Powerful forearms and a strong grip are essential in many sports including weight lifting, football, wrestling and rock climbing. Every day activities such as opening jars, doing household chores, and carrying heavy objects are also easier when you have a strong grip. Some athletes specialize in feats of grip strength and are able to bend coins with their fingers, tear a deck of cards in half, rip telephone directories and bend railroad spikes. There are a number of exercises to choose from if you want to increase your forearm and grip strength.
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Hand grippers are V-shaped springs that fit into the palm of your hand so that you can squeeze them closed using your fingers and thumb. This is a traditional forearm and grip strengthening exercise. Hand grippers, which are available from sporting goods stores, come in a variety of closing strengths. You can use a hand gripper for high-rep sets or, alternatively, see how long you can keep a gripper squeezed together. Some grippers have very heavy closing strengths, in excess of 300 lbs, and are ideal for developing pure hand strength. These heavy weight grippers are designed for use by advanced exercisers.
A wrist roller is a length of wooden dowel or a metal rod with four- to five-foot long rope attached at the center. The other end of the rope consists of a strong clip to which weights can be attached. To use a wrist roller, fix a weight plate to the end of the rope and then, with your arms extended in front of you at shoulder level, rotate your hands and wind the rope around the handle to raise the weight off the floor. Once the weight is all the way up to your hands, simply unwind the rope and lower the weight slowly back to the floor. This low-tech exercise strengthens your forearms, gripping muscles and shoulders.
The plate pinch develops crushing strength in your fingers. The muscles of your fingers originate deep in your forearms. To perform the plate pinch exercise, stand two weight plates back-to-back on a stable surface such as a weight training bench. Start off with five-pound plates and progress from these. Grasp the plates in one hand so that your fingers are on one side and your thumb is on the other. Hold the plates at the top. Squeeze your thumb and fingers together as hard as possible. Pick the plates up and hold them next to your leg for as long as you can. Just as your grip is about to give out, put them down, and take a moment's rest. Perform a similar set with your opposite hand and then repeat.
The deadlift hold exposes your forearms and grip to a very high load so this exercise should only be attempted by advanced exercisers. Place a barbell in a squat or power rack at approximately mid-thigh height. Load the bar with sufficient weight and then grasp the bar with a shoulder-width distance overhand grip. Stand close to the bar and use your legs, hips and lower back to lift it clear off the supporting rack. With your arms straight, hold the bar for as long as possible -- try to squeeze the bar as hard as you can to maximize the effect of this exercise. Just before your grip fails, place the barbell back in the rack and take a rest before repeating the exercise. Try to either increase the weight or the length of your hold over the coming weeks and months.