When you think of strength training, you probably conjure up images of long, sturdy barbells adorned with rotund, heavy weight plates ready to either be pushed or pulled for the sake of growing muscle mass. But there’s one muscle group, and one piece of fitness equipment, that often gets forgotten, and sadly, it has possibly the biggest effect on your in-gym performance.
We’re talking, of course, about your grip strength and the simple yet effective grip strengthener.
Grip plays a key role in a number of exercises including deadlifts, rows and more, but a strong hand can pay dividends in moments outside your training, too. Anything from typing away at a computer and hauling groceries from the car to the countertop, to opening heavy doors and that one jar of pickles you can never seem to master. You rely on your grip strength everyday, so training those tendons and muscles with a proper grip strengthener can be pivotal to pushing your PRs in the gym — and making life a little more comfortable along the way as well.
Grip strengtheners are simple in design and can be used basically anywhere your day takes you. Most commonly, these devices employ what’s known as squeeze strength, or, closing your fingers toward your palm against resistance. There are a handful of designs available, but before we grab hold of the best grip strengtheners on the market, it helps to understand what you should look for when deciding on these portable yet powerful training tools.
What to Look for in Grip Strengtheners
A grip strengthener can be useless if the resistance is not in line with your training goals. Too easy, and you aren’t working the muscles and tendons enough to further your hand strength. Too difficult, and you could be working in a limited range of motion, or potentially strain yourself trying to complete a full repetition. When looking at which grip strengthener to get, take your strength into consideration and think about what your current limits are.
Naturally, however, you may be unable to identify your current grip strength, especially if you’ve never paid attention to this muscle group. What I recommend is to look for a grip strengthener that offers some form of adjustability, or at least a resistance range within the model itself. If the resistance is non-adjustable, consider ordering your perceived starting point, as well as one lower or higher within the available range. These devices typically cost less than $40, so ordering multiples at varying weight ranges won’t be an absolute knockout to your budget. Most of the grip strengtheners included in this roundup are non-adjustable (more on that in a bit), so the multiple devices approach may be the best for continued growth.
Ergonomics and Usability
You’ll be moving your fingers and hands a lot when training with a grip strengthener, so it helps to find a device that sits comfortably in your grasp. Look for simple, ergonomically-minded designs that flow with the natural peaks and valleys of your palm. Additionally, gripping is an intuitive movement, so simplistic grip strengtheners that don’t force your hand into an awkward position are best. After all, the feeling should come naturally to you, despite the added resistance.
Range of Motion
This feature is more prevalent for athletes considering adjustable grip strengtheners since the range of motion remains the same across devices featuring just one prescribed resistance. Adjustable grip strengtheners vary in terms of strength either by changing the angle of compression or point of flexion. If the resistance is changed by moving the point of flexion, then you’ll experience a longer or shorter range of motion, and thus, a different workout experience. If the resistance is changed by moving the angle of compression, then the range of motion should remain the same regardless of the variance.
Having a consistent squeeze pattern is key to helping bolster your grip strength, so if you do decide to go with an adjustable grip strengthener, make sure the adjustability is at the angle of compression.
How We Tested
Across multiple weeks, I added these grip strengtheners to my daily regimen, utilizing their effectiveness as multiple points throughout the day. Whether in-between emails or during my post-workout recovery sessions, I employed a few sets targeting hand strength and noted each device’s ergonomics and resistance, as well as the overall aesthetics and ease of use. Additionally, I looked at the available range within the models themselves, to see if there was room for continued growth once my muscles and tendons grew accustomed to the levels in that particular silhouette.
IronMind Captains of Crush Hand Gripper
There’s a reason these grip strengtheners carry the tagline, “the gold standard of grippers.” The aircraft-grade aluminum handles of the IronMind Captains of Crush series are exceptional, both for their comfort in-hand and durability. Plus, the GR8 springs put up plenty of a challenge, so much so that the brand has a certification process to put your feats in the brand’s official book of records, once you reach the higher resistance levels.
I’ve loved training my grip strength with these simple yet elegant tools, but I will note that finding the ideal palm placement takes some getting used to. Play around with your grip across the iconic V-shaped frame before your first session and get ready to climb the ranks with this premium fitness tool.
Gripmaster Pro Hand Strengthener
Want to really specialize your palm potential? Consider a grip strengthener that allows for individual finger workouts. This high-quality Pro series from GripMaster has spring-loaded buttons that allow you to train each individual finger for exceptional strength. I also enjoy how ergonomic the Pro series feels in the hand, bolstered by the palm block that rests comfortably at the base of my mitt.
There are a number of resistance levels across the entire GripMaster Pro series, but I would recommend saving the original packaging for easier identification. GripMaster labels each tension between extra-light and extra-heavy, and while there is a poundage correlating to these levels, it’s not indicated on the device itself. Still, for less than $25, you can easily splurge and get the entire roundup for a lifetime’s worth of effective training.
FitBeast Hand Grip Strengthener Workout Kit
The FitBeast Hand Grip Strengthener Kit makes this list, not for its price itself, but the number of products you get for said price. You get an adjustable grip strengthener, flexion ring, extensor band, finger gripper and stress relief ball in one convenient tote, perfect for creating a well-rounded routine targeting various muscles and tendons.
I appreciate the versatility of this kit that allows for strengthening sessions with varying degrees of movement, but I do worry about the durability of the plastic and spring within the grip strengthener. Over extended use, these components can begin to weaken and potentially break down. Thankfully, however, you have multiple modalities as backups with this budget-friendly kit.
Gripmaster Hand Strengthener
While I absolutely recommend the IronMind Captains of Crush series for grip-strengthening disciplines, I must admit that the resistances available can be a little intimidating for newcomers. Thankfully, however, there exists the original GripMaster series that, in my opinion, is a great starting point for anyone diving into hand strength. The ergonomics resemble that of the more upgraded Pro lineup, albeit at a lower tension range.
It’s worth noting, however, that while this can be a great starting point for athletes wanting to improve their paw power, I don’t suspect you to be using this lineup for extended periods of time. As your hands grow stronger, you can easily surpass even the highest tension available. I’d recommend building a kit that includes both the original and Pro GripMasters, so you don’t have to worry about making multiple purchases to appease your muscle-bound mitts.
GripXT Grip Strengtheners 2.0
What’s ideal about the GripXT Grip Strengtheners is that they offer resistance in the opposite direction of most other hand strengtheners. Rather than focusing on flexor areas, where your power comes from squeezing, these silicone beauties zone in on the opposite end of the spectrum, or, your extensor muscles that allow you to straighten your fingers. I appreciated this modality and liked mixing these in with my normal flexor-targeting regimen, thus working my hands and forearms in both directions.
The Grip XT Grip Strengtheners 2.0 kit comes with three resistance levels ranging from the beginner 6.6 pounds all the way up to the 11-pound advanced device. While there’s plenty of tension to appease even the strongest athletes, I would like to have seen a few more options in the kit, so the resistance can stay in line with the natural strength progression.
Training your grip strength can also lead to increased muscularity in your forearms, and while I definitely got a pump from other devices in this roundup, I found the TheraBand FlexBar to be the best for targeting this specific muscle area. The foam rod works by having you twist it to your wrist’s max range of motion, like revving the throttle on a motorcycle.
I liked how simple this device was to grasp, both literally as well as in practice, and you can definitely feel your forearms growing stronger with extended use. Like other devices, though, I wish the resistance levels were marked on the device itself. Unless you’re aware of the color coding system — red for light tension, green for medium tension, blue for max tension — you’re left guessing as to how difficult a fight your tool is capable of putting up.
Fat Gripz Pro
Okay, so we’ve highlighted plenty of reasons why grip strength should get its own dedicated time in your training regimen, but for some busier athletes, the schedule simply doesn’t work in their favor. Well, the Fat Gripz Pro series allows you to pull double time in your normal strength training routines, turning any basic barbell or dumbbell into a fat-handled axel. This thicker gripping area causes your hands, wrist and forearms to engage more in your lifts, thus adding a multi-faceted training module to any press or pull.
I like how portable these Fat Gripz are, and they’re simple to add to my normal sessions, but be mindful, though, that the rubberized grips can be finicky around knurling and may take a few times to open up properly. I did find, too, that because of their lockdown design, they’re best suited for barbell exercises, as removing these from tight-gripped dumbbells can take some extra effort.
IronMind Twist Yo’ Wrist
Wrist strength is also a main component to a strong grip, and I’ve quickly become a fan of the Twist Yo’ Wrist system from IronMind. Like the Captains of Crush series, this device is well built featuring a durable carabiner latch at the end of a rope strung through a plastic, yo-yo-like mechanism. Simply clip onto any dumbbell, change plate or other weight and steadily wind it up to chest level, followed by a controlled descent back to the ground.
This lightweight, simple device can easily fit in any gym bag, but make sure your hands are dry before use. The plastic handles do feature some knurling for added grip, but this tackiness turned useless if my hands were sweaty after my normal gym regimen.