Having a great grip strength is essential for sports like Ninja Warrior, climbing, bouldering, and calisthenics. A well-trained grip can make the difference between winning and losing. It also increases your upper bodies muscular endurance, and it even helps to reduce the risk of injury.
Being able to hold your entire body weight one-handed on vertical rods, bars, or ropes will give you a major advantage over athletes who aren’t that strong.
On the following pages, I’m going to show you the top 9 exercises and methods for improving grip strength and endurance, so that you will be able to compete with the best.
1. Rope climbing
Climbing a rope is a simple and old school exercise that will yield huge gains in the strength of your hand and forearm muscles. The thicker the rope, the better for developing insane grip strength. So, if you have access to such a rope, use it frequently.
If you want to go one step further, then start climbing from a sitting position with your legs stretched in a right angle to your upper body. This will be the ultimate challenge in climbing a rope. And it will strengthen your core muscles as well.
2. Pull ups with towels or vertical wooden rods
An excellent way of intensifying your grip training without external loads to your body is by using vertical wooden rods or towels to hang on.
Drape 2 small towels over a pull up bar or through some gymnastic rings. Grip a towel in each hand and try doing some pull ups. Aim for 5-10 repetitions when you are starting out and are already used to regular pull ups.
Pull ups with towels or vertical rods will absolutely boost your crush grip. So give it a try!
3. Dead hangs
Dead hangs on a pull up bar or gymnastic rings will increase not only your grip strength but also your endurance.
Grip the bar with your hands and hang off of it with your feet elevated in the air. Keep your shoulder blades down! Try to hold for at least 30 seconds.
Once you are getting stronger, try hanging with just one hand. Alternate your hands and aim, again, for a minimum duration of 30 seconds. If you want to have a greater challenge, raise your knees or legs up while hanging. Finally, you can also combine dead hangs with some towels and even weight vests, which is the ultimate progression of this exercise.
Once again, it is important to keep your shoulder blades down during that exercise to prevent injuries.
4. Pull ups with fat grips
Pull ups are already good exercises for your grip but can be tweaked further for more effective training. By simply changing the handles and making them thicker, pull ups will become an incredible challenge for your hands, fingers, and forearms.
Fat Gripz, for example, are great for increasing the diameter of pull up bars, barbells, dumbbells, or exercise machine handles. These sleeves can be wrapped around almost any handle. They are simple but highly effective.
5. Campus board training
If you have access to a climbing gym, you will propably find a campus board there. You should incorporate this into your workout schedule for improving your grip strength.
But be advised not to train on the campus board if you had recently injured your fingers, elbows or shoulders. Despite how great the campus board is, it is also the cause of many finger injuries due to overtraining or improper use. So, start slow.
There are different ways to train on the campus board, with the most common one being the laddering method. As the name implies, it involves climbing up the campus board hand-over-hand without using your feet. As you progress, you can skip rungs as you climb up or use smaller rungs.
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6. Hangboard training
The hangboard, also called fingerboard, is a tool every serious Ninja Warrior and climber should own. The beauty of a good hangboard, such as the Metolius Simulator 3D, is that there are various grip positions you can choose from. The large buckets can be used for pull-up training and the smaller ones for the specific strengthening of your fingers.
With a hangboard a large variety of exercises is possible:
- Open hand
- Three-finger pocket
- Two-finger pocket
The best way to train on the hangboard is the Repeaters protocol, a high-intensity contraction training.
Choose 3 to 10 different grip positions. After a warm-up of your upper-body and especially your fingers, do 10 hangs on the first grip position. Each hang should last about 3 to 7 seconds with 3 to 7 seconds rest in between each hang. If this is too easy, you can add weight with a weight belt or a vest. After one full set of Repeaters rest for 3 minutes and stretch your fingers. Then move on to the next grip position.
Do this regularly, and you will see huge gains in grip strength.
If you want to read more about hangboard training and how to get most out of it, check out the following article:
7. Finger and grip strengtheners
Finger and grip strengtheners are great, as you can use them almost everywhere – between sets at the gym, on your couch, while surfing the web, or watching TV.
There are the classic non-adjustable grippers, and there are far better grippers with adjustable resistance. My absolute recommendation is the Super Gripper for training your crush grip. This tool is a challenge for everyone, from beginner to expert.
For specifically training your pinch grip, you should use finger strengtheners in conjunction with the afore-mentioned gripper. The Gripmaster Finger Exerciser, for example, is a great tool as it allows for training every finger separately.
8. Pinching weight plates
Pinching weight plates is an exercise that will train your thumb strength more than all the others. Using two weight plates, if possible with the smooth surface to the outside, and pinching them together is the best way to go.
Start with low weights and don’t let them slide apart. Do this exercise on a surface that won’t be damaged in case a plate falls down. Try to pinch the plates for 30 seconds and do 2-3 sets. Once you are comfortable with the weights, increase them.
9. Finger stretch trainers
With all the previous exercises you are mainly strengthening the flexor muscles in your hands. To keep your hands healthy and your muscles in balance, it is important also to train the opposite muscles which are called extensors.
The easiest way to do this, is by using a Finger Stretcher. Spread your fingers as wide as possible while working against the resistance of the rubber structure. After doing several reps, you should feel the fingers and the upper side of your hand burning.
If you don’t want to spend that money, you can also use multiple rubber bands to get the appropriate resistance.
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Improving grip strength is a crucial part of training for Ninja Warrior, climbing, bouldering, and calisthenics. If done correctly and on a regular basis (2 to 3 times a week), it will help you in mastering any challenge and also having much more fun. As always, be patient, start out light and move up slowly to prevent injury.
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And now, I want to know: What is your favorite grip strength exercise?