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Grip Strength As A Measure Of Recovery


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I had heard of trainers utilizing a measure of grip strength as a gauge of recovery for their athletes. I wrote it off as something I don't need and I also don't have the equipment to do anyway. I am not an athlete who constantly competes and trains at a high level. I train hard but try like hell to properly recover because I am getting older yet I want to enjoy lifting for the rest of my life. I am in this for the long haul and don't want to injure myself. I do have to rethink this though after a recent experience. First, I want to give a bit of background on this.

One effective way to monitor overtraining for the central nervous system is by using a handgrip dynamometer, a simple device that you squeeze to measure your grip strength. The handgrip test has been shown in two research papers to be a great predictor of performance at world championships in judo and wrestling. Here’s how to do the test:

Take a measurement after you have had a few days’ break from training. After you arise in the morning, grip the dynamometer with your dominant hand, positioning your opposite foot slightly forward. Raise your dominant hand overhead and then slowly lower your arm while squeezing the handgrip as hard as you can. Record your results, and then repeat the process with your other hand; again, record your results. These scores will represent your standardized measurements.

Every morning measure your grip strength in both hands in exactly this manner. If your scores are down by 2 kilos or more per hand, neurologically you have not fully recovered from your previous workout(s). If you have a poor score on the morning grip dynamometer test, you may not necessarily need to skip training altogether, but you may need to reduce the volume of training so you do not overtrain any further. It is, in fact, usually excess volume, not intensity, that causes overtraining.


As I said, I had heard about this and thought nothing of it until yesterday. I am doing a strongman competition tomorrow and have really dialed back my training. I typically go pretty heavy and hard 4 days a week with a lot of emphasis on pulling (pften heavy for me at least). I mix in grip focused stuff once or twice a week. Last week, I dialed back to 3 days with lighter weights/higher reps. This week, I only did one day of light kettlebell stuff to get the blood flowing and work on some range of motion. I have a GHP 5 laying around my kitchen that I pick up and close every once in a while just for the hell of it. I would guess it is about 85% of my max. Without a warmup, it is not simple for me. I get it but it takes an effort for sure. Yesterday, I picked it up and smashed it closed as easy as I ever have. No warmup or anything, a breeze.

This got me thinking. Nothing has changed except my volume of training. I haven't been sick, my food and sleep are the same. I just feel my body is better recovered than it has been in a while. Maybe I have underestimated my recovery needs in the past. I did close the 2.5 for the first time after I went on vacation last spring and didn't train for a couple weeks. Lesson learned, I do have the equipment to gauge my grip strength despite not having a dynamometer. I will pay closer attention to this in the future.

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