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August 28, 2022

Do Grip Strengtheners Really Work?

Hand grippers have been around for more than 100 years. They were very popular in the 1980s and then seem to have fallen out of favor. In recent years, however, they have once again become big sellers. They represent one of the largest home fitness product categories on Amazon.

But do they really work or are they just a gimmick?

That is the question we will delve into in this article.

The Quick Answer

The answer to the question will grip strengtheners work depends on what you expect them to do. They are effective at helping you to improve the strength of your grip. While that may seem the obvious reason that people would use them, marketers will invariably give the impression that using a grip strengthener will allow a person to develop muscular forearms.

That is not true.

Using a grip strengthener is best for physical therapy and rehabilitation or for sport-specific reasons but not for physique development. Use them to improve your grip strength but make use of specific weight resistance exercises to develop your forearm muscles.

Types of Grip Strengtheners

Hand Grippers

When most people think of grip strengtheners, they have in mind the triangle -shaped devices that have two handles and a thick spring connecting them. The devices are held in one hand and squeezed to work the grip muscles. Some of these devices allow you to adjust the spring tension to progressively increase the intensity of the workout as your grip gets stronger.

Grip Ball

Another type of grip strengthener is a rubber ball that can be held in the hand and squeezed. This is similar to the stress balls that are recommended to help people deal with anxiety.

Fat Gripz

A more recent addition to the grip strengthener market are thick rubber grips that are designed to be placed on barbells and dumbbells. They are designed to be used more on pulling exercises than on pushing ones. The idea is that the larger diameter for gripping that they create will challenge the user’s ability to grip more and this will result in a stronger grip.

In practice, these types of grip enhancers are not very effective. As we have already pointed out, the gripping muscles on your fingers are very small and don’t have much capacity for visible growth nor for major improvement in strength. Using a device like Fat Gripz would more than likely compromise your ability to do an exercise. That’s because the grip would fail even more quickly with the thicker diameter to hold than it would if it were holding just the bar.

Your goal when you’re doing any training exercise is to isolate and maximally stimulate the target muscle group. For that to happen you want to help the grip rather than compromising it, which is what this type of device does. So rather than using a device that makes the grip harder, you would be better off using wrist straps or hooks to reduce the possibility of your fingers fatiguing. This will allow you to target the muscle that you are trying to load more effectively.

What are the Benefits of  Grip Strengtheners?

Grip Strengtheners Strengthen Your Grip

Grip strengtheners do a pretty good job of helping to improve the strength of a person’s grip. Though they do not involve any bicep or forearm flexion, they do work the small muscles of the hand and fingers that originate in the forearm.

The muscles that are involved in grip strengthening exercises are very small and their capacity for growth and strength increase is limited. As a result, much of the advertising for grip strengtheners promise that you will develop superhuman gripping strength is unrealistic. Never-the-less, you are able to significantly improve your gripping string by regular use of a grip strengthener.

Grip Strengtheners Improve Your Hand Endurance

When you increase the strength of your grip, you will also improve your hand’s endurance. In other words, you will be able to do tasks with your hands for longer without tiring out. You will also be able to apply force for a longer period of time. When you are doing things like chopping wood, you will be able to keep going for longer without having aching forearms.

You will also notice your improved hand endurance when you are having to do things like carrying groceries and suitcases.

Grip Strengtheners Will Enhance your Finger Dexterity

Regular workouts with a grip strengthener will improve your finger dexterity. If you are a musician who plays the guitar or another instrument, this will really help your ability to play without fatigue. Copywriters and typists will also benefit from enhancing their finger dexterity with the use of a grip strengthener.

Grip Strengtheners Will Allow Your Train More Efficiently

There are a number of weight resistance exercises in which grip strength is the weak link. In other words, the grip tends to give out before the target muscle does. The classic example of this is the deadlift. If you have a weak grip, there is no way you will be able to perform the number of reps required to sufficiently stimulate the muscles of your back, hamstrings, and glutes before your grip gives out and you have to stop the exercise. Another example of this is the pull-up. Here, too, the grip can be the weak link.

By developing your grip strength through strengthening device workouts, you are able to offset the weak link effect of such exercises as the deadlift and the pull-up. By doing so you will make your gym workouts more effective and be able to better work the target muscle groups.

Grip Strengtheners are a Cheap Training Device

Grip strengtheners represent a relatively cost-effective way to improve your grip. The average price of a grip strengthener on Amazon is around $15, with most budget models being available for less than eight dollars. Compare that to the cost of other home fitness equipment and you can see that they are a good budget option. Having said that, of course, their use and scope is quite limited.

Grip Strengthener Cons

Limited Application

Grip strengtheners allow you to do one thing and one thing only – squeeze your hands together against a spring-like resistance. As we’ve mentioned, this will improve the strength of the muscles in your hand and fingers to some degree. But it will not make your forearms or biceps any bigger or stronger. To do that you will need to invest in more expensive dumbbell, barbell or resistance band equipment.

Easy to OverUse

Even though the muscles that are targeted when you use a hand gripper are very small, they are muscles just like all of the others in your body. That means that they can be over trained. Just as you wouldn’t train your biceps for an hour every day, neither should you overuse a hand gripper.

Many people, however, get into the habit of using the hand gripper constantly while they’re watching TV or doing other things. This can lead to overtraining, but will actually make your grip weaker rather than stronger.

What Grip Strengtheners Will Not Do

If you take a look at most online advertisements for grip strengtheners and you’ll see the hand and forearm of a very muscular bodybuilder gripping the device. Even if the advertising copy doesn’t explicitly say so, the intention of the ad is to imply that you can build fantastically muscular forearms by using a grip strengthener.

You cannot.

The reality is that gripping exercises do not produce any visible increase in the size of your forearms. The extrinsic muscles that operate the hand originate on the forearm. These muscles are very tiny and thin and have very little capacity for growth.

In terms of capacity for grip strength increase, there is a limit to how much these extrinsic finger muscles can improve. So expecting to achieve super grip strength from using a grip strengthener is unrealistic. So is building forearm size.

The best way to develop your forearms is to do dumbbell exercises such as wrist curls, and reverse wrist curls.

Why is Grip Strength Important?

Grip strength has been identified by researchers as a key indicator of some important health markers. These include:

  • Mobility – People who have weak grip are more likely to end up with mobility problems.
  • Overall Strength – Your grip strength is a key marker of overall body strength.
  • Brain Functioning – Those who do well on grip tests have also been shown to do well on cognitive testing for spatial memory, processing memory, and verbal ability.
  • Bone Mineral Density – People who have a low strength of grip will usually also have weak bone density, resulting in a higher propensity for fractures.
  • Studies have shown that strong grip strength is associated with improved cardiovascular health.

What is the Best Way to Use a Grip Strengthener?

You should train your grip just the same as you would any other muscle. That means working them 2 to 3 times per week. That gives the muscles sufficient time to recover, recuperate and grow stronger between workouts. If you use a handgrip every day, as many people do, you will likely end up going backwards.

Your hand grip workouts should also be similar to your weight training workouts. Rather than mindlessly squeezing the device for hours on end, do three or four sets of between 20 and 50 reps, ending on the resistance level of the device.

If your hand grip allows you to adjust the spring intensity, you should follow a progressive resistance program. Set the intensity level at the start so that it is challenging to complete three sets of 25 reps. Then progressively increase the number of reps until you have doubled it to 3 sets of 50. At this stage, you should increase the resistance to the next level and drop back to 3 sets of 25 reps. Continue in this manner to make a constant grip strength improvement.

You may also be interested in the article 5 important exercises to build unstoppable grip strength.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do grip strengtheners work?

 

Grip strengtheners do work if your goal is to actually strengthen your grip. However, they will not provide you with the super grip strength that many advertisers claim. Contrary to what promoters also claim, grip strengtheners do not increase the size or strength of your forearms or biceps. To do that you will have to do targeted weight training exercises for those specific muscle groups.

Are Fat Gripz good for grip development?

 

No, Fat Gripz are not good for grip development. Using a device that increases the diameter of your grip when doing barbell or dumbbell exercises will only compromise your form on that exercise. Rather than making your grip harder, your goal should be to assist with the aid of things like wrist straps or hooks.

What muscles do hand grippers work?

 

Hand grippers work the tiny muscles of your fingers and hand. These muscles have limited potential for growth and strength development. Hand grippers will not strengthen or build muscle in your forearms.

Summary

Grip strengtheners are an effective tool for improving the strength of the gripping muscles in your fingers and hands. They do not build size or strength in the forearms, however. Many people overuse their grip strengthener. Remember that your group muscles are just like any muscle – they need to be trained but not overtrained.

We recommend training your grip strength 3 or 4 times per week on alternate days. If your grip strengthener allows you to increase the spring tension, you should progressively do so in order to make your grip stronger and stronger.

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Steve (Qualfied Personal Trainer and Nutritionist)


Steve Theunissen has qualified from the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) and is a certified Personal Trainer and Nutritionist. He has over 30 years experience in fitness and nutrition and currently working with famous fitness professionals. He is currently living in New Zealand with is wife and daughter.

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