How to Improve Grip Strength for BJJ? Exercises and Tools

Grip strength is the most important strength for BJJ, but most people don’t actively try to increase it. That’s a shame. So in this article I share my 3 favorite ways to improve grip strength for BJJ.

Contents of this article

grip strength for BJJ

What is grip strength and how do you use it in BJJ?

Grip strength is the ability to hold onto something with your hands. Notice that I say it’s an ability, which means that it’s not just about raw strength, it’s also a skill.

In BJJ, grip strength is especially important because it allows you to control your opponent by holding onto their gi or body. The stronger your grip is, the better control you have over your opponent

In BJJ you need both grip strength and grip endurance. Because sometimes you’ll have to pull someone in really hard at once, and sometimes you need to be able to keep a grip for a long time.

Benefits of improving your grip strength for BJJ

There are many benefits to having a strong grip for BJJ. 

It will allow you to maintain your guard longer, which will give you more time to work on passing your opponent’s guard or submit them. It will also allow you to perform submissions more effectively and with less energy.

More importantly, having strong grips helps to prevent injuries. The most common injuries in BJJ are to the fingers and they often occur while a grip gets broken. If you have more muscles in your hand and wrist, this stabilizes your joints and protects them from injury.

Does grip strength matter in BJJ?

Grip strength absolutely matters in Brazilian jiu jitsu.

I bet you’ve experienced this yourself.

There’s probably somebody in your gym whose grips you can never break, and as a consequence you can’t get anything done against them.

On the other hand, you may feel like your own grips are weak, and you can’t even start your attacks before people break them.

So yes, it matters, and we need to actively train our grip strength to improve it.

How can you make your grip strength stronger? 3 Ways

There’s 3 things I like to focus on to increase my grip strength for BJJ:

  • Focusing on gripping technique
  • Exercises involving grip strength
  • Using tools specifically for improving grip strength

Techniques to improve your grip strength for BJJ

In this article I won’t cover gripping technique, but just know that it’s a huge part of improving your grip strength.

I tried to find tutorials I could link to but I couldn’t find any – maybe I’ll make one someday

But just so that you have an idea of what I’m talking about: 

There’s always an opening in your grip, and in BJJ we learn that you should always break the grip towards that opening. 

So if you have a grip, you should constantly change the angle of your hand so that the opening keeps moving, and it’s much harder for your opponent to break your grip.

Another quick tip is that you always want to off balance your opponent as he goes to break your grip. 

For example, if he wants to break your collar grip, but you jerk it to make him stumble, he first needs to regain his balance before he can break it.

I believe that the people with the strongest grips are actually the people that mastered these technical aspects of it, rather than the people with the biggest forearms.

That being said, big forearms definitely help your grip strength. So let’s get into how we can train the strength part of gripping for BJJ.

Best exercises to train grip strength for BJJ

There are many exercises that you can do to improve your grip strength for BJJ. The following are a few of the best ones.

1. Grippers

Grippers are the most commonly used grip strengthening tool. They come in many different sizes and strengths. The most commonly used grippers are the Captains of Crush grippers, which are available in four different strengths.

2. Hanging

Hanging from a bar is one of the best ways to build your grip strength for BJJ. All you have to do is hang from the bar for as long as you can. The longer you can hold on the better. Hanging also releases stress in your shoulders built up during training so it’s a good way to prevent injuries.

3. Climbing

Climbing is a great way to strengthen your grip. When you are climbing, your grip is constantly being challenged. You must maintain a tight grip on the holds, as you hang or are inverted. This will help to improve grip strength.

4. Plate Pinches

Plate pinches are a great way to improve your grip strength. You perform them by grabbing multiple plates in your hand and squeezing them hard enough so that they don’t fall out of your hands.

5. Towel Pull-ups

Pull-ups are a great exercise for your back and biceps, but they train your forearms as well. And you can also use a towel to do pull-ups by just hanging it around your pull-up bar. This way the grip you’re training is more similar to for example a collar grip.

6. Farmers Walk

Farmer walks are a great way to improve your grip strength. You can do farmer walks with a barbell or dumbbells, or even just heavy bags of groceries. 

7. Rope Climbs

Rope climbs are an even harder way to improve your grip strength than normal climbing, because they rely even more on your arm strength. They can be performed on a thick rope.

BJJ grip strength tools

There’s a couple of tools that can help you train your grip strength for BJJ more specifically. The best options are:

  • Pull-up bar: just hang from this and this will already strengthen your grip. And you can also use it for pull ups which make all your pulling muscles stronger.
  • Hangboard: These are used by rock climbers to train their grip strength. It’s a board with several different grips on it from which you can hang. The advantage compared to a pull up bar is that you can challenge yourself much more by taking a shallower grip or a grip with only a few fingers.
  • Grippers: Very simple, but effective to completely burn out your forearms. You can just grip into these things for however long you want while watching Netflix. You can work up to squeezing it for a full episode of your favorite show.
  • Finger extenders: These work the opposite direction of squeezing your hand and are important to prevent imbalances in your muscle strength. From doing BJJ you likely already have hands that curl up into a ball a little bit, so it’s good to train opening up your hands. I use them because they alleviate elbow pain that I have.

FAQ

Are forearms related to grip strength?

Yes! Most of the power in your grip comes from your forearm. A smaller proportion comes from your hand, and from having your arm as a whole in a strong athletic position.

Do grip trainers work for BJJ?

Of course. If you grip things all the time, your inherent grip strength improves. However, gripping is also a matter of technique, so don’t neglect that!

Are grip trainers worth it for BJJ?

Yes and no. They help, but you should use them alongside developing proper gripping technique.

Does Jiu Jitsu increase grip strength?

Yes, training BJJ naturally increases grip strength because you grip things all the time. This is especially true if you train in the gi.