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Improving grip strength is just as important as strengthening big muscle groups like biceps and glutes.

Grip strength is how firmly and securely you can hold onto things, and how heavy the things you can grip are.

Let’s get into the top exercises for improving your grip strength, how to measure it, and what science says about why it’s important.

There are three major types of grip strength you can improve:

  • Crush: This refers to how strong your grip is using your fingers and the palm of your hand.
  • Support: Support refers to how long you can hold onto something or hang from something.
  • Pinch: This refers to how firmly you can pinch something between your fingers and thumb.

Towel wring

  • Type of grip: crush
  • Tools needed: towel, water

How it’s done:

  1. Run a towel under water until it’s wet.
  2. Hold each end of the towel so that it’s horizontal in front of you.
  3. Grip the ends and move each hand in opposite directions so that you start to wring water from the towel.
  4. Wring the towel until you can’t get any more water from it.
  5. Soak the towel again and move your hands in the other direction so that you work both types of crush grip.
  6. Repeat steps 1 to 5 at least 3 times.

Hand clench

  • Type of grip: crush
  • Tools needed: stress ball or tennis ball, grip trainer

How it’s done:

  1. Put a tennis or stress ball in the palm of your hand.
  2. Squeeze the ball using your fingers but not your thumb.
  3. Clench as tight as you can, then release your grip.
  4. Repeat this about 50–100 times a day to see noticeable results.

Dead hang

  • Type of grip: support
  • Tools needed: pull-up bar or strong horizontal object that can hold your weight

How it’s done:

  1. Grab onto a pull-up bar with your palms and fingers forward over the bar (a double overhand grip).
  2. Lift yourself up (or lift your legs) so that you’re hanging from the bar with your arms fully straight.
  3. Hold on for as long as you can. Start with 10 seconds if you’re an absolute beginner and increase your time by 10-second increments up to 60 seconds as you get more comfortable with the exercise.
  4. Once you’re comfortable holding this one, challenge yourself by bending your arms to a 90-degree angle and hold on for up to 2 minutes.

Farmer’s carry

  • Type of grip: support
  • Tools needed: dumbbells (20–50 pounds depending on your comfort level)

How it’s done:

  1. Hold a dumbbell at both sides of your body with each hand, with your palms facing in toward your body.
  2. Looking straight forward and keeping an upright posture, walk about 50 to 100 feet in one direction.
  3. Turn back and return to where you started.
  4. Repeat 3 times.

Pinch grip transfer

  • Type of grip: pinch
  • Tools needed: 2 weight plates (at least 10 pounds each)

How it’s done:

  1. Stand up straight and hold one of the weight plates in your hand, pinching the edge with your fingers and thumb.
  2. Move the weight plate in front of your chest, maintaining the pinch grip.
  3. Grab the weight plate with your other hand using the same pinch grip and remove your other hand from it, transferring it from one hand to the other.
  4. Lower the hand with the weight plate down to your side.
  5. Raise the hand with the weight plate back up to your chest and transfer the weight plate back to the other hand with the same pinch grip.
  6. Repeat this transfer 10 times, 3 times a day, to see results.

Plate pinch

  • Type of grip: pinch
  • Tools needed: 2 weight plates (at least 10 pounds each)

How it’s done:

  1. Lay two weight plates on the ground flat. Have a raised bench or surface handy.
  2. Lean down and grab the plates with your right hand between your fingers and thumb, so that your fingers are on one side and your thumb’s on the other.
  3. Stand back up and hold the plates in your hand for 5 seconds.
  4. Lower the plates down to the raised bench or surface, then lift them up again after a few seconds.
  5. Repeat 5 to 10 times, at least 3 times a day, to start seeing results.

There are a couple of different accepted ways of measuring grip strength:

  • Handgrip dynamometer: Hold the dynamometer up with your arm at a 90-degree angle, then squeeze the grip measurement mechanism as hard as you can. Watch this video for a demonstration.
  • Weight scale: Push down on the scale with one hand as hard as you can, with the heel of your hand on the top of the scale and your fingers wrapped around to the bottom. Watch this video for a demonstration.
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An Australian 2011 population-based study noted the following average grip strength numbers for men and women across different age groups:

AgeMale
left hand | right hand
Female
left hand | right hand
20–2999 lbs | 103 lbs61 lbs | 66 lbs
30–39103 lbs | 103 lbs63 lbs | 68 lbs
40–4999 lbs | 103 lbs61 lbs | 63 lbs
50–5994 lbs | 99 lbs57 lbs | 61 lbs
60–6983 lbs | 88 lbs50 lbs | 52 lbs

Try measuring both hands so that you can see the difference between your dominant and non-dominant hand.

Your grip strength measurement can vary based on:

  • your energy level
  • how much you’ve used your hands throughout the day
  • your overall health (whether you’re well or sick)
  • whether you have an underlying condition that can affect your strength

Grip strength is useful for a variety of daily tasks, including:

  • carrying bags of grocery
  • lifting and carrying kids
  • lifting and carrying laundry baskets and clothes shopping
  • shoveling dirt or snow
  • climbing rocks or walls
  • hitting a bat in baseball or softball
  • swinging a racket in tennis
  • swinging a club in golf
  • moving and using a stick in hockey
  • wrestling or fighting an opponent in a martial arts activity
  • getting through an average obstacle course, which requires climbing and pulling yourself up
  • lifting heavy weights, especially in powerlifting
  • using your hands in CrossFit exercises

A 2011 study found that grip strength is one of the strongest predictors of overall muscle strength and endurance.

A 2018 study found that grip strength was an accurate predictor of cognitive function in both people in the general population and those diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Grip strength is an important part of your overall strength and can help keep both your body and mind fit.

Try these exercises and add some of your own, too, for a well-rounded set of grip exercises that can improve your health.