Getting big arms should start with getting big forearms, really. As well as being aesthetically more pleasing to some, strong forearms can also help you live longer, science suggests. And if you want to grow big forearms, you need to take a look at the best exercises to increase grip strength as these will also increase the girth of the forearms.
Stronger grip can be achieved by introducing grip strengthening exercises to your workouts: it is kind of evident we hope. But introducing said forearm and grip strengthening exercises is actually easier than you think. The best full body workout should include exercises that improve grip and indeed, that workout linked just here actually includes one.
If you are interested in more than just one of the best exercises to increase grip strength, please read on.
What is grip strength and why should you improve it
There are a lot of different types of grip strength and all can help you be a better lifter or gripper. The different types of grip include:
- Crushing grip: this is when you close all your fingers to hold the best barbells or best dumbbells. Or best kettlebells. You get it.
- Pinching grip: this is the clamping style grip when you use your thumb to press objects against the other four fingers to hold things.
- Supporting grip: you use this when you hang from places, which admittedly doesn't happen often but it could come handy when you do pull ups vs chin ups. And if you think it's not that hard to hang from a bar we'll let you know that the current world record of dead hands is under three minutes. And you thought planking was hard.
- Extension/inverse grip: this strength is used when you extend your fingers outwards. Admittedly, flexing your finger-extending strength is probably the least useful way to impress other people but nevertheless, it can still come in handy in a variety of everyday situation.
Of these four types, we will be mainly focusing on crushing and supporting grip-strengthening exercises, mainly because they are the ones that can really increase forearm girth to give you that Popeye look.
If you would like to improve pinch grip strength, you can try and perform reverse plate curls using barbell plates or ballistic plate rows. For increasing extension strength, we recommend using rubber bands wrapped around your fingers and extending your fingers.
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The best exercises to increase grip strength
Doing kettlebell swings often will not only build overall strength and improve your core but it can also increase crushing grip strength too. The best way to increase grip strength using kettlebell swings is to do a lot of them in quick succession. For instance, you can follow this 10,000-swing kettlebell workout which only takes four weeks and "increases grip strength and work capacity", according to its creator Dan John.
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The simplest exercises are very often the most effective ones too. Take for example the farmer's walk: all you have to do is lift up a pair of kettlebells or dumbbells and walk around with them. It might sound easy but it takes considerable effort to walk around whilst holding weights. Not to mention it improves crushing grip significantly.
If you have a more confined workout space, you can try kettlebell/dumbbell shrugs instead. Hold the weights the same way as you would for farmer's walk but instead of walking around, just move the shoulders up then release it back down. This will do wonders to your traps too (these are the muscles around your neck).
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Even if you can't do pull ups, you should try dead hangs as doing this exercise can help you build up the support grip strength needed to actually be able to perform pull ups eventually. Dead hangs can also improve shoulder mobility as well as build muscle, should you be able to do it for long enough.
And eventually, once you can dead hang for a bit, you can try doing pull ups to achieve that nice V-taper and increase upper back and biceps strength. Pull ups are notoriously hard to master but getting some strong resistance bands can help the transition from not being able to do any pull ups to being a pull up master.
Reverse curls are great for building biceps definition and forearm strength. Since you are holding the barbell or dumbbell with an overhand grip, you're challenging your grip way more than doing standard biceps curls.
If you want even more activation you should get some fat grips: these 'fat bar adapters' increase the girth of the barbells/dumbbells so it's more challenging to grip them and therefore you use more forearm strength just to hold the bar.
Deadlift / Barbell hold
The King of Lifts proves yet again why it's an essential exercise for everyone who would like to get strong and build muscle mass. Deadlifts requires you to lift heavy weights off the ground which requires serious crushing grip strength. It also develops said grip strength, especially if you hold the barbell at the highermost position for longer than just a second or two. Add a fat grip to the mix and your forearms will be jacked on no time.