Why Grip Strength is a Non Negotiable

Grip training can be a tough sell. There’s probably nothing less sexy when it comes to functional fitness. After all, who the hell wants to just hold heavy things for an uncomfortable amount of time?

In keeping with the four classifications of strength we’ve been discussing, few things are more functional. When we call upon the maximum strength of grip, we are asking our body to do things that have a profound immediate and long-term effect.

  1. Recruit more muscle fibers (muscular)
  2. Recruit more motor units (neural) 

For example, grabbing a pair of kettlebells and going for a 100m stroll at a weight that makes you very uncomfortable asks your body to tap into a portion of it’s muscle and nervous system it has not been asked to do before on other movements. From a muscular perspective, we’re going to “activate” muscles deep within our core to stabilize us, as well as in our arms, chest, shoulders and mid to upper back. From a neural perspective, we’re calling on just about every motor unit we can find, some that have probably been snoozing this whole time and never once been called into action by you, like someone getting a bucket of cold water dumped on them while they sleep.

The result of this demand is very fast adaptation, those motor units are going to wake up and your body gets stronger in a mostly non-muscular way.

But the nervous system is global. When it gets stronger, it gets stronger everywhere.

This strength can then be transferred over to other movements like pull-ups, hang cleans, deadlifts, kettlebell swings, snatches, rows, squats, you name it. If it sounds like black magic, it isn’t. That’s just the power of neural activation. But, here’s the downside – it is taxing. Maxing out the demand of your grip capability is going to put your nervous system down for a few days and likely alter your output for at least 48 hours. Think about selecting a weight on farmer’s walks where you can make the entire trip without setting the bell down, but it’s close.

Grip training may be uncomfortable, but the stimulus you will get from training it is highly concentrated, and quick to spread. At the very least, you’ll definitely be able to make that grocery haul in one trip.