Resistance training to improve grip strength can be critical to athletic success. Using isolation movements (squeezing a hand-held gripper) can be time consuming and not be optimal for the best results.
One way to keep your grip training more metabolic and targeted to whole-body athletic strength gains is to add towels to various athlete-specific pulling exercises that work on strength and coordination. These types of grip strength exercises can save time, establish balance between grip and limb force, prevent injury and even help you break through plateaus.
Another benefit to this is when you go back to the exercises (particularly the trap bar deadlift and bent-over close grip rows) without using the towel/s you will notice you can lift a lot more weight than before. And this will also transfer over to other exercises, like barbell bench, because you won't have to grip the bar as hard which will conserve energy.
Try incorporating these four exercises with towels for 4 weeks and watch your grip strength go through the roof.
Use a towel that's 2 to 3 inches thick. Be ready to lift less weight than you're used to. Thick towels will likely produce decreases in weight during short term, presumably due greater reliance on maximal grip strength that has not yet fully developed. Start with a 2-inch towel and work up to 3 inches over several weeks.
During each movement, use a four-second eccentric (lowering) phase to maximize strength and stimulation of muscles in the hand. Pull up quickly in one second with a one-second pause at the top.
1. Inverted Row with Towel
This exercise is made much harder with a towel. Set up a Smith Rack with a bar about chest height. Grab the towel and walk feet forward until your body is leaning back at an angle. Brace your core and don't twist your body as you pull up. If grabbing the towel is hard, wrap it around your hand once. If this is still hard, walk a few feet away from the squat cage to change your body angle and lessen the load.
2. Two-Arm, Bent-Over, Close-Grip, Barbell Row with Towel
Straddle the bar and place one end in a corner of a wall so it's braced. Wrap the towel around the bar and as you pull the bar up make sure to engage your lower lats and don;t allow the shoulders to shrug forward. The towel is a great addition here, because it allows for a greater range of pulling motion the farther down the towel you grab.
3. Trap Bar Deadlift with 2 Towels
This is one of my favorites. Using a trap bar, wrap a towel around each handle and perform a deadlift as you normally would do. This also adds a balancing component as the trap bar will rock and twist the more your form deteriorates. Grab the towels close to the base to reduce unwanted movement.
4. Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift with Dumbbell Row Using Towel
This is one of the more challenging exercises listed here. The reason is due to the amount of balance that will be required. I would only advise trying this variation if you have already mastered the RDL movement. Hinge at the hips, keeping lower lats engaged pull the DB up while performing a row. Lower the weight slowly and then lower the back leg down. Grabbing the towel closer to the base will reduce unwanted movement. Don't be afraid to reduce the weight to maintain proper mechanics of the movement.