I love grip training. In fact, I put my Fat Gripz on almost every exercise for the extra grip work.
Having a firm handshake and being able to open the jar are daily activities where your grip can be showcased. For martial artists, the grip is one of the most important strength qualities you can have not only for grapplers but also for strikers to protect their wrists.
But if you train at home or your martial arts gym, you may not have specialized grip training equipment available. So here are 10 exercises you can do to improve your grip strength without any equipment.
1-Hand Doorway Hang
If you want to blow up your pinch grip power with no equipment at all, then this should be the one exercise you always perform. Make sure you start more upright than you think as your thumbs may start to cramp when challenged.
For this, you’ll face your open door from the slim end (so not either side of the door but where it closes). Grab the door with your fingers and thumb at approximately waist height. Once you have a firm grasp, start to sit down and back so you are sitting on your heels.
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Hold this position between 20-60 seconds before switching hands. As you get stronger, you can start to remove fingers until you are holding yourself with just your thumb and first finger.
1-Hand Doorway Row
Another doorway variation that will challenge your grip even more than the static hold. For this variation, you will grab the door at approximately chest height. Instead of sitting down and back, you will keep your legs straight and lean back.
Once you feel comfortable gripping the door while leaning back, row yourself back to an upright position and then slowly lean back again to the starting position.
Don’t fall suddenly as that is for the next exercise.
1-Hand Doorway Drop Catch
The doorway row will prepare you for this intense doorway grip variation. This time, you will set up the same as our first doorway variation with the hand at around waist height open over the door.
Instead of slowly squatting down and back, you will drop suddenly to this position and catch yourself as you fall.
You could level this up and start with your arm down but if you miss, you are flat on your ass or worse so for safety reasons, start with your hand on the door.
Book Finger Flexion
The fingers don’t get a lot of attention when training the grip. Other than pinch gripping, traditional grip exercises focus on the wrist and forearm or on being able to close a fist with maximum force.
But training the fingers can take your grip strength to another level as it helps thicken your wrists and develop the small muscles in the fingers, hands, and forearms that may not get much specialized training.
For this exercise, all you will need is a book. It’s important to have a few different sizes so you can work your way up to bigger, heavier books.
Place your fingers, palm side up, on the edge of a table with the knuckles just off the edge. Place a book on top of the fingers without your thumb.
Start by performing reps with individual fingers.10-20 reps will be a good place to start. You will notice your smaller fingers will struggle. That is perfectly normal and fine. As long as you are feeling the tension and moving the book slightly, you are making progress.
Once you are comfortable performing reps with individual fingers, add your thumb under the book. Now raise the book with the fingers and thumb one after in a manner you would play the piano.
Book Finger Extension
This variation is the same as the previous but with the palm facing down. You will find you are much weaker during this exercise compared to the previous one.
However, you will feel from the middle finger onwards to the pinky finger, the tension in the thumb as you raise these fingers.
That is fine, and you may need to push the thumb into the table to facilitate the smaller fingers lifting the book.
Again, start with individual finger lifts and progress to the continuous piano style exercise.
The classic martial arts exercise. Showcased in almost every martial arts movie. Except you probably see the hero doing push-ups on one finger with one arm behind their back.
This isn’t to that extreme. The idea here is to spread your fingers as much as possible and to balance on your fingers and thumbs. You should be on the bottom padding of your fingers, not on the ends where your nails end.
Finger Match Stick Break
This is a very interesting grip stunt from the old-time strongman days to train your finger strength. Place a full-length matchstick on top of your index and ring finger with your middle finger on top. Your palm should be facing down.
The matchstick should sit just below the nail bed above the last knuckle. The goal is to break the matchstick by pushing down with the middle finger and up with the index and ring fingers.
This isn’t easy! You can make this exercise easier by moving the matchstick closer to the hands.
Newspaper Twist & Tear
With media consumption now being mostly online, you may not have a daily newspaper. But if you do, you now have a daily piece of grip training equipment.
You may have heard the exercise where you place your palm on the corner of a piece of newspaper and slowly crunch it up with only your fingers into a ball.
We’ve covered a lot of finger training so instead; this variation will really challenge your grip and wrists.
Place a few sheets of newspaper together and fold them up until they are around 9” or more in length. The more you fold them in half, the harder this exercise will be. I would recommend to start with the newspaper at full length and go from there.
I would also start with only 3 sheets of newspaper and move up from there.
Once folded, roll it up into a cylinder. Once rolled, start twisting it by turning your right hand inwards and your left hand outwards with your hands around 3" apart. You can reverse this motion on the next set of newspaper.
Keep twisting until you tear the paper in half. You can make the exercise easier by bringing your hands closer together and harder by moving them further apart.
Be careful touching your nice furniture after this as you will have ink all over your hands!
If you have tools around the house such as a hammer or spanner, or sporting equipment such as golf clubs or a baseball bat, they also work in this instance. But for those who have absolutely nothing except for kitchenware, a pan does the job!
Hold your elbow at 90° in front while holding your pan straight up and down. Slowly rotate it to the left and right like a window wiper. Start very slowly as you can injure yourself if you let it fall too fast without catching the pan with your other hand.
The closer you move your hand to the pan, the easier the exercise will be.
Rubber Band Finger Extensions
Most grip training revolves around closing a fist or pinching the fingers together. Rarely do we train the ability to open the fingers and hands. It's important to perform this type of training to balance out the sheer amount of gripping we perform in martial arts and daily life.
This exercise is often used as a way to treat elbow pain such as tennis elbow and other forearm and wrist problems.
Simply place a rubber band or two around the upper end of the fingers and thumbs. Open and close them for 20+ reps. You can do these while sitting at your desk multiple times a day.
I’ve found the best rubber bands are the ones you get with your broccoli. They are thicker and stronger than regular rubber bands.
If you want to spend a little money, IronMind makes specialized bands exactly for this purpose.