Use Bar Hangs to Improve Grip Strength
Having problems gripping the bar for your barbell deadlifts?
What about during shrugs?
You can use a simple exercise like bar hangs to help improve your grip endurance strength and, in turn, improve your lifts.
Personally, I don't like to use lifting straps, I like to be able to lift the weight on my own and not be held back by a weak muscle. I used to have problems going up in weight with my deadlifts because my grip wasn't strong enough to last for the desired amount of repetitions I wanted to complete.
This has been a problem for me before, when I used to work as a mover. In the first week or so of starting up work, near the end of the day, my forearms would be shot and I couldn't grip anything. I'd be carrying a filing cabinet up stairs and it'd be slipping out of my grip.
Bar hangs are a perfect exercise to help you work on your grip endurance strength and they're so simple to do.
All you have to do is grab onto a pull-up bar, like you're going to do some pull-ups, and just hang for as long as you can. Don't re-grip, just hold on as long as you can with your initial grip. A pull-up bar is usually thicker than a barbell, so that will help with your grip too.
Make sure that you use an overhand grip; your palms will be facing forward.
I use a wristwatch and time myself, but you can use a clock or have someone else time you if you want. I do a few "sets" back to back to really work my endurance. And, with all forearm exercises, you should do this at the very end of your workout so that it doesn't affect your other lifts.
As your grip gives out, your fingers will be pried open just like if you were doing a deadlift, except your arms are over your head. Even if you usually use an alternated grip for your deadlifts, like I do, this will still benefit your grip.
It's been said to never let your grip hold you back in a lift, but why use straps? I hate it when I can't go up in deadlifts because of my grip, but I'd rather work on the problem than just go around it. Increasing your grip strength and endurance will help you in a number of lifts and in your daily life.
Care to Compete?
I know I'll be at a disadvantage here, but let's have a friendly competition. If you try this workout, 4 hangs back to back with no rest, then post your results in a comment and see how we compare. Don't be shy! My time will be way lower than yours since I'm doing my I-beam pull-ups beforehand. Here's what you need to post:
- The DATE you did the workout
- Your AGE and GENDER
- Your HEIGHT and WEIGHT
- Your time for each hang and if you used any weight
- Total time for all of your hangs
- Did you like the workout?
- Will you do it again?
Here are my results after doing this workout the first time:
I'm a 25 year old Male, I'm almost 6'3" and I was around 243lbs when I got my best overall time. I got my best time the first time I tried these, because I couldn't do many I-beam pull-ups beforehand, on July 2nd 2007. I hung on for 30 seconds for the first time, then 20 seconds for the second hang, 15 seconds for the 3rd and 15 seconds for the 4th. So I only totaled 1 Minute 20 seconds overall. I didn't use any weight for any of my hangs. I do this workout all the time; my grip is getting stronger everyday!
I can now do 8 I-beam pull-ups in a row (8/1/07).
Come on, you can beat that!
Handy Grip "Tool"
You can set these up any way you'd like with a number of different hangs and with different lengths of rest periods.
What I'm currently doing is 4 different hangs, one right after the other with no rest. I'll grab onto the bar, start the timer and hang on until I can't any longer. Then, when I let go, I'll stop the timer and write down my time. As soon as I have it written down, I restart the timer and start hanging again. I do this for a total of 4 hangs. I do bar hangs at the end of my workouts, 5 days a week, but you don't have to do them this often.
Since your body weight is your resistance, I set up a way to keep increasing performance. When I beat my best time in a hang by 10 seconds, I'll hang 5 lbs off my body so that I'm still getting good resistance. So let's say for my second hang I get 10 seconds longer, then, the next time I do bar hangs, just for that "set" I'll attach 5lbs to my body in some way.
You can wear a belt and hang a 5lb plate from you, drape a 5lb chain over your shoulders, wear a vest, use wrist or anklet weights, pretty much anything you want.
When you do your hang with the 5lb addition for the first time, the time you get will be your new "best time" for that hang ("set"). Once you beat that new best time by 10 seconds, you'd have to hang 10lbs off you.
Other Ways to Boost Your Grip
I also do another exercise that works my grip right before these, even though it might be overkill, I call them I-Beam Pull-ups. Can you guess why? I have a steel I-beam out in my garage that's a support on the ceiling, so there's a nice solid lip for me to grip onto. The only thing I use to hold on is from the tips of my index, middle and ring fingers to the second crease in those fingers. My pinky is only really on the I-beam up to the first crease in my finger and my thumbs don't touch it at all.
I grip onto the one lip of the I-beam like that and do 3 sets of pull-ups before I do my bar hangs. These work my finger strength and grip strength so my forearms are pretty beat when I go to do my bar hangs. They're great if you rock climb, but most people don't have an I-beam to use.
Another grip "tool" I use is the Dynaflex Pro Gyro ball. It's a fun little gadget to have. You pull on a little ripcord and get it spinning up to 9,000 RPM with 25lbs of torque. This is a lot cheaper than an I-beam I'm sure.
So if your grip is holding you back in any of your lifts; address the problem. Don't use straps to side-step around it. Having a strong grip can benefit you in many ways in and out of the gym.