A few weeks ago America Ninja Warrior competitor and professional rock climber Brian Arnold powered his way to the finals at the world’s most challenging obstacle course known as Mt. Midoriyama in Las Vegas, Nevada. Pure muscle and grip strength helped him make his way through Stage 1 and Stage 2 of the course. And despite falling on the Flying Bar in Stage 3, he set a new record for going farther than any other American, and showcased an incredible level of grip strength from day one.
Grip strength is crucial for rock climbers, parkour athletes, gymnasts, or baseball players gripping a bat to hit a homerun. But it’s also a critical element of calisthenics that can determine whether or not you can move on to the next exercise in the THE FUNDAMENTAL series of progressive exercises. It’s particularly important to develop grip strength to achieve the one-arm pull-up and one-arm hanging straight-leg raise. Calisthenics progressive exercises for these two moves will help you develop grip strength. But if your grip strength is what’s keeping you from progressing, you may want to add some grip-strength training to your exercise routine.
Is your grip strength powerful enough to tear apart a phone book like this guy? Watch the video.
Grip Strength Matters
You need grip strength to help you achieve the Big Six, but it’s more important than that. Grip strength is an indicator of your overall health and longevity. Healthcare professionals frequently used a grip strength test to measure improvements in strength after hand surgery. But it’s also used to predict problems with mobility as you age, according to a study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, a nice reminder that following calisthenics progression for the long haul will help you live a longer, healthier life.
If you’re having trouble with the progressive exercises to execute the one-arm pull-up or hanging straight-leg raises, improving your grip strength can help. Here are two ways you can improve your grip strength to help you progress through calisthenics:
Squeeze the Bar.
Hop on to your pull-up bar to muscle your way through a couple of reps. Take a break and repeat. Do that a couple of times, and you may notice that with eat set, your grip gets a little weaker until you’re clinging to the bar by your fingertips trying to eek out one more rep. But that approach isn’t the best way to build your grip strength.
Instead, squeeze the bar tightly while doing the repetitions for a set like you’re hanging on for dear life on an out-of-control roller coaster ride. Grip the bar, squeeze tightly, and then complete your reps. When you make the effort to use your grip, it triggers a response in your body that engages more of your hands and fingers to hang on and perform the exercise. And the result is a lot like everything else in calisthenics. Stick with it, and this habit will make your grip strength legendary.
Use Grip Builders.
You can buy padded grips to put on your pull-up bar to make it thicker. This modification makes gripping the bar harder, and forces you to squeeze a little tighter to perform the exercises that require grip strength. But if you’re on a budget, you don’t have to buy jack to improve your grip strength. Just wrap your pull-up bar in a towel to make the bar thicker and more difficult to hang on to.
Fat Gripz are something I am using and loving them:
At first, you probably won’t be able to do as many reps as you could without a towel wrapped around the bar, but backing off a little to exercise this way is an investment in building grip strength. You can also toss the towel over the bar, and squeeze the two ends of the towel to perform pull-ups or hanging leg-raises like this below. But be prepared to discover that this technique will turn any bar-pulling or hanging exercise into a tug-of-war torture match between the towel and your forearms.
Hang in There.
If lack of grip strength is holding you back, here’s another way to improve your grip strength. End ever set of exercises by gripping the bar, squeezing, and hanging on as long as you can. It’s one more way to engage build the kind of muscle strength and endurance you need to go the distance with calisthenics