Although many of us head to the gym and focus on big muscle groups such as the quads, chest, abs, shoulders, glutes, biceps, and triceps, grip strength exercises are often neglected.
However, in many cases, lack of grip strength, which is primarily a matter of the strength of your forearm muscles, is actually the limiting factor for big lifts like maxing out on your deadlift or doing heavy carries or long sets of pull-ups and chin-ups.
Plus, it can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality in older adults.
But, many people are not sure what are the best grip strength exercises or how to put together a grip strength workout.
In this article, we will provide step-by-step instructions for some of the best grip strength exercises out there:
- Reverse Dumbbell Curls
- Wrist Curls
- Wrist Extensions
- Bottoms-Up Kettlebell Carries
- Towel Pull-Ups
- Dead Hangs
- Three-Stage Chin-Up Holds
- Deadlifts With Holds
Let’s dive in!
8 Grip Strength Exercises For The Ultimate Grip Strength Workout
Here are some of the best exercises for grip strength that you can use in a grip strength workout program:
#1: Reverse Dumbbell Curls
Reverse curls are essentially a variation of standard biceps curls, except that your palms are facing down instead of up.
This increases the workload on your wrist flexors and extensors, and forearm muscles, which are key muscles that contribute to grip strength.
You will likely not be able to use as much weight as you normally curl but build up over time as you add grip exercises to your workout routine.
Here are the steps to perform this exercise for grip strength:
- Grip a dumbbell in each hand with your arms down at your sides and your palms facing behind your body rather than forwards.
- Keeping your core tight and your elbows tucked in against your rib cage, curl the weight up towards your shoulders by bending your elbows. Make sure that your upper arms stay stationary and fixed throughout the movement.
- You might not be able to curl the weight up as high as you normally would with regular biceps curls because you want to stop the curl once your elbows start to migrate away from the sides of your body. With that said, be as mindful as possible to keep them tucked in and glued to your side without the exercise.
- Make sure that you are squeezing the handle of the dumbbells as tightly as possible to engage your fingers and wrist muscles.
- Slowly lower the weights back down.
#2: Wrist Curls
Wrist curls can feel somewhat boring compared to more demanding dumbbell arm exercises such as biceps curls, but this is a great exercise to add to your grip strength workouts.
Research has found that isolation exercises such as the wrist curl can help improve the health of your wrists. Additionally, strong wrist flexors are necessary for optimal grip strength.
Here are the steps to perform this one of our grip exercises:
- Hold a light dumbbell in each hand.
- Sit on a weight bench with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Hinge from your hips and lean forward so that you can rest the hairy side of your forearms along the tops of your thighs. Your wrists and hands should be hanging off the edge of your knees so that they are not supported by your thighs.
- Rotate your wrists so that your palms are facing up.
- Try to hold the dumbbell in just your fingers so that your fingers are curling around the handle rather than your palm.
- Extend your wrists so that they are bent backward and your palms are facing the wall in front of you.
- Curl the weight as high as possible, bringing your palms and fingers towards your inner forearms.
- Slowly curl back down.
#3: Wrist Extensions
Grip workouts should also include weighted wrist extensions.
Here are the steps to perform this grip strength exercise:
- Set up in the exact same position as you did for the wrist curls, only this time, rotate your forearms so that the inner forearm is resting on your thighs and the hairy part of your arms are facing the ceiling. Your palms should be facing the floor.
- Begin the exercise by letting your hands drop down so that your wrists are flexed and pointing down towards your shins.
- Keep your forearms planted on your thighs, extend your wrists, curling the weights up so that your palms face the opposite wall.
- Pause at the top position before slowly lowering the weights back down.
#4: Bottoms-Up Kettlebell Carries
The inverted position of this kettlebell exercise is a fantastic way to increase grip strength.
These are the steps:
- Stand upright, holding a kettlebell in one hand with the horn of the bell down in your palm and the weight facing upwards towards the ceiling.
- Use a neutral grip and keep your elbow flexed about 90° as if carrying a platter like a waiter.
- Squeeze the horn of the kettlebell as tightly as possible as you walk slowly forward along a cleared path. When you get to the end of your designated distance, relax and switch hands.
- Walk back doing the carry with the other side.
#5: Towel Pull-Ups
Using a towel for your pull-ups instead of gripping the bar directly is an excellent way to improve forearm and grip strength.
It is much harder to grip a towel, and you end up having to use a neutral grip rather than a pronated grip, which is excellent for building forearm strength.
All you need to do is loop a towel over a pull-up bar and grab hold of both ends with a neutral grip (palms facing one another). Then, perform pull-ups as you normally would, squeezing the ends of the towel as your “handles.”
#6: Dead Hangs
The dead hang is a great prep exercise for pull-ups and a good grip strength exercise.
A dead hang involves holding on to the overhead pull-up bar with extended arms and supporting your hanging body with your grip with your feet off the ground.
Unlike with pull-ups or chin-ups, you don’t have to lift your body up and over the bar.
Instead, the dead hang is a static hold, so it can be compared to an isometric exercise like a plank, wherein no actual movement is occurring, but your muscles are still working.
Here are the steps of the grip strength exercise:
- Place a step, bench, or box underneath a secure overhead pull-up bar if you can’t reach it without simply raising your arms up. You do not want to have to jump up into a dead hang in the way that you might for pull-ups or chin-ups.
- Grab onto the bar, positioning your hands about shoulder-width apart with your palms pointing away.
- Remove your feet from the step, box, or bench, so you’re hanging on to the bar with your arms fully extended. If the bar is too low so that your feet are touching the ground, bend your knees so that your shins and feet are behind your body.
- Try to keep your upper body relatively relaxed, but engage your core and glutes for stability.
- Hang for 10-60 seconds or more, depending on your fitness level, gradually increasing your dead hang time as your strength improves.
- Carefully hop down or step back onto your step or box if it’s within reach when you are done.
#7: Three-Stage Chin-Up Holds
Holding the top position of a chin-up or pull-up is a great isometric exercise to increase grip strength, much like the dead hang.
This variation changes up your isometric position into three different variations, which not only makes it a great grip workout exercise but also an effective move for improving your performance and strength for regular chin-ups.
The longer you hold the position, the more time under tension your muscles will get.
Here are the steps:
- Jump up and grab the pull-up bar with the chin-up position so that your palms are facing your body.
- Lift your body up to the end position so that your chin is above the bar.
- Hold this position for at least 15 seconds or as long as possible.
- Slowly lower your body to about an 80-degree angle in your elbows and then hold the position for another 15 seconds.
- Then, lower your body until your elbows are almost all the way extended, but there is still about a 15° angle, and hold the position for another 15 seconds.
- Relax into a dead hang position before trying another set (if your fitness level allows it).
#8: Deadlifts With Holds
Most grip strength workouts focus primarily on exercises that directly target your forearms, wrist flexors and extensors, and fingers.
However, some of the best grip strength exercises actually are your standard strength training exercises with heavy loads, modified in a way to focus on increasing your grip strength.
Plus, research suggests that improving grip strength can make it easier to lift barbells and dumbbells.
The deadlift can be a great exercise for grip strength.
By adding a pause or hold in the top position before returning the week towards the ground, you will increase the strength and endurance in your grip muscles while also reaping the benefits of this posterior chain exercise.
Here is how to perform this exercise for grip strength:
- Perform a standard barbell deadlift, remembering to hinge at the hips.
- Once you have pressed through your heels and engaged your glutes, erector spinae, and hamstrings to stand all the way up, pause, and hold the top position, gripping a barbell for 10 to 15 seconds.
- Make sure to squeeze the barbell as much as possible, as if choking it with your grip. Keep your shoulders relaxed and down away from your ears.
- Slowly lower back down for the next rep.
- Perform 4 to 8 reps.
Learn more forearm exercises here.