The Truth About Grip Training

I get asked about grip training all the time, so I think you’ll find this post pretty interesting if you want a strong grip.

***Question from Herbert***

“My grip has been giving out on the Deadlift as I’ve been getting stronger. What can I do to solve this problem?”


Ah, the old grip question!

This is a really weird subject because some guys never have a problem with their grip (no matter how strong they get) and others struggle almost as soon as they start training.

So, what’s the deal?

Well, for starters, grip training is very personal. You have to work out whether you need it, and if you do… find the exercises that work for YOU. I can tell you now that grip strength (and your potential for future grip strength) is determined to some extent by the  size of your hands. The bigger your hands, the better your grip, generally speaking.

For example, if you compete in strongman there are some events (those that use a fat bar) that are going to kill you if you have small hands. So big hands are a blessing from a grip strength perspective.

For proof, check out Brad Gillingham, who has pulled nearly 900lbs with a double over-hand grip!

My own grip never needed training until I got to 950lbs plus on the Deadlift. Then, as any of you who follow my career will know, grip became an issue and I have had to train it hard.

I know of other very strong lifters (who Squat over 1050lbs and Bench over 800lbs), who can’t hold 700lbs on the Deadlift! Clearly, you must train your grip if it is your weakest link on the Deadlift or another event you compete in.

You are only as strong as your weakest link – remember this at all times, otherwise you’ll spend too much time training what you are strong on (and stroking your ego) and not enough time bringing up your weaknesses by doing the exercises you  hate. But that is the real key to grip strength and getting stronger in  general… do you stuff you really SUCK at because it’ll make you stronger in the long run.

I’m now going to share with you some of my favourite grip exercises:


3 Exercises For A Vice-Like Grip


Grip Exercise # 1:

2 Hand Pinch Gripping Movements

These can be done in a variety of ways. The only limit is your imagination.

For example:

– You can do 5, 10 or 20 second holds.


– 3, 5 or 10 reps sets (remember that lower reps are better for strength and the same applies to grip training)

This easiest set up for 2 Hand Pinch Grip Holds is to get two  20kg plates and put them together (smooth sides out). Then just Deadlift them from the floor.

To add weight you will need a short bar for the plates to go on and collars either side. For a video of how this is done check out this:

Grip Exercise # 2:

Fat Bar Deadlifts/Holds

To perform this movement you will need a fat bar. Stick with 2 or 2.5 inches thick (any thicker and it just becomes a joke unless you have giant size hands).

These can be performed in the following ways:

– from the floor (ie full range Deadlifts)

– using a power rack, through various ranges of motion (ie partial Deadlifts)

as with pinch gripping movements, lots of different rep and set ranges can be used:

– sets of 3, 5 or 10 reps

– 5, 10 or 20 second holds

Grip Exercise # 3:


This may sound like a Trap exercise and it is. But Shrugs work the grip pretty hard too.

– Try sets of 5 to 8 reps

– Use a double over-hand grip

– Try a full grip and a thumb-less grip


How To Keep Making Progress With Grip Training


You must mix things up with grip training if you want to keep  getting stronger. Variety will keep your hands (and your mind) fresh. If you do the same exercises, in the same order, for too long a period of time, progress will stop (I know this because it’s happened to me).

Grip training can be an absolute b***h and progress can be hard to come by when you get pretty strong. Just keep going and keep changing the stimulus by rotating exercises and loading patterns by manipulating the set/rep protocols.


4 Week Sample Grip Training Program


Perform this grip work as an assistance exercise on the same day as your Deadlift training. I shouldn’t need to say this, but  I will:

– Perform it AFTER your Deadlift and not before.

Week 1:

2 Hand Pinch Grip: 5 sets x 5 reps (ramp the weights up each set)

Week 2:

Fat Bar Holds, starting with the weight just below knee height in the rack:

3 sets x 10 seconds (ramp the weights up each set)

Week 3:

Thumb-less Grip Shrugs:

4 sets x 8 reps

Week 4:

2 Hand Pinch Grip Holds: 2 sets x 10 seconds (hold back this week)

For the next 4 week cycle you could use the same exercises but try to go a little heavier this time round.
The only thing I know for sure about grip training is that  nobody agrees on what to do! So you must experiment and try new things and find out what works for you.

Good luck with your grip training! Having a strong grip is essential if you want a BIG Deadlift. But a strong grip on its own won’t guarantee you a big pull. To discover exactly how to get a bigger pull, check out my Deadlift e-book by clicking here.