Why Grip Strength Is So Important

Having a rock solid grip may be the key to a great life. You may think that it only matters when you shake someone’s hand, twist a lid off a jar, or grip a kettlebell but it’s value goes way beyond these activities. 

Scientists find that a strong grip positively correlates with many aspects of our mental and physical health and performance. 

After reading this article you’ll know why grip strength is so important when your goal is to live the best life possible. 

If your grip isn’t where you need it to be don’t despair. I’ll show you how to strengthen it, quickly. 

A Strong Grip Means Your Stronger All Over

Studies find that the stronger your grip, the stronger you’re going to be overall. This means if you were tested in the exercises like the squat and bench press you’re likely to be stronger than someone with a weaker grip. 

One study finds that people with stronger grips were able to both use more weight and do more reps in various lower and upper body exercises. They included: leg press, leg extension, push ups, dumbbell swings, and sit ups. In every exercise tested, the guys with stronger grips did better. 

Strength coach Charles Poliquin once told me that grip strength so positively relates to overall strength that some countries Olympic hopefuls have their grip strength tested as a measure of their ability to reach the Olympic level in their sport. 

It makes sense if you have to screen a lot of people quickly, safely, and with a high degree of accuracy. Squeezing a dynamometer – a tool that measures grip strength – for several seconds is way safer and faster than having everyone work up to a maximal squat or bench press, for example.

A Strong Grip Is Important For The Things We Do Every Day

Without a strong grip, life is going to be much more difficult. Everything, from opening a door to a jar of salsa requires grip strength. Take it away and your life becomes significantly more challenging. 

This is perhaps another reason grip strength relates to so many aspects of our health. When you lose it, doing basic tasks becomes more difficult. Not doing them is bad for your health. Over time, this can negatively affect your health. 

If You Lift Weights Or Play Sports A Strong Grip Is Key

A Strong Grip Makes Doing Pull Ups Possible

Whether you’re gunning to be a pro or just want to compete to learn and have fun, a strong grip is key. It’s tough to think of a sport whose performance isn’t benefitted by a stronger grip. 

There’s the obvious sports like judo, Brazilian jiu jitsu, tennis, rock climbing and baseball. The harder you can grip in these sports, the better you will perform. 

Even sports like soccer and swimming where grip strength wouldn’t seem to be important, it is. Being able to hold someone off between you and the ball and pull harder through the water requires strong grips and make performing at a high level in these sports very important.

Research finds that athletes with stronger grip strength have more muscle. Having more muscle is likely to help you perform better, have more endurance, and incur less injuries. I think this is why the grip strength correlation is so high with many athletes.  

Grip strength is important but remember, it doesn’t improve everything. For example, a study on college baseball players finds that having a stronger grip does not help you swing the bat faster.  Strong grip does help you throw faster though, so it still matters for important things, just not everything. 

Stronger Grip Is Related To Better Memory And Mental Health

Having a strong grip even seems to correlate with being in a better than average mood. Physically worse shape you’re in (weak grip), the worse shape your mind will be in. This means problems with your mood, memory, etc. Sound mind, sound body quote.

In one study of almost 500,000 people between ages 40-69 researchers find that the stronger your grip, the better you’ll do on tests of your memory and reaction time. 

Strong grip is also correlated with a lower incidence of depression in women. More than one study finds that the weaker a woman’s grip strength, the more likely they are to be depressed. 

This data indicates to me that doing things that lead to a strong grip, i.e. exercise and being otherwise physically active keep your brain more fit and functioning better.

Grip Strength Is Related To Your Intelligence And Whether You’ll Marry

Crazy it may sound, even your intelligence and if you’re a guy, whether you’ll marry, are related to your grip strength. 

People with higher IQ’s apparently have higher grip strengths. Same with guys and marriage. The stronger your grip, the more likely you are to get married. 

Just another sign, I think,  to stay as healthy and strong as we can throughout our lives. 

How Strong Does My Grip Strength Need To Be?

I’m not aware of a specific level of grip strength you should aim for. At a minimum, you need to be strong enough to complete your daily activities. If you want to really quantify things, there are hand grip strength standards you can use. 

I don’t bother so much with that stuff. I just do lots of exercises and happen to play a sport (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu) that indirectly increase my grip strength. 

I can say that the stronger my grip gets, the stronger I become in other exercises. Same with performance in other sports. 

Can You Improve Your Grip Strength?

Yes, you can. There’s no need to go overboard to build a stronger grip either. 

The first thing you can do for a stronger grip is to lift weights. Use barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, and whatever else you have access to. 

Strengthening your grip requires you to improve the strength in the more than 30 muscles that work together to flex and extend your fingers. 

Simply squeezing something as hard as possible is all you really need to do. I try to practice this when I lift. I pretend I’m crushing the handle of the weight during every repetition. It seems to work too.  

I got this idea from strength coach Pavel Tsatsouline. He talked about doing this as a way to instantly increase your strength. Give it a try and see for yourself. 

What Exercises Are Best For Increasing Grip Strength?

Exercises Like Farmer’s Walks Build A Strong Grip

If you want to do to strengthen your grip you should focus on 2 types of movements. Those where you flex and extend your fingers and exercises where you squeeze really hard and hold something heavy for a minute or longer. .

Here’s a few great exercises for you. 

  • Squeezing a tennis ball or ‘crusher’ device.
  • Farmers walks. Carry heavy weights for distance.
  • Use Fat Grips to make the bar thicker so you have to squeeze more to do an exercise. 
  • Towel rows and curls. Wrap around to make the bar thicker. Loop one through a kettlebell handle and perform rows, curls. Use to perform pull ups. 
  • Kettlebell swings. Heavy weight, lower reps. Moderate weight, high reps. 

You can do these movements at the end of your workout. No need to go overboard. 3-5 sets of 1-2 exercises should do the trick. 

Stick to 5-8 reps for gripping movements and 2-4 minutes or longer for holds like kettlebell swings and farmer’s walks. 

Does What I Eat Affect My Grip Strength?

Yes, it does. Makes sense to me. The better you eat, the better your health. The better your health, the stronger your grip, and body are likely to be.

Studies find that there are two things that people with stronger grip strength eat more of. Protein and fatty fish, specifically.

The more you eat of these 2 things, the stronger your grip is going to be. Makes sense. Protein (get from meat, cheese, eggs, dairy) build muscle. The more muscle you have, the stronger your grip and body. 

Conclusion

Now you know that your grip strength is often an indication of the strength and healthy of your body and mind. It’s also a great predictor ..

Don’t despair if your grip strength isn’t too great at this time. You can improve it if you work at it in the right way. The exercises and tips in this article are all you need to make huge improvements. 

Also, remember that there are a lot of factors regarding your grip strength and health. Size of hand, etc. play a role too. 

Key takeaway. Train to be strong throughout your life, eat well especially enough protein and some fatty fish and your grip and health will prosper. 

Sources

Ashdown-Franks G, Stubbs B, Koyanagi A, Schuch F, Firth J, Veronese N, Vancampfort D. Handgrip strength and depression among 34,129 adults aged 50 years and older in six low- and middle-income countries. J Affect Disord. 2019 Jan 15;243:448-454.

Cummings, PM, Waldman, HS, Krings, BM, Smith, JW, and McAllister, MJ. Effects of Fat Grip Training on Muscular Strength and Driving Performance in Division I Male Golfers. J Strength Cond Res. 2018 Jan; 32(1):205-210.

Fanelli Kuczmarski M, Pohlig RT, Stave Shupe E, Zonderman AB, Evans MK. Dietary Protein Intake and Overall Diet Quality Are Associated with Handgrip Strength in African American and White Adults. J Nutr Health Aging. 2018;22(6):700-709. doi:10.1007/s12603-018-1006-

More protein = stronger grip

Gallup AC, Fink B. Handgrip Strength as a Darwinian Fitness Indicator in Men. Front Psychol. 2018 Apr 6;9:439.

Gallup AC, O’Brien DT, White DD, Wilson DS. Handgrip strength and socially dominant behavior in male adolescents. Evol Psychol. 2010 Jun 2;8(2):229-43.

Isen J, McGue M, Iacono W. Genetic influences on the development of grip strength in adolescence. Am J Phys Anthropol. 2014 Jun;154(2):189-200.

Mishra S, Goldman JD, Sahyoun NR, Moshfegh AJ. Association between dietary protein intake and grip strength among adults aged 51 years and over: What We Eat in America, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2011-2014. 

Pugh SF, Kovaleski JE, Heitman RJ, Pearsall AW. Upper and lower body strength in relation to underhand pitching speed by experienced and inexperienced pitchers. Percept Mot Skills. 2001 Dec;93(3):813-8.

Robinson SM, Jameson KA, Batelaan SF, et al. Diet and its relationship with grip strength in community-dwelling older men and women: the Hertfordshire cohort study. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2008;56(1):84-90. doi:10.1111/j.1532-5415.2007.01478.

Fatty fish = stronger grip

Trosclair, Bellar, Judge, L, Smith, Mazerat, Brignac, A. Hand-Grip Strength as a Predictor of Muscular Strength and Endurance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: March 2011 – Volume 25 – Issue – p S99.

Posted on