One of the smallest changes I’ve made in training over the last couple of months that has had one of the biggest changes in my workouts has been my grip.
This isn’t an article about building grip strength, there are a lot of articles about this already and I am not an historically strong gripper. I’ve recently been able to deadlift 315lbs with a double overhand grip for a set of six without any straps or chalk. The only specific grip training I do, is when I grip the bar for deadlifts and rows. I always try to simply grab the bar double overhand for as heavy as I can for as many sets as I can.
I will only use straps for accessory movements, i.e., Romanian Deadlifts, Stiff-Legged Deadlifts, Deficit Deadlifts, etc. For my competition deadlift, I will stick with double overhand until I feel the bar slipping in my hands, at which point I’ll switch to an alternate grip. I haven’t been able to deaden my thumb enough to utilize the hook grip just yet.
However, back to the point of the article, the biggest change I’ve made in my training has been to simply grip the bar as hard as possible. This small change has had a surprisingly dramatic effect on my lifts. I’ve tried it on almost every lift, whether it’s a pushing or pulling movement. This grip intensity seems to effect the stability of my wrist, which flows through to the forearm, upper arm and shoulders.
This has had amazing mental effects on the RPE of certain lifts, the harder I’m able to grip the bar, the easier the weight feels in my hand. This phenomena is referred to as the concept of irradation. A quick example is to make a fist, you’ll notice just the hand and forearms are tense, now squeeze the first a little hard and your bicep should start to flex, squeeze the first even harder and your shoulder should start engaging, the hard you squeeze that fist, the more muscle mass further away from the hand start to engage.
This concept also highlights how difficult it is to truly move a muscle in isolation, try the same exercise above whilst relaxing your bicep, I bet you won’t be able to squeeze as hard.
This may take some time to train, as the increase tension in the hands may induce premature fatigue. But I would try as much as possible to grip the bar with maximum tension for every set, including warmups. This will add another small layer to grip training throughout your entire workout. As time goes on, the volume will build up and your grip strength should start to increase as time goes by.