The previous 2 articles explored why one should train their grip, as well as some grip exercises. This is the final article of the current series on grip training.
Of all aspects of grip training, the most overlooked or neglected area is the finger extensors, which are the muscles that open the grip. They need strengthened in order to balance out the muscles of the hands and forearms and prevent injury. It is just like how overhead press and pull-ups or bench press and bent over rows balance and complement each other.
Although harder to figure out how to train than most other muscle movements, there are good and cheap ways to do so. One of the best and most inexpensive ways is with the rubber bands used to hold broccoli or asparagus together at the supermarket. Put the pointer finger and thumb inside the rubber band and move them away from each other. Do a number of reps, and then switch to the next finger, and so on, until all the fingers on both hands have done the reps, and then do some more. With one rubber band, it is extremely easy to move up to 50+ reps for each finger per set. Just like with anything else, when one rubber band is too easy, add more resistance: in this case, a second rubber band on top of the first.
Another good extensor exercise involves using a mason jar, protein tub, or something else with a lip on the inside. (With a protein tub, the small upper lip should be removed, as with a file or something, since it is too sharp to be helpful). Sand, rocks, BBs/shot pellets, or something to provide weight is placed inside the container, or attached somehow to the outside. A closed hand is placed inside the mouth of the container and then opened, so that the outside of the thumb and fingers press against the lip. The container is then lifted off the ground. The trainee can start with timed holds, keeping the container up for a certain amount of time, and eventually work up to “reverse farmer’s walks”, walking around while holding the container aloft with the finger extensors. Again, when the exercise gets too easy, add more resistance.
If someone has some extra money to spend, there is training equipment made especially for working the extensors. The GripSaver Plus (http://www.metoliusclimbing.com/grip_saver_plus.html) and Extensor Blue (http://www.amazon.com/Xtensor-Hand-The-Extensor-Blue/dp/B001TJDNLE). The other two methods are generally much more cost efficient, however.
Stabilization – Fingertip Push-ups, Hand Stands
Fingertip push-ups and hand stands can also help improve grip and forearm strength, although it is to a lesser extent than the other exercises described in these articles. For this reason, they should be considered more of assistance to grip than a staple exercise (in the same way that dumbbell presses are assistance to barbell presses, or pistols are assistance to squats).
Fingertip push-ups are basically something to get some extra finger work while working the horizontal pressing movement.
Hand stands use the muscles of the forearm to stabilize the entire weight of the body.
Fore trainees that have not yet developed it, both of these exercises, especially hand stands, are also good at building body awareness, which is critical to perform lifts with good form.