12 Best Exercises For An Iron Grip

Dustin Myers


Grip strength is one of the most important factors in functional strength, yet one of the most often neglected areas.  Even when I do see lifters training their grip they typically pick one exercise - maybe a wrist curl or reverse curl - and think that will suffice.  It would be different if your hands were built like clamps or a vice, then you could get away with such one dimensional forearm training.  But because of the complexity that comes from having 5 very mobile digits and the ability to rotate the wrist/forearm, you are going to do a wide variety of exercises and utilize various styles of grip implements if you want to be strong.  Not only that, but can we all agree to stop avoiding using our grip strength when we lift weights?  You may have the strongest back in the world but if you have a weak grip how are you going to pull heavy weight - or your opponent - towards you?  It’s one thing if you are deadlifting 600lbs, but if you are using straps on chin ups and pull downs you are doing yourself a disservice.  

Here is top 12 exercise for building an iron grip.  I have grouped them into functional movements and traditional weight lifting exercises.


Top functional exercises for forearm/grip strength:

Weight Holds - pick a set of dumbbells roughly equivalent to your body weight (I weigh 160lbs, so I would use 80lb DBs), pick them up and stand with good posture (chest up, shoulders back, do not slouch) for as long as possible.  Each week try to beat your time from the week before.

Towel Pull Ups - take a towel or sweat shirt and roll it up before draping it over the pull up bar.  Grab as much material as possible and hold on tight as you do slow, controlled pull ups.  Try doing sets of 10, or for an advanced version try sets of 3 with a weighted vest.

Plate Pinchhold two plates together (smooth side out) squeezed between your thumb and the rest of your fingers flat.  Start with two 5 or 10lb plates and work up from there.

Leg-less Rope ClimbsStart by sitting on the ground and climb the rope hand over hand.  Never let either arm get fully extended.  Beginner: wrap your legs around the rope to assist.  Intermediate: Do not use your legs.  Advanced:  Sit in an L-Sit the entire time with your legs straight out in front of you.

Finger Tip Pull UpsTake your thumb out of the equation and grip the bar with the distal and middle phalanx of all four fingers (only the last 1/2 of each finger should be touching the bar.  Keep your body straight as you perform strict pull ups.

Grip CurlGrab the end of a light 8-10lb db.  Pronate your wrists and hold the weight at your side.  Angle the far end of the DB up slightly and perform a reverse curl.  Keep the DB angled up thru out the range of motion.  Alternate sides.

Newspaper SqueezeSpread out a full sheet of newspaper on a table.  Lay your forearm flat with the tips of your fingers on the edge of the paper.  Slowly pull the newspaper into your palm and crumble it into a ball.  Once the newspaper`is starting to fill your palm, lift your hand off the table, keeping your elbow in contact with the table and drop your hand away from you.  Continue crunching the newspaper until it is completely squeezed into a ball.


The classics:

DB Wrist curls - place your forearm on your thigh with your hand falling off of your knee.  Let the dumbbell roll down your hand the end of your fingers then curl it back up, flexing the forearm.  Do not let your wrist lose contact with your leg.

Hammer Curls - curl a heavy dumbbell up with your palm in a neutral position.  Squeeze at the top and do not let your elbow pass the midpoint of your body..

Barbell Wrist Curls behind the back - Load a barbell in a squat rack at mid thigh height.  Face away from the bar and pick it up behind you with your palms facing away from your body.  Perform wrist curls until it feels like you may drop the bar.  This style allows you to use heavier weight than traditional wrist curls because your wrist is not used a s fulcrum, thus relieving the pressure.

Heavy Barbell Cheat Curl NegativesI know that people think of biceps when it comes to heavy curls, but this is a great strength and mass gainer for the forearms as well.  Grab a heavy Barbell with an underhand grip.  Pop your hips just slightly to curl the weight up.  Keep your bicep contracted at the top, do not let the weight rest on your shoulders.  Lower the weight under control for 5-6 seconds.

Seated Reverse Wrist CurlSit on a bench and grab a light barbell with an overhand pronated grip.  Slowly flex your hands up, knuckles towards you.  Do not let your elbows come off of your thighs.

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