You need to use a tight grip to attain your best on any heavy exercise. Make sure you wrap your thumb around the bar. Squeeze hard. This applies in particular to holding the bar on heavy free weight exercises. These include the bench press, squat, dead-lift, row, and pull-up.
Build something that works and then try to figure out just why and how it works. I am aware of many things that work but have no slightest idea just why or how they work.
– Arthur Jones
- Increases stability.
Make a tight fist. All of your forearm and hand muscles will contract. Notice how the muscles in the arms tense up as well. Squeeze even tighter. You will find that the chest and back join the party. Finally, if squeezing with all your might, you will find that the core also braces intensely. Intense contractions bring other muscles into play as stabilizers. More muscles working together at once allow greater strength. When lifting heavy, you must establish a stable base. Tight muscles throughout the body form this base. Imagine trying to shoot a cannon from a canoe. It would feel difficult to aim. Bracing the muscles beyond the active ones allows for control. It keeps the body tight to serve as a platform. A tight grip serves as one of the best ways to achieve this effect.
- Excites the nervous system.
Squeezing hard seems to facilitate a mind-body connection. The hands have lots of nerve endings. A tight grip provides better feedback and control for the central nervous system. The body may even prevent the large muscles from activating fully if it senses a firm grip is impossible. You will notice this on dead-lifts if you cannot get a good grip. Try lifting with an overhand grip instead of an alternating grip with a barbell. Your performance will go way down. This also gives a reason why using gloves can sometimes hamper performance.
- Use a small enough diameter for your handle.
If you choose a bar that feels too thick, you will struggle to wrap your hands around the bar. This will reduce both the stability and excitement factors I mentioned earlier. I notice this especially on an exercise such as a pull-up. When using a large diameter overhead bar, you will find that your resistance and repetitions go down. Try to find an bar that you can hold sufficiently.
- Limit duration.
Sometimes you also need to limit the duration. You may have the proper bar. With a set that lasts too long though, the gripping muscles may fatigue before the larger muscles get stimulated. This would also prevent the advantages as the grip weakens.
- Do not worry about wasting energy.
One school of thought says to not grip tightly. This could waste energy. This piece of advice has good intentions, as to not waste energy needlessly. Nonetheless, those advocating this usually tend to use machines and lighter weights. These do not require the stability and effort associated with heavy free weights. They also produce lesser results. These people tend to also believe in breathing on a schedule, a big mistake. Be wary of anyone suggesting that you need to perform exercise unnaturally. Any time you do something that fails to seem right, such as breathing unusually or lifting at an artificially slow speed, you could harm your performance and safety. Question anything that goes against your instincts.
Does the mere act of tightening a grip achieve the benefits or does a stronger grip itself help further? I lean toward the first explanation. You most likely do not need grip training. Many grip training enthusiasts use exercises that can harm the wrists. Keep in mind the gripping muscles of the forearm and hand serve as stabilizers. They only need to function strongly and long enough to allow the big muscles to perform their actions.
Grip tightly to improve your safety and performance. Remember, you do not need to understand why it works. It simply does.