Grip strength is the key to long-term health—here's how to improve yours

It takes just three moves to improve your grip strength and overall health

Man holding onto a bar
(Image credit: Getty Images)

How well you can grip weights plays a crucial role in how heavy you can lift, but your grip strength is also linked to your overall health and becomes especially important as you age. Fortunately, it only takes three moves to build it up.

Whether you've been learning how to deadlift with barbells at the gym or training with a set of the best adjustable dumbbells at home, maintaining a good grip on the weights is an essential part of the exercise.

If you find it hard to keep the dumbbell, barbell, or kettlebell in your hands, then your form will suffer, which reduces the effectiveness of your workout and could lead to injury.

Research published in the journal Clinical Interventions in Aging has also found that your grip strength is an important measure of your health as you age and is linked to overall strength in all body areas.

If you want to improve your grip, make it easier to hold objects, use your hands, and potentially enhance your health, there are just three exercises you need to get started.

Watch The Food Medic's exercises for grip strength

According to Dr. Hazel Wallace (also known as The Food Medic), a medical doctor and nutritionist, you can develop grip strength using Farmer's walk, plate pinch, and dead hang exercises. They have unusual names, but these three moves aren't complicated.

For the Farmer's walk, you pick up a kettlebell in each hand, activate your core, and walk in a straight line. Meanwhile, the plate pinch involves holding weight plates using just your index finger and thumb.

And, finally, the dead hang is what it sounds like—hang onto a bar with your feet lifted off the ground and legs straight. If you're new to these, Wallace demonstrates the moves for you to practice your form.

Why is grip strength important?

As the study's authors note, researchers have seen "significantly lower grip strengths among older Americans who reported physical limitations—including standing from a chair, walking, climbing steps" and leaving the house. 

But the Clinical Interventions in Aging review also explains that grip strength is related to more than just overall strength. There's evidence that it's also a predictor of health and is linked to the quality of your sleep and mental wellbeing. 

This doesn't mean that a firmer grip will help you sleep better; there's a relationship between the two, but current research shows this is a correlation rather than one causing the other.

However, you'll find it easier to hold onto weights, pick up objects, and use your hands by improving your grip. Plus, if you use The Food Medic's exercises, you'll work other body areas to build upper body muscle and core strength.

Your core is an essential section of mid-body muscle responsible for your balance, circulation, and workout performance. The best workouts for abs help you develop core strength and are mostly equipment-free.

James Frew
Fitness Editor

James is a London-based journalist and Fitness Editor at Fit&Well. He has over five years experience in fitness tech, including time spent as the Buyer’s Guide Editor and Staff Writer at technology publication MakeUseOf. In 2014 he was diagnosed with a chronic health condition, which spurred his interest in health, fitness, and lifestyle management.

In the years since, he has become a devoted meditator, experimented with workout styles and exercises, and used various gadgets to monitor his health. In recent times, James has been absorbed by the intersection between mental health, fitness, sustainability, and environmentalism. When not concerning himself with health and technology, James can be found excitedly checking out each week’s New Music Friday releases.