Cyclists. When was the last time you trained your grip? I know you train your core, do your intervals, and lift (hopefully). If you are not training your grip you may be leaving a lot of speed on the table. Let me explain.
A recent study looked into the characteristics of top downhill mountain bike racers. They were attempting to identify the factors that made up the fastest racers. They concluded:
In order of importance, rider skill, handgrip endurance, self-confidence, and aerobic capacity were identified as variables influencing DH performance.
Hand grip endurance was #2 in order of importance and for the majority of riders it is likely the thing they train the least, if at all!
I know you are reading this thinking I am a roadie so this doesn’t apply to me. Not so fast. Think about this. Even an untrained person can get into a leg press machine and press way over their body weight. Let’s say 250lbs. Load that same weight on a squat rack and that same person would get very injured if they attempted to do a squat. The problem is they do not have the supporting strength in their back, core, and stabilizing musculature to support that weight. In a leg press machine you are using all the strength in your legs of press against an immovable platform. On a bike when you are sprinting or climbing a super steep hill out of the saddle you have to create that immovable platform for your legs to press from. This starts with your grip and core strength. Your legs are super strong and can generate tremendous force from a fixed platform. If the platform moves then energy is wasted. So that 250lb leg press is not functional strength at all if you are not able to create that immovable platform to push from with your core and your grip. My guess is if they did this same study with Pro Tour riders they would find that sprinters have the strongest grips (and core) in the peloton. Who would you rather arm wrestle, Froome or Greipel?
Grip is pretty easy to train. We do a lot of deadlifting at my gym which hits the grip pretty hard. For more targeting training we add Farmer Carry’s with a trap bar and Fat Gripz at around the athletes body weight. The arm pump in intense! I used to have a grip trainer in my truck that I would use on road trips that I lost a while ago. I just ordered the Captains of Crush Hand Grippers and will integrate those into my routine again.
I am not saying grip strength will take you from pack fodder to the podium. Continued improvement in any sport is about incremental gains. Training, diet, and equipment need to work in synergy with your goal of improvement. No one thing will make you better it is the combination of many small things that lead to gains. Grip can be trained almost any time and anywhere so why not incorporate it into your routine?