Grip strength is one of the best overall tests for total body strength. Numerous studies demonstrate a high correlation with grip strength and swing speed and golfing proficiency. Greater grip strength allows you to handle the forces transferred through the hands and wrists during the golf swing, which means less chance of injury and better control of the clubface.
The average tour player can demonstrate over 50kg of pressure on the squeeze test, with the lead side being slightly stronger. If you ask the average tour player how much force they think they use when gripping a club most will say around 50%, and research supports that. Now, take the average golfer that comes into our facility for an assessment. Most have a grip strength of around 30kg. So in order to have the same clubface control as a tour player, you would need to squeeze the club almost as hard as you can. That’s not ideal for multiple reasons but you definitely would lose the ability to properly release and lose a lot of “feel” in your swing. In addition, grip strength is the most critical when you don’t strike the ball with the center of the club face. Miss hits create torque on the club and if you can’t control it then the shot becomes even worse. So I would argue that amateurs actually need greater grip strength compared to professionals.
Traditional grip strength exercises generally aren’t very effective. Not to mention they are a waste of time trying to do an isolation exercise, compared to a compound/functional movement exercise. Here are 2 of my favorite ways to improve your grip strength:
1. Bottom-Up Holds - This exercise must be done with a kettlebell so that you have the challenge of balancing the bell. Most people will only be able to start with a 4-8kg (~8-13lb) kettlebell. As you get stronger, you can easily progress past 14kg but start off light the first time. The last thing we want is for you to drop a 12kg weight on your head!
- Start by balancing the kettlebell with the bottom of the bell towards the ceiling. Once stable, press the bell towards the ceiling until your arm is straight. Hold the position for as long as you can or for 1 minute. Note - if you can hold it for longer than a minute then you need a heavier kettlebell.
- Once you have held that position for as long as you can, bend your elbow and drop the kettlebell down by your shoulder (bell still pointing towards the ceiling). Hold for as long as you can, max of 1 minute.
- Lastly, drop the kettlebell down at your side so that the bell is hanging towards the floor. Again, hold as long as you can, max of 1 minute.
2.Fat Grips - This isn’t a specific exercise, but it is a great product that you can add to your existing workout to work on grip strength in conjunction with your regular exercises. You can find multiple products on Amazon if you just search "fat grips", or you can just use a towel. Just wrap the towel or the fat grips around a bar or dumbbell when working out. The increased width of the grip forces you to work your forearm muscles more. This method really only works for pulling exercises, such as rows, pulldowns, deadlifts, etc.
Nick Curry, DC, CCSP, MS, ATC