8 Ways to Train Grip Strength


We discuss the importance of good chalk a lot , but twhat about grip strength? Grip strength is important in any sport, and is very often overlooked in training. We found a great article with some good ideas for training your grip. Credit to: Coach Melody Schoenfeld for the following article, which you can also view here: https://breakingmuscle.com/strength-conditioning/the-3-types-of-grip-and-the-8-ways-to-train-them

The 3 Types of Grip and the 8 Ways to Train Them

Grip training is quite possibly the most underevaluated area of training out there. And that’s a shame, because honestly, when do you not need at least some modicum of grip strength? If you deadlift or do pull ups; if you pitch a baseball, swing a racket, or play Ultimate Frisbee; if you carry a briefcase or groceries; if you open jars and bottles, or play the guitar - heck, even if you want a handshake that doesn’t feel like overcooked spaghetti, having a decent grip comes in handy. 

Although very few studies have been done on the subject of grip strength in relation to upper body strength and endurance, those that exist seem to indicate what I have suspected for a long time from my own training - having a strong grip means having a strong and resiliant upper body.1,2 Let’s face it - having a double-bodyweight deadlift is a whole different animal when you can do it using a snatch grip without wraps. In addition, a huge host of muscles are involved in the act of gripping: four flexors (digitorum profundus, digitorum superficialis, digiti minimi brevis, pollicis longus), one extensor (digitorum), and three intrinsic muscles (lumbricals, interossei, adductor pollicis).  Strengthening these can help prevent many common injuries to the hand and forearm (those of you in contact sports of any kind know how much this can affect your game), and can help any injuries that do occur to heal much faster.

Types of Grip Training and When to Use Them

Grip training goes well beyond squeezing grippers or stress balls. After all, there’s more than one kind of grip strength:

  • The Crush Grip is the grip between your fingers and your palm—the one you use for shaking hands and crumpling beer cans.
  • The Pinch Grip is the grip between your fingers and your thumb. This can be further subcategorized into individual fingers + thumb grip.
  • The Support Grip is the ability to maintain a hold on something for a while—think pull ups or long and productive shopping trips.

The type of grip training you do depends completely on its applicability to what you want to accomplish. Martial artists may find support grip training to be more useful for things like wrist grabs and such. Climbers may find pinch grip and support grip strength to be most useful. If you’re training to close Iron Mind grippers, well, you’d best do some crush grip training. I personally use elements of all three in my training—I find this keeps me from overtraining one style, and gives me well-rounded strength.

How To Train Your Grip

There are many ways to effectively train the grip. Here are a few of my personal favorites:


Grab a pull up bar. Get your feet off the floor. Hold on for dear life. Many people find the limiting factor in their pull ups (or even in just doing a hanging stretch) is the simple ability to hang on to the bar. Hanging for time can be an excellent way to overcome this issue. Try holding the bar in different positions—chin up style (palms facing you), pull up style (palms facing away from you), neutral (palms facing each other), mixed (one palm in, one out), hook (fingers gripping the bar, palm and thumbs off the bar), individual finger hooks, one arm hangs, and so on.

To make these more difficult, widen the bar you are using. You can do this cheaply by wrapping a towel or sweatshirt around the bar to the width of your liking, or by cutting two short lengths of PVC pipe (width of your choice) and cutting a slit down the side of each so that you can pop them over the bar. You can do this more expensively by purchasing a pair of thick grip tools from a sporting goods supply store. Another option for a pull up bar is to hang a rope or towel from it so that the middle is over the bar. Grab the ends and try to do pullups or hangs that way. If you are a climber or do Brazilian jiu jitsu, you will absolutely want to do some of these!

Farmer Carries:

My personal implement of choice for farmer carries is the kettlebell, but you can also use dumbbells, hex bars, straight bars, large water bottles, suitcases—anything you can carry that hangs from your hands. Pick up one or two and walk as far as you can with it. Make it challenging. This not only trains support grip strength effectively, but also is a heck of a full body workout!

Plate Pinches:

Get two weight plates, preferably with smooth backs. Stack them together so the smooth side on each faces out. Try to pick them up. Better yet, try to take a walk with them after you’ve picked them up.

Hex Dumbbell Lifting:

There is a tool many strongmen use called a “blob.” Many people make their own by cutting the ends off of hex dumbbells. As I don’t have any dumbbells I can cut apart at the moment, I turn them into pseudo-blobs by grabbing the hex ends and trying to lift them. This can be done two-handed (one hand on top of each end in a pinch-grip fashion), or one-handed (dumbbell on its side, one hand grasping the end widthwise). This is much more difficult than it sounds, especially if you have mini-hands like I do.

Hook Grip Kettlebell Swinging:

Kettlebell swinging for endurance, even without the hook grip, is a very tough grip workout. I like to do one-handed hook-grip swings and go until my grip just about gives out. Then I do the same number on the other hand without stopping (which gives my first hand a break), and keep switching back and forth that way. In addition to having major cardiovascular and fat-burning benefits, this will build great finger strength and hip power. To make it more difficult, widen the grip of the bell by wrapping a towel around it or wearing thick gloves, or even try wearing lotion on your hands (make sure nothing/no one breakable is in front of you!).

Plate Curls:

A wonderful way to build finger and wrist strength is doing plate curls. Grab a weight plate of appropriate poundage. Hold it in your palm with your thumb over the top and your fingers extended over the bottom. Do bicep curls like that.

Sandbag Deadlifts:

Fill a few trash bags with sand and load them into a canvas duffel bag, or buy a commercial sandbag. Do NOT use the handles of the sandbag. Instead, try to pick it up, deadlift style, by pinching/crushing the material of the bag.

Extensor Training:

At some point, you’re going to need to open your hands again. Get a rubber band off a bunch of broccoli, slip it over your fingers, and open your hand as wide as you can. Add more rubber bands as needed.

Don’t overdo it with grip training. 3-5 reps of 3-5 sets of intense grip work one to three times per week (experiment and see what works best for you) is enough. Now get out there and dominate!

Hand Armor Highlight: Tony Bergstrom-Houstan Texans

We are headed to the NFL for this week’s Hand Armor Highlight, to spotlight our athlete, Tony Bergstrom. Tony has had an exceptional football career dating back to his high school playing days at one of the premier programs in the state of Utah, Skyline (SLC, UT). There, he earned All Region 3 and All State honors in 2004.  In addition to his football success, he was also a three year letterman in basketball and a two year letterman in track and field. Tony had an exceptional college career playing all four years at the University of Utah(2008-2011), and ending his college tenure being named to the First Team All Pac12.

The Oakland Raiders selected Tony in the 3rd Round of the 2012 NFL Draft, the 95th pick. He played guard and center for the Oakland Raiders from 2012-2015.  He is currently with the Houston Texans, after being signed this past March.  We are grateful to have Tony as a member of the Hand Armor Team. And, we want to wish him the best of luck this upcoming NFL season!

Hand Armor Highlight: Kelly Lovan Physique Champion/ Powerlifter

Kelly is a dual threat athlete; as a Powerlifter she is the IA State Record Holder in Bench (181), Deadlift (330), and Squat (253) respectively in the 132lb weight class.  Kelly has also made a name for herself in Women’s Physique competitions, where she has earned FIVE first place finishes over the last four years including most recently at the 2016 NPC Duel of Champions (Omaha)!
When asked how Hand Armor Chalk has contributed to her success… “the true test was how Hand Armor would hold up during the hardest of deadlift pulls. I can say, never once has my grip slipped on a deadlift. In fact, never have I missed a pull because of a slip, only because of my lack of strength or technique…. Hand Armor's now become a huge confidence booster for me. I use it for deadlifts, bench presses and squats. Since I am a dual-athlete, I also use it for bodybuilding movements, such as pull-ups and upright rows, anytime I need a tight grip without using straps. “

I went back and did the same show and placed 1st.

How long have you been doing Physique Competition?

I have been competing in Women's Physique since 2012. My first physique show was at the LA Fit Expo for the NPC Ironman Naturally Magazine show, where I placed 2nd. In 2014, I went back and did the same show and placed 1st.

What accolades have you achieved?

2009 - 1st place Figure, NANBF Max Muscle Natural Nebraska (Omaha)
2011 - 1st place Figure and new IFPA Pro Figure winner, NANBF Southern States Classic (Kansas City)
2012 - 1st place Women's Physique Class A, NPC Battle of Champions (Omaha)
2012 - 15th place Women's Physique NPC Jr Nationals (Chicago)
2014 - 1st place & Overall Women's Physique, Ironman Naturally Magazine (LA Fit Expo)
2014 - 1st place & Overall Women's Physique, Memorial Day Muscle Beach International Championships (Venice Beach)
2014 - 1st place & Overall Women's Physique, Labor Day Muscle Beach Championships (Venice Beach)
2016 - 1st place & Overall Women's Physique, NPC Duel of Champions (Omaha)

2015 - USPA Powerlifting Nationals, Bronze in 132 weight class, IA State Record Holder in Bench, Deadlift, Squat. Also, Gold in Masters Class.

How long have you been power lifting?

Training since 2014. Competing since 2015.

What are some of your PRs?

On record I have the following records in the 132 wt class for IA from the 2015 USPA Nationals, but I have since surpassed these numbers in training.
Bench - 181
Deadlift - 330
Squat - 253

I’m a survivor of an auto-immune deficiency disease called, ITP

How has Hand Armor helped you with you training?

When I began powerlifting, we always used chalk powder, and I always found myself inhaling my own chalk and chalk dust from others'. Since I have breathing problems and allergies, I found that it irritated my breathing. Especially, when not everyone is as courteous with chalking up around others and how it might affect them; just like smoking. I would hide behind gym equipment when people who were notorious for spreading chalk dust for the fun of it, was chalking up. So, the lack of dust with Hand Armor was a huge plus!

I'm also a survivor of an auto-immune deficiency disease called, ITP. Though I've since beat my disease, I became acutely aware of bacteria and germs that would easily make me sick as I went through corticosteroid treatments and as I was going through recovery. Gyms carry a lot of germs and when I found out Hand Armor was antibacterial, I was excited to use it.

Then, the true test was how Hand Armor would hold up during the hardest of deadlift pulls. I can say, never once has my grip slipped on a deadlift. In fact, never have I missed a pull because of a slip, only because of my lack of strength or technique.

Given all three factors, Hand Armor's now become a huge confidence booster for me. I use it for deadlifts, bench presses and squats. Since I am a dual-athlete, I also use it for bodybuilding movements, such as pull-ups and upright rows, anytime I need a tight grip without using straps.

People have their secret lucky charms they carry with them for their major lifts. I always have my Hand Armor Liquid Chalk on me.

Why would you recommend Hand Armor over grip aids available?

It's not messy, you don't accidentally inhale it, you don't need to keep reapplying it, it's easy to transport, and it's antibacterial.

We want to thank Kelly for being a member of the Team Hand Armor! We are excited to see what she accomplishes next!

Hand Armor Highlight: Mario Morante-Rock climber/Boulderer

This week we are recognizing one of our climbing athletes, Mario Morante. Mario is from Miami, FL and has been climbing for several years. Mario loves to climb outdoors and is considered a V6 climber (The Hueco Scale). One of his favorite places to climb is in Little Rock City, Tennessee AKA Stone Fort. In his words, “the best sandstone in the southeast!”

In 2016, he and his wife plan on crossing off a couple climbs on their bucket list as they will be trekking the Inca Trail in Manchu Picchu, Peru as well as doing some sport climbing in Lima. He also mentioned in his interview that he hopes in 2017 to make it out west, closer to Hand Armor HQ, to climb in Utah, Las Vegas, NV., as well as California.

As an indoor climber he is considered a V8 climber

When Mario is not outdoor climbing you will find him training at X-tremerock.com, an indoor climbing facility. As an indoor climber he is considered a V8 climber. When asked how Hand Armor has contributed to his climbing, Mario said, “I have used your product and I believe in your brand. Using Hand Armor reduces the amount of sweat that regular chalk CAN’T prevent.”

2016 Triple Crown Bouldering Competition.

Mario is an incredible climber and we are happy to have him aboard as a Hand Armor Athlete. We want to wish him the best of luck as he prepares to compete in the 2016 Triple Crown Bouldering Competition.

Good Luck Mario! And thanks again for choosing Hand Armor Chalk as your chalk of choice.

Hand Armor Highlight: Smarter Team Training –Coach Rob Taylor

Since the beginning of SMARTER Team Training, what are some highlighted moments or milestones that come to mind that you have achieved with your business?

"Several of the big moments that I really never thought people would find interesting at first I have shared on http://smarterteamtraining.com/smarter-team-training-story/. It really does boil down to valuing relationships, doing what is right, being consistent, and helping others achieve greatness. In the field of strength and conditioning, you must put the goals of the people you work with in front of your own. You will work long hours, have sleepless nights, but those few glimmering seconds of “championship experiences” are worth it beyond words. You will forget the sounds of the crowds, maybe even the details of how the game went, but you never forget the smiles, laughs, and bonds that occur from working hard and achieving excellence.

Our goal is to inspire greatness in one new person each day.

As far as true “milestones,” I don’t think I ever even look at it that way. Our goal is to inspire greatness in one new person each day. Therefore, today can be it’s own milestone if that is how we are evaluating the expectation of right now. We assess what we have done in the past to make this moment in the training cycle, and in life, the best it can be. Without question, we work hard to be present in the moment, emphasizing the value of every quality rep needed to elicit physical adaptation, and try not to get enamored by fads, gurus, or bro-science. The future will then take care of itself if we control our controllables and execute as a business, coach, team, and players."

You have several of certifications: SCCC, CSCS, CCS, PES, CES, CSES, NSCA-CPT, NSPA-CPT, don't feel like you need elaborate on each one individually, but which certifications have played a bigger role in your career and how so?

"To be honest, absolutely none of them. They all have flaws, but at the same time they all bring up interesting topics for discussion. The fact that I have more letters behind my name than in my name, and that I haven’t found too many in the field that have more certifications than I do, only strengthens my realization that you can learn from anything and everyone. Regardless of whom you work with, the level you work at, the resources you may have access to, the support from coaches or administration, budget, etc. everyone can show you what has worked for them and their lessons learned along the way. Maybe what the process of attaining these certifications has taught me is that everyone is entitled to think they know how to reach the desired end goal, but very few really have a clue. The human body is a complicated system. Training stimulus and results may never be able to be replicated, hence why there are very few replication studies in research with human subjects.

What I have learned by going through the process of traditional institutional education, plus the certification process, is that there are HUGE areas that are missing as we are developed as professionals in the field. How many pages are spent on particular exercises, but then other areas of the body where severe injuries can occur are neglected? Anything on psychology, marketing, or business is left out intentionally? I have met fantastic strength coaches, personal trainers, etc. that are struggling because they haven’t been groomed as a business person, they have no clue how to market themselves, nor any understanding about the mental game from an athlete, client, or staffing perspective. On the other hand, there are terrible people in our field that can market themselves well, and have clients that embrace them, which leads to an intense emotional connection regardless of a lacking skill set. It is an interesting dynamic in our field from the practitioner to the client side of the experience.

My recommendation is to learn and learn often.

My recommendation is to learn and learn often. Learn from everyone and question everything. Use what works for you, and what helps the people you are working with achieve their desired goal. If you are not well versed in the path it takes to achieve this goal, learn more, ask to shadow or collaborate with others, and let go of your ego. Be exceptional at what you are good at. You have my permission to be different. Perfection is never attained, but it is a whole lot of fun to attempt to chase on a daily basis."

On a recent episode on STTPodcast.com, you mentioned that you have traveled the world to speak to individuals and teams in the Strength and Conditioning field. Where have you traveled? What international teams have you worked with? Do you have any international traveling coming up in the near future?

The real story exists in the genuine people that I was honored to be around during these experiences.

"I was fortunate to work with an absolutely incredible group of ladies from Australia for quite some time. Lacrosse was what brought us together, but in life I find that more often than not great people find one another. During my time at Loyola College in Maryland (now Loyola University Maryland), I had the privilege to work with several players on the Australian World Cup team. There happened to be quite a few in the Baltimore, MD area also. To keep this short, during the 2005 World Cup campaign I helped prepare many of what became World Cup Champions and many All-World players that were here in the United States of America. Then for the 2009 World Cup campaign I was involved in all aspects of the physical preparation that started nearly three and a half years before those awesome weeks in Prague. I could tell you stories about my travels during that experience to Australia, which I have now been to I think 11 times, New Zealand, China, Japan, and many countries in Europe. But the story isn’t in the destination, the real story exists in the genuine people that I was honored to be around during these experiences.

I have had the opportunity to present in all of the countries mentioned above, and to this day make occasional trips to England, Italy, and Europe in general to consult. Recently I have been fortunate that more and more of these opportunities have lead people from these locations around the world to come to Baltimore, Maryland and learn from my staff and me with our in-house mentorship programs. Throw in radio interviews around the world on many different podcasts, or traditional radio, and it is incredible to think of the amount of impact any of our messages can have on the lives of others."

You work with individuals and teams from youth to professional athletes– Is STT primarily involved in offseason training with teams and athletes or are you involved with teams year round? Any examples would be great!

"I, one hundred percent, believe that you need to be your strongest when the competition level is at the peak. Therefore, we train during the season. We promote a year round training approach, but realize that we may only have athletes for segments of that. So we program accordingly and educate along the way. It saddens me to see young athletes specializing in one sport and not participating in anything that prepares the body for the rigors of the game. Not to mention the athletic development that occurs from playing multiple sports, the leadership qualities, and the life lessons that can be learned from playing sports in general. With our youth program that does play multiple sports, we provide an opportunity to train 1-2 times per week. For athletes not participating in a sport, but going to a practice or working with a skills coach, we encourage two days a week. And the rare times of year that there are no sports on a young athletes weekly schedule, we may ask them to train three days a week.

Valuing the benefits of mental and physical recovery has also been huge for us. You will commonly hear our players mock us about the importance of “Eat. Hydrate. Sleep. And remove negative stress from your lives.” I have learned a long time ago, and it was a tough lesson for me to learn, that when your athletes begin to mock you, that is when they are finally starting to actually hear your message. Embrace it with a smile."

SMARTER Team Training host professional development clinics that you share quick clips of on your social media outlets. How important is networking and learning from others to you? What do you know now? And what do you wish you knew when you got started in the industry?

"It has been important for me since starting STT that education be a driving force in the business, the Internet presence, and the experience our clients, players, and coaches have while working with us. Hosting our annual conference in July each year is always a fun way to bring the best in the industry to our facility to learn, share, and network with. We post the line-ups and itinerary on STTEvents.com. With the growing demand for the content, programming, and approach we use to implement, manage, and inspire, we had to create regional clinics also. As interest grows, so do opportunities to host our events at locations around the country. We welcome collaborating with individuals, gym owners, and the like to provide professional development curriculum at as many locations across the country as we can fit into the schedule. Learning more about what SMARTER Team Training clinics and the conference look like, I would suggest going to SMARTERTeamTraining.com first, and then connecting on social media too. We are constantly sharing on Instagram (@smarterteamtraining), Facebook (fb.com/smarterteamtraining), Twitter (@smarterteam), YouTube (youtube.com/smarterteamtraining), and recently been posting on Snapchat (sttperformance) more consistently."

We would to love know why you chose Hand Armor over other chalk products available on the market?

"I have never been a “chalk guy.” Our clients don’t use it on the field, court, track, or in the pool. “So, why use it when we train?” was always my predictable response. I am a big fan of strengthening your hands and forearms. We didn’t have people slipping off of lifts. No one complained about “if we only had chalk”. We created an environment and our clients/athletes adapted. Plus, the mess always irritated me. I am a clean freak many would say. We have all custom training equipment and I like it looking sharp. The time spent near the chalk bowl always had me on fire in environments that offered chalk. Lift up a piece of equipment at the gym you train at and see if there is chalk under there. Yes, even ask to see under the platforms too. And all I saw were sweaty people putting their hands in the same place. If there is no pride taken in the cleanliness of the facility, how do you know they are taking pride in their equipment, safety, health, or programming? All things matter, and the little things can become big problems when we overlook them.

The chalk was where it was supposed to be – ON YOUR PALMS.

Understanding the goal of what chalk provides did obviously make me look into other options. For a LONG time, I had no solutions that we enjoyed. Friends connected me with Tony Maddalone from Hand Armor Liquid Chalk, and we talked for quite some time about the product. I was hesitant and a skeptic at first. “You really just squirt it on your hands and chalk stays there? Right, Tony. Yep, I am still on the phone. And it is antiseptic? It washes off everything from hands, to equipment, to flooring if a drip hits the floor? Ok, Tony. Are you the salesman or the owner?” was our first part of our first phone conversation. To that Tony replied, “Both!” As he began to tell me his story about being a strength coach at Utah, and his illness that may have come from the weight room and training environment, I could hear his passion on the phone. I was hooked. We had to try this out. Ultimately a bottle made it to the desk in my office. In seconds my entire staff had white hands chalked up and ready to go. There was no mess on the floor or on my desk. And the chalk was where it was supposed to be – ON YOUR PALMS! So, there is still not one block of chalk in our facility, but you will find two Hand Armor dispensers, one on each end of the dumbbell rack. Any time we are using a barbell in the racks, or grabbing dumbbells, you will see people getting a quick squirt from the bottles and begin attacking the training session. Hand Armor Liquid Chalk has been an excellent addition to our custom training environment."

A huge thanks to Coach Rob Taylor for taking the time to speak with us. 

For more information about Coach Rob Taylor and STT, please their website here.

Hand Armor Highlight: Brennon Peterson Powerlifter


This is first installation of our Hand Armor Highlights – each week we will be highlighting one of our Athletes, Gyms, or Sport teams (High School, College, and Professional). This week’s highlight is the one and only Brennon Peterson!

Brennon is one of our Powerlifting athletes who we have the pleasure of sponsoring, he has had a great year so far. He has earned GOLD in four different competitions.

1- 2015 -Utah State Push/Pull where he competed in deadlift *Also received BEST Lifter Award
2- 2015 -USPA Rocky Mountain Regional World Qualifier in full power
3- 2016 – Push/Pull event *Also received BEST Lifter Award
4- 2016 – IPL FitCon World Cup Powerlifting Invitational (220lb Open Class, Deadlift Only)

Congrats Brennon! We are excited to see you crush it at USPA Nationals on July 10th! Thanks for choosing Hand Armor as your chalk of choice!