Have you ever tried to do some pull-ups and had to give up before your muscles quit, just because you couldn't hold onto the bar any longer? Have you ever fallen off the monkey bars during an obstacle race—and into the treacherous mud pit below—because your fingers felt too weak? Have you ever had to pull weight off a barbell or swap for a lighter dumbbell not because your body wasn't strong enough, but because your hands weren't?
Those days are over! It's time to trade quitting for calluses, and learn how to increase grip strength.
Enter: this total-body strength workout, courtesy of Sarah Gawron (a trainer at Epic Hybrid Training in New York City). It can be done at a gym, at the playground, or at home if you have a pull-up bar handy. It'll hit your whole body, but focus on your core and back, and—most importantly—burn out your forearms and hands to build up your grip strength. (Another grip strength go-to: heavy battle ropes exercises that burn a ton of cals.)
But first, a friendly PSA: Your forearms will probably be totally burnt out after this—and you might not even be able to get through it all. If you're a total newbie, you can start with one set, or simply throw some of these exercises into your routine.
How it works: Do 8 to 12 reps of each exercise. Repeat for 3 sets.
Form tip: For any suspension/hanging work, always engage your core and constantly pull down on the bar in order to engage your back muscles, which will support and hold you up.
Part A: Do 10 reps of each exercise.
- Arm Circles (Do them backwards then forwards.)
- Toy Soldier (Kick straight right leg forward to meet straight left arm. Repeat on opposite side. )
- Hanging Scapular Depressions (Hang from a high bar with shoulders loose. Engage upper back and shrug shoulders down, lifting body up a few inches. Slowly lower to starting position.)
Part B: Do 30 seconds of each exercises. Do 2 sets.
- Inchworm Push-Up (Walk hands out to a plank, do a push-up, then walk hands back in and stand.)
- Giant Mountain Climbers (Begin in a plank position and alternate hopping each foot up to plant flat outside the hand on that side.)
- Squat Thrusters (Place hands on floor, jump back to plank, jump feet up to hands, and stand.)
- Jumping Jacks
1. Hanging Re-Grips/Monkey Bar Traverse
A. Using a pull-up bar or a set of monkey bars, hang with two hands on the bar and legs bent. Keep tension in legs by flexing quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings.
B. On monkey bars, move forward, alternating which hand grabs the bar, and engaging back to pull torso up, shifting hips side to side. On a pull-up bar, alternate pulling each hand off the bar, shifting hips side to side.
2. Supinated Wide Row
A. Position yourself under a low playground bar, a barbell racked at a low position, or a sturdy medium-height table, if you're at home. (And if none of these are available, you can perform an inverted row on a TRX). Hold bar or edge of table with palms facing up, chest directly underneath them, and legs extended to form a straight body line.
B. Maintaining a strong plank position, lift body up by pulling the bar toward chest, squeezing shoulder blades, engaging upper and middle back and biceps.
C. Lower body back down to start. (Build up your back strength even more with these back exercises.)
3. Crucifix Push-Up
A. Start in a strong high plank position with hands wider than shoulder-width and fingers pointing away from each other.
B. Lower torso until shoulders reach elbow height, then press back to start.
4. Chin Above Bar Tuck-Ups
A. Hold a high bar with palms facing body. Pull chin above bar, keeping elbows close to ribs.
B. Tuck knees up toward belly button, scooping pelvis and engaging lower abs.
C. Return to start, keeping chin above bar.
5. Hanging Hollow Body Hold
A. Hold onto a high bar with palms facing forward.
B. Pull feet together slightly forward and engage legs and abs to create a hollow body position. Hold for 3 seconds, then release.
6. Bench Jump Squats/Step-Ups
A. Stand in front of a bench, plyo box, or set of stairs (if you're at home).
B. Keeping chest up, do a quarter squat to jump, tuck knees, and land on top of bench, box, or designated step. Try to land softy, on the toe first, then the heel.
C. Step (don't jump) down and return to start.
7. Strict Pull-Ups
A. Grip a high bar with palms facing away, holding a hollow body position.
B. Engage upper back and pull torso up so chin is above the bar, maintaining hollow body position. Avoid reaching with your chin or puffing up the chest and deactivating core.
C. In a slow and controlled movement, lower back to start. (Have yet to master a basic pull-up? You're not alone—it's freaking hard. Here's the guide on how to do a pull-up.)