how to improve grip strength

How to Improve Grip Strength

These grip strength exercises will help you reach your full training potential now and as you get older.

There may never be as much information about life extension and maximizing quality of life as we age as we have in 2024. Several topics, ingredients, and nutrients have been researched ad nauseum to determine how to age as gracefully and slow down the gradual declining process.

What may surprise you is that there has been one aspect of our health that has shown direct correlation with improving both quality and quantity of life - our grip strength.

I’m not talking about that simple “old man strength” you may have heard people of a previous generation talk about, either. Regularly using grip strength exercises as a part of a wellness routine can help not only your grip but your long term health.

There have been numerous studies on the topic that proves that with great grip strength comes greater health as we get older. One study from 2019 concluded that “the routine implementation of the measurement of grip strength can be recommended for older adults in the community and health-care settings.” (1)

Do We Have Your Attention Now?

If you’ve been working out for an extended period of time, then there’s a good chance that you already have some amount of grip strength, but even the best can get better. So, how do we improve grip strength? What grip exercises are best? Should you only train your grip sparingly, or should I train grip strength everyday? We’re going to help you navigate this by providing the best exercises and other tips to help you work your grip while you’re focusing on other aspects of your training as well.

An Indirect Way to Work Your Grip

Before we get into direct work, let’s start with one way you can help improve your grip strength indirectly. Some of you may know where we are going with this, but others may be in for a surprise. All you have to do is hold off on breaking out those Iron Bull Strength lifting straps or lifting grips for a while.

When you perform various pulling exercises such as deadlifts, rows, or pullups/pulldowns, you may be using your straps or grips for all of your sets. This does help you maintain a secure hold of the implement and helps with safety, but your grip is being neglected this way.

Instead, save the straps and grips for the very last set of that particular exercise. Using the one arm dumbbell row as an example, if you perform three sets of eight repetitions, don’t use the straps for the first two sets. Simply rely on your grip strength to get the job done. That means you should be holding that handle as if you want to crush it in your bare hands. Imagine that the handle is glued to your palm. This will not only help you feel the weight and increase your grip strength in an indirect way, but you will also feel the back working harder as an added bonus. Once you’re ready for that big set, you can then break out your straps or grips. Do this on all your pulling exercises, and watch your grip improve very quickly.

Direct Grip Work

That previous tip alone will serve you well, but you likely want to know which hand grip exercises are best. You may also be ready to add grip work to your training split and are seeking out the best spot to do so. Fear not because we got you covered. Below are five of the best exercises available to help you focus on your grip and forearms. Only one of these are going to require a special implement, but the rest of these should be easy to add to your routines now.

Suitcase Hold

The Suitcase Hold is a favorite of powerlifting legend Ed Coan. He found that holding a barbell with weight at arms’ length for maximum time can help with grip as well as core strength - both of which are vital for the big three lifts. The best part is this one is easy to set up and do. Add this one at the end of any training session you like for three sets for maximum time with weight you can use for at least 15 seconds.

How to Do It

Place a barbell in a squat rack at a height that is close enough for you to slightly bend to the side to pick it up. Load the barbell with the desired weight. Stand next to the barbell inside the squat rack with the working arm closest to the barbell. You can use the non-working arm to support yourself by holding an upright, but it is not necessary. Grab the center of the barbell and pick it up so it is at your side with the arm straight down as if you were holding a suitcase. Time yourself to see how long you can hold it. If you can go for 60 seconds, add weight next time. Repeat with the other side, and you have completed one set.

Farmer’s Carry

You may have also heard this called the Farmer’s Walk, which is a strongman classic event. They use different objects, but you can use dumbbells if you like. Just make sure they are challenging for you to use and hold. Light weights can still be beneficial, but heavier weights will serve you better. You can use this one on your lower body training day since your legs are so involved. Three to five rounds will be plenty.

How to Do It

Grab a dumbbell in each arm and carry them to a place where you can walk for an extended distance. Once you reach this space and you’re prepared, hold the dumbbells in each hand and begin walking. Walk for either maximum distance or for 60 seconds. If you have to drop the dumbbells before you reach 60 seconds, mark your distance and work to improve. If you reach 60 seconds, go heavier or use an object like Alpha Grips on the handles to make holding them a greater challenge.

Pullup Hang

The pullup hang is as simple as it gets. You grab a bar, allow yourself to assume a hanging position, and hold on for dear life. You can use either an overhand grip or neutral grip for this one, but make sure you do it as a part of any workout that focuses primarily on pulling movements. If you’re already doing pullups, then it will be simple to add this. If not, then you may find it can help improve your chances of completing pullups someday. Do a hang at the end of every set of pullups or three separate sets at the end of that workout if pullups are not in your routine.

How to Do It

Grab a pullup bar with your preferred grip, just not an underhand grip as it may risk injury to your biceps. Once you have a solid grip of the bar, allow yourself to hang at arms’ length for maximum time. Your goal should be to complete 60 seconds. If not, mark your time and make it a goal to improve. If you reach 60 seconds, either add Alpha Grips or add extra weight to yourself such as with chains, a weighted vest, or plates from a dip belt. You can also focus on time and see how long you can go if you like.

Plate Pinch

You may have seen four-time World’s Strongest Man Brian Shaw do these with 45-pound plates. We’re not going to ask you to do that, but we are going to suggest you can start with something smaller like 10’s, 5’s, or even 2.5’s. The goal here is to keep the plates together for as long as possible. You will find that this helps you with pushing exercises because it strengthens the wrists as well as your hand grip. Do these as a part of your push routine or any other upper body workout.

How to Do It

Take a pair of weight plates that are the same and place them together. Turn them so you can place both plates in your hand while they are together. Make sure you hold them on the plate itself and not by using the hole in the center. Once you have that grip secured, hold the plates to your side as you did for the Suitcase Hold. The goal is to reach 60 seconds or failure. If you reach 60 seconds, you can either keep going or try to upgrade to larger plates such as from 5’s to 10’s or even up to 25’s. If you can do this with 45’s, then you have no problem with grip strength.

Alpha Grip Shoulder Press

This one may seem like a shameless plug, but there is validity to this. A 2021 study validated that forearm and shoulder muscles were activated to a greater degree when using thicker grip attachments such as the Iron Bull Strength Alpha Grips (2). Greater activation will lead to better forearm development and a stronger grip. Any push day or workout with shoulder presses would serve as a great fit for this. Add a set or two with the Alpha Grips after you do your normal sets.

How to Do It

Place the Alpha Grips on the barbell where you would normally hold it. Assume your position for the shoulder press and perform your set as you normally would without the grips. Please note that you may have to reduce the load you are working with due to the thicker grip.


Focusing on your grip strength doesn’t have to be a complicated process. It isn’t like you have to add a forearm day to your training split. Adding these five exercises into your regular routine can help you focus on your grip early and often while significantly increasing your hand strength. That can transfer to greater tendon strength, bone density, and overall hand and arm health. Starting to focus on your grip now will be a great investment into your long term strength and overall wellness.