Sure, we love a well-conditioned body for the sake of impressing others but usually the only way that you have to impress others with your physicality by actual physical contact is your hands. When we shake someone’s hand and we receive a powerful pinch from their hands, then we get the message: This is a powerful person.
While I talk about many different manners of strength training without apparatus, by the title of my blog you can tell that I like calisthenics most of all. You’d be correct in that assumption. So, if you want to build a powerful grip, here are the calisthenics that I like the most for building powerful hands and grip:
1. Rope Climbing! I don’t do this one as much as I’d like to do since having a high spot to hang a rope is often a luxury. That may be the case with you too. I had a job site with a spot where I could hang my climbing rope. After just two weeks, the guys in my Brazilian Jui Jitsu class couldn’t help but notice the grip that I had. As far as I’m concerned, rope climbing is the best exercise to improve your grip strength. It’s the ultimate exercise to fuse mind and body and for good reason: If your grip slips, you’re in deep shit!
You may think that you don’t have a high enough spot do rope climbing but in reality, if you have even 8 feet of height then you can do some rope work. Simply start out sitting on the ground and climb up and down. Where does it say that you have to climb from a high spot anyway? It may not look very impressive but you’ll still get the work that you’re looking for.
2. Push-ups on T’s! This is the best way to integrate grip work into push-ups. If you notice one thing about calisthenics that work the grip, they’re mostly pulling movements. The T’s add a lot of instability and you have to be able to contract your forearms powerfully in order to stabilize yourself while doing the push-ups. These push-ups will improve your pull-up and chin-up rep count as well.
3. Towel Pull-ups! For grip work, this is one of the hardest pull-ups on your forearms. My video blog covering the towel pull-up is one of the favorite entries on my blog. One thing that makes a huge difference in the ease or the difficulty of this exercise is what you grip and how thick it is. I’ve used towels, lifting straps, fire hoses, twisted manila rope, and braided nylon rope. An object that you can grip and have your thumb and fingers together is generally easier. Synthetic materials are usually more slippery and thus more difficult. Straps and hoses can be harder because you may have to fold them in half to get a decent grip on them. Their tendency to spring back to shape adds more challenge to your grip. This is my favorite pull-up and grip conditioning is a big reason why it is so.
4. Fingertip Push-ups! All of these calisthenics deal with griping. This exercise is an excellent push-up to superset with a girp workout. It strengthens the fingers and forearms. I love to superset these with rope climbing. This will make your forearms burn like you’d scarcely believe! If you have a hard time with these, you could always do them on your knees rather than your feet. Or, you could do them elevated and bring your body to your hands (not below them, that’s an Atlas push-up).