Do Grip Strengtheners Work? + 5 Common Mistakes When Using Them

We outline the best way to use a grip strengthener for results!

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Weightlifters and rock climbers often look to improve grip strength1 Leyk, D., Gorges, W., Ridder, D., Wunderlich, M., Rüther, T., Sievert, A., & Essfeld, D. (2006). Hand-grip strength of young men, women and highly trained female athletes. European Journal of Applied Physiology99(4), 415–421. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-006-0351-1 for strength training, rock climbing, and weightlifting exercises or to build forearm strength and size. 

But, what is the best way to do so? Do grip strengtheners work? Short answer: they work! We’ll get into the details below.

Let’s dive in! 

Two hand grip strengtheners.

What Is a Hand Grip Strengthener?

A hand grip strengthener, often called a hand gripper, forearm strengthened, grip strengthener, or grip squeezer, is a small, handheld device that is designed to increase hand grip strength.

A hand gripper looks like a letter V. There are two compressible handles that form the arms of the “V, “ and there is a spring mechanism or arrangement of coils that join together so that you can squeeze the handles (sides of the V) together.

You hold the hand trainer or hand grip strengthener device in your palm and form a light fist around it. 

Then, you contract the muscles in your hand around the hand gripper to compress the arms of the device together so that they are pressed parallel to one another rather than flared out from the pivot axis point.

Hand-held grip strengthener devices come in a variety of levels of resistance.

A person squeezing a hand grip strengthener.

Beginner hand grippers have more accessibility and are ideal for elderly individuals2 Bohannon, R. W. (2019). Grip Strength: An Indispensable Biomarker For Older Adults. Clinical Interventions in Aging14, 1681–1691. https://doi.org/10.2147/CIA.S194543 or those who have weak grip strength.

As you get stronger, you can progress to stiffer more heavy-duty hand grippers. 

The best hand grip strengtheners may even have adjustable hand grip resistance. The handles should be ergonomic and coated in some sort of material to aid comfort and traction in your hand, such as silicone, high-density foam, or soft rubber.

Even premium hand grip strength grippers are generally quite affordable, and because they are compact and do not require any power, buying a hand gripper can be a convenient, cost-effective way to incorporate grip training at home or on the go.

A person squeezing a hand grip strengthener.

How Do You Use a Hand Grip Strengthener?

Unlike some pieces of exercise equipment, using a hand gripper to increase grip strength is extremely straightforward and does not require specialized training or technique.

This makes the hand gripper a beginner-friendly grip strength exercise, but more advanced and experienced rock climbers and weightlifters3 Wang, Y.-C., Bohannon, R. W., Li, X., Sindhu, B., & Kapellusch, J. (2018). Hand-Grip Strength: Normative Reference Values and Equations for Individuals 18 to 85 Years of Age Residing in the United States. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy48(9), 685–693. https://doi.org/10.2519/jospt.2018.7851, or just those looking for a stress relief tool, can also take advantage of the benefits of hand grip strengthening devices.

Here are the steps for how to use this piece of training equipment to improve grip strength:

  1. Place the hand grip exerciser in the palm of your hand with one handle against the fleshy pad at the base of your thumb and the other handle lining up along the bottom portion of the four opposing fingers. 
  2. You can theoretically place the hand grip exerciser facing either direction in your hand in terms of where the pivot point is, but most people angle it so that the circular portion where the two handles meet points outward from your hand from the pinky side of your palm.
  3. Then, simply fold your hand around the hand gripper exerciser, squeezing as hard as you can to form a fist. Try to bring the two handles together so that they touch. However, if you are progressing in resistance level and cannot fully close your fist around the hand exerciser, you can still derive benefit from it by squeezing as hard as you can for as much range of motion as you can manage.
  4. Hold the squeeze, forming a tight fist as you continue to bear down along the handles for 2 to 5 seconds. 
  5. Slowly release your grip in a controlled manner.

Repeat for the desired number of reps. As your hand strength improves, increase the number of reps as well as the length of the isometric contraction (fist squeeze) for each rep.

If you suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome, make sure you use the correct technique and build up the resistance gradually.

A person squeezing a hand grip strengthener.

Do Grip Strengtheners Work?

So, do hand grip exercisers work? Will using a hand trainer increase grip strength in your hands, fingers, or forearms?

When you use the hand grip strengthener, the squeezing motion helps strengthen the finger flexor muscles, the muscles in the palm of your hand, as well as the muscles in your wrist and forearms. All of these muscles together determine your functional grip strength.

While the hand gripper can increase the crush strength of your hand and fingers, adding exercises that work the finger flexors and extensors, intrinsic hand muscles, wrist flexors and extensors, and forearm muscles will provide a more well-rounded grip strength training program for better results, functionality, and dexterity.

5 Common Mistakes Made When Using Grip Strengtheners

Although using a forearm strengthener is quite straightforward, there are still some common mistakes that people make when using hand grip trainers. 

These mistakes can potentially injure your tissues. More so, hand gripper mistakes will decrease the effectiveness of improving your grip strength.

A person squeezing a hand grip strengthener.

Here are some of the common mistakes made when using hand grip exercisers for grip strength workouts:

#1: Using the Wrong Resistance

As with any strength training exercise, you need to use the right resistance with the hand gripper in order actually to see improvements in grip strength.

If it is too easy to compress the hand strengthener, you will need to do a lot of reps in order to derive any benefits. 

Even so, this will mainly improve your muscular endurance or your hand grip strength endurance rather than your maximum hand grip strength or forearm mass.

As with almost any strength training exercise, the resistance should be hard enough that you feel fatigued after your set.

The rep range for using a hand gripper is generally higher than for traditional strength training exercises with large muscle groups. Because the hand exerciser targets such small and delicate muscles, the resistance generally should not be so high that you can only manage a couple of reps. 

A person squeezing two hand grip strengtheners.

If you are trying to build strength, try to back off the resistance until you have found a level that enables you to perform at least 5 to 10 complete reps per set. Add more sets with plenty of rest in between each to really build up your hand grip strength.

With hand grip exercises using a hand gripper, a rep range of 10 to 15 is ideal for hypertrophy.

If you are indeed looking to maximize muscular endurance, you can use a light-resistance hand gripper and perform as many reps as possible. 

Some people even carry a hand strengthener as they walk around and intersperse sets of 1 to 3-4 minutes of hand squeezes throughout the course of the day if you are trying to build muscular endurance.

Surprisingly, more often than not, the issue is using a hand gripper that provides too much resistance.

The muscles and tendons in the hands and fingers responsible for squeezing the hand gripper are small, delicate tissues. If the resistance is too high, you can damage these structures and cause injury.

Unless you are an advanced athlete training grip strength, you should be choosing a resistance that enables you to perform 10 to 15 reps.

If you can only eke out a few full reps, the resistance is likely too high, and you may be setting yourself up to injure a finger flexor muscle or tendon.

A person squeezing a hand grip strengthener.

#2: Using a Cheap Hand Grip Exerciser

Even the best hand grip strengtheners are relatively inexpensive, and it is advisable to spend a little bit more money for one of these high-quality units rather than buying a cheap one.

Inexpensive hand grippers are typically not very ergonomically, and the handles may not be coded in a way that will protect your hands. 

This can lead to blisters and may injure your wrist if the shape of the hand gripper is not very ergonomic or does not fit your hand appropriately.

There are various sizes and designs of hand grip exercisers, so find one that feels right and fits well in your hands to prevent discomfort or injuries.

#3: Wrong Training Volume

As with any strength training exercise, you have to perform the right volume to increase grip strength without overtraining and increasing the risk of injury.

If you only use your hand grip exerciser every now and again, or even just once a week, you may not be able to discern appreciable improvements in hand grip strength.

A person grabbing a barbell.

More often than not, people overdo it with hand grippers. 

As with any type of exercise, the muscles in your fingers, hands, wrists, and forearms that are worked by using a hand grip strengthener need rest. 

Try to wait at least 48 hours between hand grip strengthener workouts to allow your muscles time to recover so that you do not risk overtraining. Gradually increase the number of sets, reps, and frequency of hand gripper workouts as your body adapts.

#4: Only Using Hand Grippers

If your goal is to increase functional forearm grip strength, just using a hand strength exerciser will not be nearly as effective as engaging in grip strength workouts that include a variety of dynamic and static exercises for grip strength.

#5: Not Doing Counter Exercise

If you just use your grip strength trainer you can end up with unbalanced hand strength and your fingers are more likely to curl closed when resting. This can be countered by adding a finger stretcher to your grip workout!

Also a forearm workout, the finger stretcher improves your finger strength by strengthening the top of your forearms.

The finger stretcher is a silicone gadget which wraps around each of your fingers with resistance bands which pull your fingers in towards your palm. Your job is to extend your fingers outwards against the resistance.

These finger exercisers don’t have adjustable resistance, so make sure you buy one that matches your strength level.

A hand using a purple finger stretcher.

For more information about how to increase your grip strength, check out our guide to the best grip strength workout here.

References

  • 1
    Leyk, D., Gorges, W., Ridder, D., Wunderlich, M., Rüther, T., Sievert, A., & Essfeld, D. (2006). Hand-grip strength of young men, women and highly trained female athletes. European Journal of Applied Physiology99(4), 415–421. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-006-0351-1
  • 2
    Bohannon, R. W. (2019). Grip Strength: An Indispensable Biomarker For Older Adults. Clinical Interventions in Aging14, 1681–1691. https://doi.org/10.2147/CIA.S194543
  • 3
    Wang, Y.-C., Bohannon, R. W., Li, X., Sindhu, B., & Kapellusch, J. (2018). Hand-Grip Strength: Normative Reference Values and Equations for Individuals 18 to 85 Years of Age Residing in the United States. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy48(9), 685–693. https://doi.org/10.2519/jospt.2018.7851
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Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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