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How to Increase Your Grip Strength: Part I

What is grip strength and why is it important? Find out how you can increase your grip strength, and why people of all fitness levels need good grip strength.

By
Ben Greenfield
Episode #272

Here's a quick question: which of your muscles did you use the most over the past hour? The past day? The past week? If you're like most people on the face of this planet, the answer is this: your fingers, hands, wrists, and forearms.

Just think about it: nearly every sport that exists, from swimming to wrestling to golf to tennis to football to basketball to baseball to climbing to obstacle course racing and beyond, require extremely high activity levels of the thirty-five tiny gripping muscles in your forearms and hand. But most common activities of daily living also rely upon adequate strength and endurance in these muscles, too, including typing, moving the trackpad or mouse on your computer, doing the dishes, carrying laundry, turning a doorknob, vacuuming, driving, and even sex (seriously, just try to get it on in the bedroom with your hands tied behind your back or your fingers clenched in fists the whole time).

Why Good Grip Is So Important

If your grip and form muscles are not conditioned with mobility, strength, and endurance, then the result winds up being the frustrating chronic repetitive motion injuries that plague both office workers and athletes alike. For example, without adequate grip and forearm strength, tennis players develop tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis), which is debilitating and disabling pain on the outside of the elbow. Golfers, climbers, CrossFitters, and obstacle racers who don't have adequate grip and forearm training often develop the opposite issue: a problem known as golfers elbow, climbers elbow, and medial epicondylitis, which is basically pain anywhere on the inside of the elbow and forearm. People who work on a computer often get one or both of these same issues. And you can undergo all the deep tissue work, injections, massage, and anti-inflammatory remedies on the face of the planet, but until you address the underlying issue of grip and forearm conditioning, these problems will continue to plague you.

It actually baffles me why many physical therapists, physicians, and chiropractors don't more often prescribe grip strengthening strategies for recovery from issues such as tennis elbow or golfers elbow or even carpal tunnel syndrome. For me personally, the elbow pain that I've gotten from the combination of copious amounts of pull-ups and rope climbing, combined with ungodly amounts of time spent typing away on my Macbook Pro ,has only really been remedied with the type of grip exercises you’re going to get later on this article, and not via remedies such as injections or topical ointments or curcumin or ginger or anything else that would normally work for injuries on other parts of my body.

Fitness training legend Charles Poliquin backs this up when he says:

"These ailments are often caused by improper strength ratios between the elbow muscles and the forearm muscles. If the elbow flexors, like the biceps and brachialis, are too strong for the forearm flexors, uneven tension accumulates in the soft tissue and results in elbow pain."

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About the Author

Ben Greenfield
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