Build REAL Grip Strength: Dump the Straps
If you want to have the fragile hands and wimpy grip of a 90-year-old, lifting straps and gloves will do the job for you.
Over the past few years I have seen more and more people lifting weights using straps to augment their feeble grip. IMHO these devices do a great job of undercutting any chance a lifter may have of developing decent grip strength.
Grip strength comes from grasping, holding, and lifting real weights. Done regularly your grip develops as part of your overall body strength.
Straps prevent a lifter from having to develop much strength in their hands by drastically lowering the amount of weight that must be controlled.
Lifting straps are an important tool for advanced and elite level Olympic lifters. For these athletes the straps are essentially insurance that they will not lose control of a heavy weight moving at great velocity.
For the novice or intermediate lifter, straps only insure that they become dependent on an artificial device to hang on to even light weights. Using straps over time means that they will be unable to handle even modest loads without the artificial grip.
Building REAL grip strength
Building a strong grip happens along with building overall body strength when a person lifts barbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells. Grabbing and holding heavy objects while you move them means the hands and forearms develop the ability to hang on to whatever you may be using for exercise.
There are a few gadgets that can help build additional strength, but they are not as effective as the exercises Ill describe below. However, they are useful if you like them.
Hand grip strength trainers made their appearance about 90 years ago. They develop strength by having you squeeze two handles together over and over. They come in various levels of resistance from beginner to monster.
There are also squeeze balls, hand dynamometers, and individual finger exercisers.
These all work well but are not a substitute for lifting weights or controlling your own bodyweight.
Simple and Sinister: Part 1
IMHO the best way to build outstanding grip strength does not involve buying a new gadget. It involves using a simple device present in every gym.
The pullup bar.
If you are already doing pullups, you will have begun building a solid set of hands. You should be ready to take on a simple but demanding challenge.
Step 1: Hang from a pullup bar for a specified time. Use two hands and begin hanging from the bar for 10-15 seconds. If you can do this, work up to hanging for 30-45 seconds. Gradually work up to the point where you are regularly hanging from the bar for.2 minutes.
Dont hang like a bag of wet sand. Grip the bar firmly and pull yourself up slightly so that you have good whole-body tension.
You can introduce some variation into this by looping a towel over the pullup bar and hanging on to that.
Step 2: After you have worked up to 2 minutes for the two hand hang, you will progress to hanging from the bar by..one hand.
The progression is not always easy. Begin your quest to hang by one hand by hanging from your right hand while tightly holding your wrist with the left hand.
As before work up the length of time you can hang with each hand.
Simple and Sinister: Part 2
Powerlifters will be familiar with this exercise. It is common in training for the deadlift.
On a power rack set the pins so that the bar is an inch or two below your full erect deadlift lock out. You will only be lifting the bar a couple inches.
Select a weight that is near the maximum limit that you can hold on to with either a regular grip or a reverse grip. Lift it off the safety bars and hold it for a few seconds.
You will benefit from using chalk on your hands. This dramatically reduces slippage of the bar in your hands and thus allows you to lift more.
Over time, increase the weight you lock out.
The added benefit of this exercise is that you will build up your strength in the deadlift. Your body will adapt to holding a weight far above what you can deadlift off the floor.
Toss the lifting straps in the trash. They are subverting your quest to get stronger.