From allowing you to hold onto your MTB handlebars for hours to helping you pull your brake levers to stop or slow down your bike, grip strength is one of the most important qualities for cyclists. While the necessary grip strength changes with the terrain – for example, on rocky and rough terrain, more grip strength is needed – a good grip is essential for all types of cyclists.
Fortunately, through proper exercises, every cyclist can build up his/her grip strength. In this detailed guide, we will show you how to improve grip strength. However, before we show you how to strengthen your grip, we will discuss the different types of grip strength.
Types of Grip Strength
There are 3 main types of grip strength. These are:
- Crush grip – This refers to the ability to squeeze something between the palm and your fingers. For example, people use crush grip when climbing ropes, shaking hands, or swinging a bat.
- Support grip – This is an individual’s ability to hold onto something or hang from an object for an extended period. For example, you use the support grip when carrying shopping bags and doing pull-ups.
- Pinch Grip – This is the strength between the tips of the four fingers and your thumb. For example, this grip strength is used in rock climbing and opening jars.
For cyclists, crush and support are the most crucial types of grip strength. Crush grip, in the case of a rider, helps with squeezing the bike’s handlebars or the MTB brake levers. When you hop on your hardtail mountain bike, the support grip will help you hold onto the handlebars for a long time.
A Detailed Guide on How to Improve Grip Strength
We have carefully combed through all types of grip strength exercises to come up with those that are aimed at improving the crush and support grip strength. If you are wondering how to strengthen your grip, the following exercises should work for you:
1. Farmer’s Walk/Carry
For this exercise, you will need a kettlebell – this should be easy to find in any gym. Stand with your feet approximately hip-width apart, holding your kettlebell in the left hand. Keep the left hand at your side.
Bend the right arm to counterbalance. Keeping your shoulders down, chest high, and your back straight, walk forward for thirty seconds without allowing the kettlebell weight to cause an imbalance in your posture.
Next, turn around and pass your kettlebell to your right hand. Bend the left hand to counterbalance and then walk back for thirty seconds with a balanced posture. This will complete the first set. Repeat for 3 sets.
2. 90-Degree Kettlebell Hold
While standing with your feet about hip-width apart and with a slight bend on your knees, pick up a kettlebell by its handle using your right hand. Keeping your elbow next to your body, bend the elbow to ninety degrees, extending your kettlebell out in front of you. Keep the forearm parallel to the floor, with the thumb up and the palm facing inward.
Hold this position for at least 20 seconds. Switch hands and repeat to complete 1 set. Repeat for a total of three sets.
3. Ball Squeeze
If you often find yourself in situations where you need regular braking, you may want to know how to improve grip strength for improved braking power. Armed with a tennis ball, you can use this workout to brake more efficiently.
Simply hold a tennis ball in your right hand. Squeeze the ball as hard as possible for 30 seconds. Switch the tennis ball to your left hand and repeat to complete your first set. Repeat this exercise for a minimum of 3 sets.
To make the exercises harder – and hence more effective – hold the tennis ball for thirty seconds. Next, perform 15 pulses before switching hands. The term “pulses,” in this case, refers to the act of squeezing and releasing the tennis ball.
4. Dead Hang
This exercise is ideal for cyclists who have to hold onto their road bike handlebars for hours on their biking trips. It is also perfect for travelers who like to use commuter bikes for long-distance commutes.
If you have a bar at home, you can take advantage of the exercise without leaving your house. You will simply need to grab the bar using a pull grip, making sure that your palms are facing away from you.
Dead hang on the bar without dropping or rocking from the bar for thirty seconds. Keep in mind that you are not limited to hanging for only 30 seconds – you can extend the dead hang for as long as possible. Rest for 30 seconds and then repeat for a total of 3 sets.
Note: You can make the exercise more effective (or harder) by depressing your shoulders through the reverse-shrugging motion. Simply use the motion and then hold for a couple of seconds.
5. Alternate Dead Hung
While this exercise uses a bar just like the exercise described above, it is made more effective by the fact that you will be switching hands and only using a single hand to hang from the bar at a time. Start by grabbing your bar with the pull-up grip, with the palms facing away from you.
Next, loosen your grip in the right hand as you slowly shift all your body weight to your left hand. Release your right hand from the bar and hold for 5 to 10 seconds.
Grab the bar with your right hand and then slowly loosen the grip on the left hand while slowly shifting your body weight to the right hand. Release your left hand from the bar and hold for 5 to 10 seconds.
This will complete the first set. Continue alternating for a total of 3 sets. If you have to drop from the bar, rest for an average of 20 to 30 seconds in between the side shifts.
6. Praying Mantis
To take advantage of this workout, you will need 2 dumbbells. Start with your two dumbbells by your side. With the back of your two hands facing forwards – that is, away from you – and holding the dumbbells, do the reverse bicep curl, trying to keep the elbows tucked into your body as much as you can. Do 3 sets of 15 repetitions and be sure to use a weight that feels right for you.
This workout will strengthen the muscles at the back of your forearms, allowing them to take more strain. This will be extremely useful for when you need to take your woman’s mountain bike on long bikepacking trips.
7. The Wrist Twister
You will need some dumbbells for this exercise too. However, be sure to use light weights and be extra careful to avoid sustaining injuries – exercise injuries can keep you from using your touring bike for an extended period.
Hold the dumbbells in your hands. Stand with your forearms at ninety degrees to your body. Keep the elbows tucked to your limbs. Rotate the lower wrist and arm through a full 180 degrees. Put your focus on just the lower arm and wrist, trying to isolate the right muscles in each hand. Repeat for a total of 20 times in both arms.
8. Monkey Curl
Similar to the last 2 exercises, you will need 2 dumbbells for this exercise too. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, start the workout with your straight arms by your side. Curl the weight upwards until both arms are at 90 degrees with your body.
Next, curl the hands towards you, bringing the knuckles into the sides. Repeat this step five times before lowering your dumbbells to your side and starting the workout again. Try to do the movement 4 times in a row.
Important Tip: Preserve Your Grip Strength by Loosening Up
At this point, you should know how to strengthen your grip. However, one thing you may not know is how to reduce your forearm and hand fatigue while riding your budget road bike.
On rough bikepacking trails, whether you are focusing on gravel riding, mountain biking, cyclocross racing, or any other type of riding, your goal should be to maintain a light but secure grip on your raised bike handlebars.
A death grip on your handlebars will make your ride rougher. This will then make you want to grip even tighter. For a smoother ride, focus on using a light grip on your handlebars and relax the shoulders and elbows so that these parts of your body can react like shock absorbers.
When using your hybrid bike on long descents, the key is to let go of the bike’s brake levers whenever possible – this means getting comfortable with picking speed whenever it is safe to do this. Riding the brakes down long descents is not only rough on the cyclist’s hands, but it is also really hard on the brake pads and either the rims or the discs.
To allow your brakes to cool down, it is better to let the aluminum road bike pick up speed and then brake hard for shorter periods than to maintain slow speeds by dragging the brakes for extended periods. Overheating with rim brakes can easily ruin your carbon rims or even lead to tire blowouts. Overheating of disk brake systems can cause the brakes to fade more quickly.
Q: What Causes Weak Grip Strength?
For most people, the lack of enough hand exercises and aging are the leading causes of reduced grip strength. However, it is also worth noting that handgrip strength is generally a reflection of a person’s state of health. In some cases, health complications can be the biggest cause of a weak grip. Some of the health complications that cause weak grips include nerve damage, tendinitis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Q: How Can I Improve My Hanging Grip Strength?
The best way to improve hanging grip strength is to practice hanging from a bar. Simply find a bar – this can be at home or the gym – grab it with both hands, ensuring your palms are facing forward, and then hang from it for about 30 seconds. Repeat this exercise for a minimum of 3 sets.
Next, hang from the same bar using one hand at a time – use only one hand for a maximum of 10 seconds before changing to the other hand. Do at least 3 sets – one set will be complete when you have used both hands.
Q: Does Grip Strength Make You Stronger?
Yes, grip strength does make you stronger. For example, with a stronger grip, you should be able to lift heavier weights. Also, in pulling movements, such as rows, pull-ups, chin-ups, and deadlifts – when working on your strength in the gym – a stronger grip will help you increase your training results. This means that a good grip affects your overall strength both directly and indirectly.
Q: How Do I Test My Grip Strength?
Various acceptable ways of testing grip strength exist. Below, we will take a look at the two top methods:
- Handgrip dynamometer – To use this method, you will need to hold the dynamometer up with 1 hand while keeping your arm at a 90-degree angle. Squeeze the grip’s measurement mechanism as hard as possible.
- Weight scale – If you prefer this method, you will need to push down – as hard as possible – on a scale using 1 hand. Your hand’s heel should be at the top of the scale and your fingers should be wrapped around the scale’s bottom.
Globo Surf Overview
For cyclists who would like to hang on to their bike’s handlebars – particularly, when exploring rough terrain – and squeeze their brakes, grip strength is extremely important. The good news is that if you currently don’t have a strong grip, you can improve your strength over time through exercises.
In this guide, we have shown you how to improve grip strength. For the exercises described above to work for you, you will need to work out regularly. Consistency is the key to developing maximum grip strength.