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Getting That Kung Fu Grip

A strong grip gives you a better first impression, as in "He has a firm handshake." A strong grip shows you're in control, as in the saying, "She's got a good grip on life,"--or not--as in, "He let that one slip through his fingers." And a strong, powerful grip is important in any sport, including golf, tennis, bodybuilding, rock climbing, or auto racing.

In the medical world, grip strength is often used as an indicator of overall strength and health. One study from the Honolulu Heart Program showed that low hand grip strength predicted disability 25 years later in a sample of initially healthy middle-aged men.

But a strong grip is essential in the martial arts. If you're grappling, a strong grip gives you the leverage to throw your opponent or lock his or her joints. If you're striking, your fingers, wrists, and forearms need to be strong to deliver powerful blows. We'll look at the different types of grip strength, and then we'll cover several ways to develop a strong grip.

Grip Strength Types

Randall Strossen, sports psychologist, powerlifting guru, and purveyor of grip-building apparatus through his Ironmind company, says there's three types of grip strength:

Martial artists need crushing and pinching grip strength the most. Even if you're not grappling with your opponent, grip strength comes into play when trapping and checking, as in jeet kune do, escrima, or wing chun gung fu. Strong fingers and hands are essential for preventing injury when punching with your fists, throwing finger jabs, or using knife-hand strikes to break boards and bricks.

Grip Strength Anatomy

Two areas of your body contribute to grip strength: your hand, including the fingers and palm, and your forearms, including your wrists. You need to strengthen your fingers and other parts of your hand to help prevent injury when striking, especially with non-fist strikes like the finger jab, eagle claw, or back-hand strike. You also need to strengthen the wrist so that it doesn't collapse upon impact during a punch, or that it can withstand the twisting of an aikido throw. Both the hand and the forearm are important to strengthen in order to gain a strong grip. 

Exercises for Developing Grip Strength

There's a lot of exercises you can do to develop your grip strength. We'll cover a few simple ones in this article that don't need fancy equipment or special apparatus, and that you can do just about anywhere. Next time we'll look at some exercises that use fancier equipment.

Next Page > Apparatus-Free Exercises

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