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January 9, 2024

How To Build Your Grip Strength

Lacking grip strength just makes you feel like an inferior human being for some reason…

It’s like you just have these weak little baby hands that don’t make the cut. Like you would be that person who cuts a handshake short, or the rest goes limp (eww). 

No, we want a strong grip…

A grip strong enough to open the pickle jars, move the weights, and to insert the fear of God into people when they shake your hand.

My name is Annie Miller, and I help you learn as you train and enjoy your lifts again. 

Today, we do that by improving your grip strength.

Prefer to learn on video? Watch here:

Possibly the number one struggle that women have when they start lifting with us inside Built by Annie is their grip strength. 

We actually see the biggest struggle in our Premium 1 Program, which is not even heavy weight, but very high volume (the grip fatigue is real). 

I make that point simply because I think most people associate grip with high loads and your hands being the limiting factor when perhaps your legs move more weight. 

This is true, but also, you likely want to not only improve your overall grip strength, but also your endurance, or work capacity with your grip.

Read through the end of this blog because I do want to cover whether or not using lifting straps is a go or a no when it comes to strengthening your grip.

Where Grip Strength Fails

You might notice that your grip is failing during pulling exercises. 

Most people associate grip strength with deadlift, but we see grip fatigue in exercises like RDL’s, bent over rows, single arm dumbbell rows, even lat pull downs. 

Anytime you are literally having to grip an apparatus and likely pull it towards your body or pull your body towards the apparatus, we have potential for grip to be a limiting factor.

That’s really what “lacking grip strength” is. 

It typically manifests in a way that the rest of your body is able to move the weight, but your hands and forearms are giving out before your “working muscle groups” are. 

AKA, if you’re deadlifting, your upper back, glutes and hamstrings are strong enough to continue moving the weight, but you literally can’t hold on to the bar. 

Or when doing lat pull downs, your lats and upper back muscles are strong enough to continue going, or to move more weight, but your grip is the limiting factor.

We do see that this is more common in women just because on average we have biologically smaller hand sizes in comparison to our male counterparts. 

And most of the equipment in gyms is standard size for a male hands. 

This is why the benefit of having a 15 kg bar is huge for women because where they take the weight off is from the diameter of the bar, which gives us a grip strength advantage.

The good news is your grip strength can be improved, and we can train it, just like any other skill or muscle in the body.

Why Work On Your Grip Strength?

Strengthening your grip, or improving work capacity has massive carryover for overall health and functionality in the gym. 

When we remove grip as a large limiting factor, exercises just become more comfortable, and you are less distracted by your hands, and ability to hang onto the bar.

As I said, this is going to have a positive impact on literally any pulling exercise.

I mention overall health because there is a positive correlation between overall grip strength, rather max grip strength, and life expectancy. 

Now, please don’t take that out of context. 

If you just squeeze a stress ball for three hours a day, I do not think that will directly improve your life expectancy. 

I hypothesize that the things that come along with having a strong grip are likely correlated with other habits and practices or abilities that improve your overall quality of life.

Being strong is rarely a disadvantage.

But today, the focus is strengthening your grip for the gym. 

I’m going to go over different exercises that you can do and implement into your training in order to improve your grip strength and capacity, as well as where these might make sense within your training.

Remember what I said, this is not fancy, and it’s not new. 

We train your grip just like we would any other area of the body. 

We train the skills, and we shoot for progressive overload in either adding time, distance, and/or weight, etc.

Exercises to Strengthen Grip

Grip specific exercises include: 

  • Farmer carries
  • Deadlift holds
  • Bar hangs

Or any grip or pulling exercises with the addition of Fat Gripz. 


I want to give you some options with farmer carries specifically because I think they are one of the best overall exercises from a bang for your buck standpoint. 

They’re not only going to challenge your grip, but also your pillar strength. 

And don’t be surprised if your heart rate gets up as well. Farmer carries, depending on the distance and intensity, can be sneaky cardio.


  1. Fist Strength 

This is your ability to actually squeeze something. 

  1. Finger Strength

Think about rock climbers and their finger strength and ability to not “squeeze” something, but hold tremendous weight in their fingertips. 

You’re going to see different variations of the exercises that favor closed grip strength, as well as more of a finger grip strength.

Obviously, a closed grip is going to be the most applicable to weightlifting, but I do think there are benefits and just a fun challenge and doing more finger grip strength work.

You can do farmer carries bilaterally with both hands working at the same time.

We can do this with dumbbells, kettlebells, or a trap bar.

You can also do them unilaterally with either a dumbbell, or a kettlebell, focusing on that closed grip. 

And you can do many other variations of carries, holding something down by your side, but a closed fist is going to focus on grip…

…Versus doing farmer carries with a back rack, yolk, front rack position or hugging a ball at our front. All fabulous options for core strength and loading the spine, but not great for GRIP.

For finger grip strength, you can carry plates, and this works for pinching strength. 

These are wildly difficult and uncomfortable. 

They make my body feel weird personally. 

But also, you will feel like less of a pansy when you are loading and unloading your plates at the gym if you implement this into your training.

For any kind of carry, I would put them at the end of your workout because we don’t want your grip to be fatigued at the beginning of your lift. 

You’ll already have some accumulated fatigue from whatever work out you did before implementing the farmer carries at the end of the lift and that’s totally okay. 

Farmer Carry Application

Find a challenging load, pick a distance, and then either increase the LOAD if you’re interested in STRENGTH, or you can increase the DISTANCE over time if you are more interested in improving your CAPACITY.

The same thing goes for your bar hangs, and your deadlift holds.


For your bar hangs, you can do bilateral overhand, or bilateral underhand, and you can also do unilateral overhand if you need more of a challenge. 

These can be a dead hang, so your body does not have to be fully engaged like an active hang, and more of a hollow position. 

You can do either… But if you are specifically doing them for grip strength, a dead hang is fine. 

Choose an amount of time that you would like to accumulate with breaks in between, or just do a max hold and attempt to push that duration overtime.

For the deadlift hold, choose a weight that you can easily deadlift, and that is also challenging for your grip to hold at the top position of a deadlift. 

This should not be taxing for any other area of your body. The goal here is time, like the bar hangs.

Now For The Bonus:

Can you use lifting straps while working on your grip strength as a limiting factor, or is it best to avoid using straps?

If you do use straps, what’s the best practice for using them if you want to improve your grip?

We are absolutely game for using lifting straps. 

There are several different kinds…

I prefer a figure 8, or a lasso. The other type is a closed loop. 

Here you can see a photo of me using lasso for heavy DB RDL’s.

You can typically find these pretty cheap and they’re a great addition to your gym bag if you’re weightlifting for hypertrophy or strength. 

Because you now know that grip function can struggle from both a max strength and endurance standpoint.

Heavy Co. Formally Strong, Strong Supply Co. all have some pretty low profile single loop straps last I checked. Honestly, they all do the trick. It’s a piece of fucking fabric that wraps your hand to the bar, essentially.

As far as application, use lifting straps whenever grip becomes the actual limiting factor. 

Do not just use these willy-nilly… But if you could go up in dumbbell RDLs to 55-70lbs, but your hands feel like they’re literally going to rip off, then use straps.

That allows you to push your hamstrings and your upper back for those RDLs and you can work your grip strength later with the grip specific work we’ve gone over today.

Your grip is going to get worked in any pulling exercises if you are pushing the weight or the capacity. 

So just as with doing super heavy deadlifts, your grip is going to be challenged, same as doing three sets of 12-15 lat pull downs on a controlled tempo. 

Those are going to work your grip at different ends of the strength and endurance spectrum. It really is as simple as: Use the straps when you need them to complete whatever exercise you need to add a given weight. 

And then do grip specific work without straps later.

That would be my suggestion. It is certainly not the only way to work your grip strength, but it’s a place to start if grip is a limiting factor for you in this season.

It will get better! You can train your hands and the muscles in your hands and your forearms just like any other area of the body. 

Stick with it, and reap the rewards in a firm handshake, and opening a pickle jar without help.

Join The Discussion: 

Be honest, let me know in the comments below if you are actively working on your grip strength, or just struggling through workouts.

I hope you enjoyed these educated gains and I will see you in the next blog. 

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I'm an adventurous introvert from Vancouver, Washington who lives on sleep + "me time." I'm a lover of lifting weights, dinosaurs, real talk and traveling with my husband. I am here to help you move better, lift more, bust the myths of the fitness industry, and inspire you to love the process.

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