Do Grip Strengtheners Work? Efficacy Explored

published by: Debbie Luna
Last Updated:
August 17, 2022

Grip strength is among one of the most important functions of the skeletal muscle system, regardless of whether one is an athlete, bodybuilder or simply an ordinary gym goer. This is because of the involvement of the hands and forearms in nearly every upper-body resistance exercise there is.

One piece of equipment many exercisers utilize in order to improve their grip strength is that of “hand grippers” or grip strengtheners, as they are otherwise known.

Grip strengtheners are a proven method of developing an exerciser’s grip strength in an isolated and controlled manner through the use of resistance placed against the muscles of the forearm, usually in a bilateral manner.

What are Grip Strengtheners?

In more specific terms, hand grippers or grip strengtheners usually take the form of two compressible handles meant to be squeezed between the fingers and palm of the exerciser in order to produce improvements in their grip strength or forearm size.

do grip strengtheners work

Grip strengtheners come in a variety of different materials and levels of resistance, with particularly high quality grip strengtheners featuring such benefits as adjustable weight, ergonomic grips and variable handle widths.

This makes grip strengtheners accessible to practically any type of exerciser, and able to be used in virtually any sort of environment.

How are Grip Strengtheners Used?

Using grip strengtheners is quite simple; the exerciser simply places one handle against the fleshy pad at the base of their thumb, with the other handle pressed against their four opposing fingers.

To perform a single repetition, all the exerciser must do is close their fist until the handles are sufficiently close together, prior to releasing their grip in a slow and controlled manner.

Anatomy of the Forearm Muscles

In order to understand how and what muscles are targeted by grip strengtheners, we must first identify what sort of skeletal muscle structures are present in the forearms during their usage.

The flexor digitorum profundus and the flexor pollicis longus are two elongated muscles stretching between the elbow and the various smaller bones of the fingers, and are the two muscles most responsible for the opposed squeezing of the hand.

forearm musculature

When an exerciser utilizes a grip strengthener, it is these two muscle groups that act as the primary mover muscles, and as such it is also these two muscles that receive the greatest development as training stimulus is placed upon them.

In addition, during the eccentric or releasing portion of a grip strengthener exercise, it is the extensor digitorum communis that is stimulated to the greatest degree.

Unfortunately, these muscle groups are rather small and make up only a tiny percentage of the actual mass within the forearms, meaning that grip strengtheners are rather poor at developing forearm muscle mass or aesthetic appearance.

Grip Strengtheners and Static vs Dynamic Contraction

Skeletal muscles are contracted in more than one manner, with static contraction usually meaning that the muscles do not elongate or shorten and dynamic contraction meaning that a skeletal muscle moves through its range of action in order to complete an exercise.

Unfortunately, this also means that grip strengtheners do not necessarily train the forearm muscles in terms of static contraction strength - at least, not to the degree that other methods of doing so are capable of.

Otherwise, in terms of dynamic contraction of the forearm muscles, grip strengtheners do indeed work extremely well.

In order to build a truly strong and powerful grip, it is our advice that the exerciser combine the structured use of grip strengtheners alongside another isometric forearm exercise, such as plate pinches or similar isolation movements.

How Often Should Grip Strengtheners be Used?

The answer to this particular question is somewhat more complicated than simply citing a number of days that grip strengtheners should be used within.

In order to determine how often you should make use of your grip strengtheners, an examination of your training program should first be done - the more extensive the forearm involvement and the heavier the compound exercises, the less often grip strengtheners need to be used.

Training programs with a focus on high resistance and low volume pulling movements such as barbell deadlifts or rows place greater training stimulus on the forearm and will otherwise be hampered if the exerciser fatigues said forearm muscles with grip strengtheners too often.

As such, it is most advisable that the exerciser keep their grip strengtheners usage to a maximum of two to three times a week, unless otherwise allowed by their workout routine.

How to Incorporate Grip Strengtheners into a Workout Routine

Grip strengtheners train the forearm muscles in an isolated manner, meaning that no other muscle groups are involved and it is the forearm muscles alone that are left to exert the full force required in the exercise.

This can quickly lead to the forearms becoming fatigued and otherwise underperforming if further exercises involving grip strength are performed.

In order to prevent this limitation from occurring, the exerciser simply needs to use their grip strengtheners either at the end of their workout session or during rest days where such exertion of the forearms is not needed.

Common Mistakes Made When Using Grip Strengtheners

mistakes when using grip trainers

1. Too Much Resistance

The tissue structures found throughout the wrist and hands are delicate and small in proportion, meaning that placing excessive resistance on such structures can quickly lead to injury if the exerciser’s body is not prepared.

In order to choose a correct level of resistance or weight, the exerciser should pick a grip strengthener that they may fully close for approximately fifteen to twenty repetitions, producing a moderate level of intensity and low risk of injury.

2. Choosing the Wrong Grippers

Individuals can vary in terms of hand size, proportions and pain tolerance - meaning that not every model and brand of hand grippers may be appropriate for you.

For individuals with a propensity to blister, or those who otherwise can be quite sensitive to pain in the hands, the use of cushioned hand grippers instead of knurled metal ones can make grip training significantly more comfortable.

Likewise, it is important for the exerciser to match the size and distance apart of the gripper’s handles to their own hand size, as hand grippers that are too small can limit range of motion, and hand grippers that are too large may be too difficult or dangerous to completely close.

3. Using Grip Strengtheners Too Often

Though the muscles of the forearm heal quite rapidly, using grip strengtheners on a daily or nearly daily basis can result in overtraining, tendinopathy and a number of other chronic overuse injuries associated with resistance exercises.

Like any other muscle group, one should allow one to two days of rest between training sessions in order to allow the forearms to recover prior to being taxed once again.

In Conclusion, Do Grip Strengtheners Really Work?

Yes - grip strengtheners do indeed work, and quite effectively at that. 

In terms of developing raw crushing strength in the hands and reinforcing proper wrist mechanics, there are few tools as simplistic yet as powerful as grip strengtheners.

So long as their usage is combined with a proper workout routine and adherence to correct training methodology, there is no doubt that grip strengtheners can only add to an individual’s physical fitness.

References

1. Richard K Shields, Ken C Leo, Andrew J Messaros, Virend K Somers, Effects of Repetitive Handgrip Training on Endurance, Specificity, and Cross–Education, Physical Therapy, Volume 79, Issue 5, 1 May 1999, Pages 467–475, https://doi.org/10.1093/ptj/79.5.467

2. Olafsdottir HB, Zatsiorsky VM, Latash ML. The effects of strength training on finger strength and hand dexterity in healthy elderly individuals. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2008 Oct;105(4):1166-78. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00054.2008. Epub 2008 Aug 7. PMID: 18687981; PMCID: PMC2576040.

3. O'Driscoll SW, Horii E, Ness R, Cahalan TD, Richards RR, An KN. The relationship between wrist position, grasp size, and grip strength. J Hand Surg Am. 1992 Jan;17(1):169-77. doi: 10.1016/0363-5023(92)90136-d. PMID: 1538102.

Debbie (Deb) started powerlifting and Olympic lifting in High School as part of her track team's programming; She continues to train in order to remain athletic. Inspire US allows Deb to share information related to training, lifting, biomechanics, and more.
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