Two Types of Grip Strength - Crush and Pinch
Grip strength has often been perceived by many a recreational lifter as being a limiting factor in their lifts. As human beings tend to do, we identify a variable to our performance and do our due diligence to maximize it.
This is done to reduce said variable’s limitation to performance. It is an ambitious choice to embark on improving your grip strength, and I for one do not take issue with “training” your grip strength.
Related - Forearm Workouts for Size and Grip
Just as a side note, consider the contribution of fatigue on your grip strength. Strength training is challenging and hard on the nervous system by design.
The number of nerve endings within your hands easily outnumber the content found in any other non-axial component of your nervous system. That being said, accumulation of fatigue can undoubtedly impact your grip and considerations should be made in that issue when diagnosing your grip weakness.
Grip Strength - Crush and Pinch
Two types of grip strength exist. There are two types because our hands are used in two distinct ways to “grip” things. Upon drafting this idea up in my head, I wanted to do a quick search to see what media there are on grip strength.
I discovered that there are different thoughts as to how many types of grip strength there are, so I am going to posit the first sentence of this paragraph as a debatable statement.
The types of strength are “crushing” and “pinching.” Crushing is most often used in the context of barbell strength training and strength sports. This type of strength is used in most implement-sports as well, such as tennis, golf, baseball, and hockey.
Pinch strength is a little less commonly acknowledged, but in grip-dominant sports such as grappling, wrestling, and rock-climbing it becomes a very crucial trait to successful performance.
Crush strength, paraphrased, is your capacity to hold grip when your hand is “mostly closed.” In a more technical sense, when the fingers are in maximal or near-maximal flexion.
When gripping a barbell, the fingers curl around it and dig into the palm at the end of the bar’s circumference. The purpose of any muscle’s flexion is to mobilize the articulating bone segment and achieve range of motion.
The finger flexors are thus used to mobilize all of the phalanges, proximal and distal, to create a sturdy, bony sheathe around the barbell. We can, therefore, acknowledge how powerful our bones are and how capable they are of bending/deforming while still maintaining structure during a gripping task.
This same crush strength is utilized even if the fingers are not completely wrapped around and buried into your palm. Axle bars and FatGripz come to mind here.
The attempt is still made to produce as much flexion at the phalangeal joints as possible, and greater crush strength will bury that axle bar deeper into the palm for lifting. Wrist grabs or gi-grabs in martial arts are also good examples.
Pinch strength is attained when the hands are not being closed. The flexors of the fingers are no longer carrying out their capacity to mobilize the bones but are instead functioning isometrically in that the length of these tiny muscles remain unchanged.
The flexors of the fingers are still forcing the bones to collapse onto the implement, but little range of motion is achieved. This is seen in everyday life when we carry awkward, obtuse objects such as 5-pound tubs of whey at GNC, but also in a gym setting when performing stone loads, Husaffel stone carries, medicine ball exercises, etc.
Rock-climbing puts athletes in a position where the palm is awkwardly positioned, and the fingers may also be placed in a way that prevents range of motion. In this instance, the flexors of the fingers would function isometrically while still providing grip upon the rocks.
In martial arts, tying up with an opponent may result in gripping around the shoulder or back of the head. In instances like these, the fingers do not achieve range of motion, and there is sole reliance on the isometric strength and endurance of the finger muscles themselves.
This leads to another interesting topic within the grip strength discussion – finger strength. Often in a “pinch strength scenario,” the grip ends up being acquired without collapsing the fingers around the implement and into the palms.
Pinch strength thus has a higher impact on individual finger strength as they are not being considered in conjunction with the palm. So when analyzing the magnitude of strength within your grip, understand that there are two distinct ways you can achieve said grip.
Training strength exclusively with one style of grip may cause deficits that would otherwise be addressed when utilizing the other kind.