkill.

5. Farmer’s Walks


Farmer’s walks are one of my favourite exercises. It taxes the whole body, and is versatile for every training goal, whether you’re after fat loss, hypertrophy or strength.

What’s great about it is its simplicity. All you need to do is grab two heavy dumbbells and take them for a walk.

The key cues to remember are: shoulders back and down, stand tall and engage your core.

If you’re looking for a strong grip stimulus, avoid straps.

I’d personally mix it up. I’d either use 2-3 sets with straps on a heavy weight and then finish with a lighter set without straps. Or you could pick a weight that’s challenging for one set without straps, then maintain the load for subsequent sets by adding straps.

Conclusion


The forearms and grip can be trained with a multitude of movements and methods. But for the average person who’s busy and just wants to look good, it’s best to keep it simple and look at ways to integrate forearm and grip work into your normal routine.

If you’ve got the grip strength of an 80 year old, and forearms like pipe cleaners, start implementing these five methods the next time you train.

Akash VaghelaAkash Vaghela

Akash Vaghela has spent 10+ years transforming bodies and lives around the world, and in May 2017, founded RNT Fitness to serve this purpose. His vision is to see a world transformed, where ambitious high performers experience the power of the physical as the vehicle to unlock their real potential. He’s the author of the Amazon best-sellilng book Transform Your Body Transform Your Life, which explains his unique and proven five-phase methodology, is host of the RNT Fitness Radio podcast, has been featured in the likes of Men’s Health and BBC, whilst regularly speaking across the world on all things transformation.

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