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A simple, old school & fun way to build a monster grip!

Grip strength is a sign of masculinity. What’s the first thing you notice about someone when you shake hands with them? The firmness of their handshake. 

If we’re talking in terms of overall performance, grip strength is often the biggest limiting factor. During pulling exercises, the first thing to tire is your grip/forearms. Deadlifts, just how heavy can you go without straps/using a mixed grip?

If that hasn’t got you sold yet, many women like a man to have strong looking hands and forearms.

( – who’s the man and who’s the woman here?! 

My favourite way of building iron-like grip strength – 

The classic death hang! All you need is a pull-up bar, your hands and maybe some external resistance in the form of a dumbbell or weight belt (depending on your current strength).


Since the forearms, like the abdominals and calves, are primarily slow twitch in nature, thus they’re an endurance muscle group. Endurance muscle groups like those above respond very well to isometric induced tension. Hence, why the dead hang pull-up is a perfect candidate.

Do I need extra resistance and how long do I need to hang for?

If you can’t last at the very least, 60 seconds with your bodyweight, then don’t even contemplate adding weight via a weight belt/dumbbell. Ideally, I’d have you being capable of at least 90 seconds – sometimes even 2 minutes – before you add weight. Once you can comfortably surpass 90 seconds with regularity, add 5 kg and repeat the cycle.

Bodyweight for 2 minutes becomes easy > add 5 kg and build back up to 2 minutes. Rinse and repeat with 10 kg next time.

Which grip style to use? 

These are best done with a pronated (overhand) grip. You can use a neutral grip (palms facing/hammer curl style) too, but pronated with the thumbs around the bar (not thumbless) will provide the greatest stress to your grip.

Having said that, I’ve done these thumbless before and still got amazing pumps in my forearms and DOMS the next day. But for absolute, most optimal carry-over to other exercises and day to day life, the thumbs around the bar is the way to go.

Note: When hanging, make a conscious effort to keep your scapula slightly depressed. Don’t let your shoulders come anywhere close to your ears. You want some slight tension in your lats. 

( – an comparison of the ‘thumb-less’ and ‘thumbs around’ grip styles

Mental toughness

Endurance takes mental toughness, when dead hanging, you’re not only building grip, but also grit. This is very much a mental endeavour as it is physical. How much fatigue can you withstand?

One final fun game for you……………

If you have a training partner, why not propose some friendly competition? How about you do these at the end of each workout and the loser buys dinner or gives you some cash? That’s plenty of winning incentive.

Interestingly enough, the gym I work at has monthly challenges that range from max push-up tests, all out wall squat holds, max clean and press weight for one rep and more. We all get to ‘design’ a challenge for each month. Needless to say, recently this was my nomination. Wouldn’t you know………….it was the MOST POPULAR challenge we’ve ever had!

The hang of death; a classic test of grip and mental toughness that builds mighty grip strength in the process. 

Come on guys, let me know your times down below! 

Who’s winning? 

JR @ Straight-Talking-Fitness View All

The 'brains' behind StraightTalkingFitness, a site all about discovery that leads to strength in all formats; fitness, mental, emotional and spiritual. Everything starts from within and projects outwards. Master the body, master anything and everything.

8 thoughts on “A simple, old school & fun way to build a monster grip! Leave a comment

  1. Can I use bar wraps… Ok!! Just kidding!!
    Serious now.. This is great!! I have such a bad grip and do use wraps to help me on the heavy weights or assisted pull ups. I’ve always wanted to improve on this, but never thought about hanging on. I will definitely start trying this, as I’m sure I can’t even hold myself for 30 seconds! I can’t do a pull up either.. But mainly because I can’t hold my own weight in my hands. Maybe this will help there as well. Once again a great article!
    Iron Barbie

    • You can’t do a pull up? Females doing CLEAN, LEGIT pull ups are the holy grail of fitness accomplishments in my humble opinion – they really are!

      Absolutely, the first step would be acclimatising yourself with withstanding your bodyweight with your hands. That’s where the hang of death comes in! 😉

      Oh and It’s nice to see someone so willing to interact. It’s my favourite thing about this blogging business, it really is! 🙂

      • Noooo…. I know.. I had a shoulder injury years ago in my “youth”… I used to train horses and I fell off once right onto my shoulder. It’s not painful when I do an assisted pull up, but very awkward feeling, and not in a good way.
        I did however see a video from Erin Stern where she does assisted one arm pull ups. I started trying those and they seem to work. So I’m hoping to strengthen those muscles to be able to get both sides working together. And now with your trick to help me gain strength in my hands, I hope to be able to one soon!!

      • That’s actually a good idea! One arm assisted pull ups could be a great precursor to the unassisted one arm pull up. Which is yet another BEAST of a calisthenic movement/party trick. I should have put that in my recent list!

        But as far as hand strength goes, it’s just a patience game. Being willing to tough it out and try to beat your previous best time, even if only by a second or two every so often. Keep us posted on how you get on! 🙂

  2. Great post. Iron Barbie, have you tried doing negatives? They’re a great start to being able to do a pull up or a chin up. I can also recommend ring rows or if you don’t have access to them, TRX straps or a bar on a rack. You can alter your body position to make the exercise easier or harder.

    I can do pull ups and they are something I’ve been able to do for some time. I love them. I’m currently working on weighted pull ups (I weigh 52kgs) I start with 5kg, then one at 10kg and my max one rep is 15kg. L sit pull ups have recently been incorporated into my workouts and there’s some improvement to be made with these but I love the challenge.

    I also incorporate scapula pull ups and feel these have improved my strict pull ups.

    • Couldn’t have gave better advice myself. The TRX/bar idea is just what I recommend as a ‘primer’ for people aspiring to do legit pull ups.

      15 kg additional load? Damn girl, that’s seriously good! L pull ups are the BOMB! I love them – especially on rings. Have you seen my most recent post on calisthenic movements? I put some L-sit stuff in there 😉

    • Hi Pixieannie, yes I’ve tried the negatives but that really hurt my shoulder. See above in reply to JR… I had injured my shoulder once.. But I’m also not that “muscular” yet.. I have to pull up 180 pounds… That’s me alone, no weights attached…
      I don’t get the awkward felling in my shoulder when I do the single arm assisted pull-ups, so I’m hoping they will help me gain the strength and muscle to get me there.
      Thank you though for the tip! I’m always eager to try out new things!

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