The muscles in our hands are often ignored even though they play an integral role in a wide variety of CrossFit workouts. Any movement involving a bar or ring—deadlifts, cleans, snatches, pulls, dips, muscle-ups—will require good grip strength to properly execute.
How many times have you dropped a deadlift because your grip was slipping, or had to drop off the pull-up bar even though your arms weren’t tired yet? Better grip means bigger lifts and more reps.
Many of us don’t target grip strength because we naturally develop it as we work on these movements. Also, it’s not a sexy group of muscles to work out. No one stops to admire your totally jacked fingers. But focusing on grip strength is a great accessory exercise to improve your performance.
Your hand has different functions: It can crush and pinch, flex and extend. It’s important to develop all of these capabilities. Here are some exercises you can do on your own in the gym that will help develop a well-rounded grip:
Rock Climb Wall/Ladder
CrossFit City of Angels is one of the only boxes to offer a rock-climbing wall—take advantage of it! Follow the colored pieces of tape for varying levels of difficulty, or create your own path. Try to climb the wooden slats of the ladder, starting with the ones on the right, which are thickest/easiest. If you can’t climb the ladder, just hang on it.
This is a straightforward hang from the rig with the bar positioned just above your palms at the base of your fingers. Hold it for as long as you can or do three sets of 30 seconds or a minute. Alternately, you can get a similar workout holding a pair of heavy dumbbells for a set period of time. If you can hold for more than a minute, try heavier dumbbells.
With a barbell cradled in the fingers of both hands, close and open your fingers, letting the barbell roll toward your fingertips but without letting it fall off. Do three sets of ten reps. Keep the bar close to the ground in case it slips off.
Do push-ups on your fingertips. The weight pushes your fingers outward, forcing you to stabilize them. Try three set of eight or 10 reps. This may be challenging for some, so try the push-up on your knees if you need to. You can also do a plank hold in the same position.
Grab a 25-pound bumper plate or two 10-pound plates and pinch them together using only your fingers (don’t use any part of your palm). Hold for a minute, or do three sets for anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute.
Rope climbs are great at building grip strength. Spend more time climbing ropes, or do a rope hang just like you would a bar hang. For a rope hang, climb just high enough so that your body is off the ground, not to the top of the rope.
Clip Squeeze & Lacrosse Ball
Sure, you could buy a nice set of grips, but in a pinch why not just grab a pair of metal barbell clips instead and squeeze on them? Get in a little workout before a WOD while everyone else is setting up their barbells. You can also grab a lacrosse ball or tennis ball from the bin and squeeze tightly on it for 30 seconds at a time.