Why Grip Is The Missing Piece Of The Calisthenics Puzzle
The Pull Up, and the Dip, are fundamental upper body calisthenics movements. A first foray for a lot of people into calisthenics, whether from Paralettes or the Rings, and, they are key to developing more intermediate and advanced skills whilst building pulling and pushing strength. Muscle engagement through the anterior and posterior chains are vital but also your grip needs to be honed and practiced. I’m going to go through how to keep, and build, that foundational grip strength, plus how to advance it and how it’s key to your Pull Up success in the long term.
The key to mastering calisthenics is to learn, and appreciate, what full muscular engagement actually feels like, and training your nervous system to endure it. This includes using your grip. You need to start with a solid grip, as though you were trying to snap the bar in half, so you can maintain that full body tension.
To warm up the hands and wrists is essential to mastering your grip strength. Make sure you do this thoroughly, with palms against the floor and flipped the opposite way. Start by gripping the bar as hard as you can with dead hangs, then the same again with scapula shrugs as a warm up for your grip before attempting pull ups to prepare your grip with maximum effectiveness.
You can also use cannonball grips and pipe bomb grips from the bar to work your grip through its full plains of motion, including vertically and with a wider finger splay and this will lead you onto practicing and building the false grip as well. Having good stability in the bar is also essential to counteract your pulling force. You can pick up the Gravity Fitness portable pull up rack which has feet coming out on either side of the bar to keep it stable. Pick one up below:
You can also incorporate grip training into your hobbies, by going climbing or bouldering. Not only is this a really fun way to spend time with friends, but it also hugely helps with upper body strength and grip training in general. Your grip needs to be able to be strong with weaker finger holds, and climbing is a great way of working that.
You can also train your grip for L-Sit, Dips and other fundamental pushing exercises from Paralettes which you can pick up from the link below:
From a seated push position you can work on your elevation and compression strength too, leading to external Ring holds and L-Sit holds. The intensity of the grip and force applied through it, needs to be maximal in order to gain the lift you need. ‘Push the ground away from you as hard as you can’ - this is a coaching cue I give to my clients all the time to help them to the correct elevated position. Applying these forces correctly can unlock strength people didn’t even know they had.
In summary, making sure your muscular engagement is full across the body starts with the grip. Bulletproofing your grip will help you to advance and progress onto those more advanced calisthenics movements, but your grip can be trained with very little equipment and some very easy drills. Anything where you can grip something and apply force in the opposing direction, in fact! These grip variations can also help build forearm and wrist strength as well.
Tag us on IG @gravity.fitness and show us your grip skills. Show us your longest dead hangs! Show us what a beastly grip can do!