Exercises for Better Grip & Shoulder Strength

Feb 9, 2023 | Strength & Conditioning

Kettle bells in focus. Two masculine strong arms take the sports equipment for exercising grip strength in both arms and prepare to lift weights. Two red kettle bells on green artificial grass indoor modern gym
Grip strength is a limiting factor in life as much as it is in the gym. Without a strong grip, it’s hard to lift heavier weights at the gym or simply move the couch when you’re trying to vacuum. Whether you’re looking to hit a new PR, bring in multiple bags of groceries at once, or work a job that requires strength, improving your grip strength is always a good idea. 

Marc Lavallee is a tactical fitness coach with experience training Canadian military units in the Search and Rescue Technician (SAR-Tech) program. He currently coaches for a policing agency. In this blog, Marc shares his go-to exercises for steady shoulders and a strong, secure grip.

Mark Lavalee
Marc Lavallee

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Don’t Let Grip Strength Hold You Back

The athletes I work with at the policing academy need above-average strength, stability, and endurance in their shoulders. They need a strong grip with a strong trigger pull to safely and effectively use their firearms.

Police members go through yearly shooting qualifications and recertifications. Some of these tasks require rapidly emptying multiple mags as quickly as possible, and if you’ve ever done this before, you know the forearm pump comes super quick if you’re not conditioned for it.

Shooting with a massive muscle pump in your forearm affects shooting accuracy and, ultimately, the ability of police members to pass recertifications.

That being said, I’m very experienced in working with athletes to improve their grip strength and endurance. I found the easier and most effective way to a stronger grip is with a simple tri-set of carries.

Keep It Simple, Stupid

A quick Google search gives you a big list of exercises for grip and shoulder strength – barbell wrist curls, barbell wrist extensions, and Turkish get-ups to name a few. While these movements are great, they’re not always the most efficient and effective tools for busy athletes crunched for time.

When it comes to increasing grip strength, I prefer KISS: Keep it simple, stupid.

Use exercises like deadlifts, rows, pull-ups/chin-ups, dead hangs, and carries with kettlebells or dumbbells. These are far more efficient at increasing grip strength since you’re able to use much heavier loads that challenge your grip.

Tri-Set of Carries: The Strong Grip Go-To

I’m a big fan of carries and I often prescribe this tri-set circuit to any athlete looking to improve grip strength and shoulder stability.

Use what you have access to at your facility, whether it’s kettlebells or dumbbells. I recommend going about 25 yards (there and back) before switching the carry.

1. Overhead double KB/DB Carry

2. Rack position double KB/DB Carry

3. Double KB/DB Farmers carry

If your gym facility lacks space, do these carries for time, holding each carry for 30 seconds.

Coach’s tip: It’s okay to use a slightly lighter set of weights for the overhead and rack position carries. For the farmers’ carry, feel free to load it up with more weight to tax the grip.

This simple tri-set doesn’t take long, but it does pack a powerful punch in the grip and shoulder department. Tack it on as accessory work at the end of a workout and see how much stronger and able-bodied a better grip can make you feel.

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