by Michael Plank

We all know that core strength – that is, strength in your midsection – is super valuable. When we talk about “core strength” at Underwood Park CrossFit, we’re generally talking about the strengthening the area from just under your glutes to the bottom of your sternum and all the way around your body: abs, obliques, low back, glutes, hip flexors, and pelvic floor. It’s the foundation of solid overall strength, and it’s no secret. We call it “core strength” because it’s strength in your center and because “core” means the most essential. And with that definition in mind, there’s another core strength that is not nearly as well known:

Grip Strength.

If you want to get stronger at anything where you’re holding an object, developing grip strength will help you do it. It doesn’t matter if it’s dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, pull-up bars, or rings; if it’s upper body or lower body; pulling or pushing. When you can improve your grip strength, you will see improvements in nearly all strength movements. It’s hard to believe. But try this while you’re reading: make a fist and pay attention to where you feel tension. Now, make a white-knuckle fist as hard as you possibly can. You’ll feel tension in your hand, forearm, bicep, shoulder, chest, neck, back, maybe even your abs and glutes too. And so here’s the takeaway: when you can build tension, you can spread it everywhere. The more tension you can cultivate, the more muscles you can recruit to do work, which means the more work you’re able to do.

There are all kinds of ways to build grip strength, but one of the best is to treat grip strength work like any other strength work: sets of 5 or fewer. We’ve all seen grippers like this one:

We have a set by the medicine balls at the gym. You can also buy them at stores like Walmart or Five Below. But beware: not all grip trainers are the same. You want one that you can squeeze together until the handles touch. Then do 5 sets of 5 each hand. Here’s the one caveat: strength work doesn’t mean do 5 easy reps, it means do 5 hard reps. It should be hard to do 5. So one of those grip trainers that lets you do 100 in a row won’t cut it. The ones we have at the gym are from IronMind and they’re tough enough to keep even very strong people busy for a long time. And if they’re too tough, you can start with barbell clips.

Find a resistance that works for you. Do your 5 sets of 5, 2-3 times each week for a month and then re-test a couple of strength movements like the deadlift or strict press and see the difference!