When it comes to strength training, most people tend to emphasize large muscles like their quads, hamstrings, glutes, pecs, and biceps. This makes a lot of sense, given that these muscles make up most of your muscle mass.
However, there are lots of important, smaller muscles too, and neglecting them could affect not only your appearance but your performance. One such muscle group is the forearms. Training your forearms will make your lower arms bigger and also enhance your grip.
Larger, more muscular forearms can add a lot to your physique and are often on-show more than most other muscle groups. A better grip also will have a knock-on effect on many of the exercises in your workouts, such as deadlifts, biceps curls, and even bench presses.
While you can train your forearms and grip directly, this is not always practical or time-efficient. The good news is that you can develop your lower arm muscles simply by incorporating a towel into some exercises in your workout.
In this article, we reveal the best exercises for towel grip training so that you can start using this simple but effective strength training method today. All you need is a couple of standard gym hand towels.
Towel Grip Training Benefits
How Do Towel Grip Exercises Work?
The premise of towel grip exercises is straightforward; instead of directly holding a barbell, dumbbell, or another training implement, you wrap a towel around it instead and grip the ends.
You’ll have to squeeze much harder, which will increase forearm muscle activation.
In short, you can turn almost any exercise into a grip strengthening exercise just by using a towel.
Towel Grip Training Exercises
You can use this training method with many different exercises, but here are a few ideas to get you started.
Towel Grip Lat Pulldowns and Pull-ups
Using two towels, loop your towels over each end of your pulldown/pull-up bar. Grip the ends together, one towel in each hand, and then rep out as normal. Squeeze the ends tightly to maintain your grip.
Don’t worry if you can’t do as many reps or use as much weight as usual; that’s perfectly normal. Your performance will improve as your grip gets stronger.
Towel Grip Kettlebell Curls
This towel grip exercise works your biceps and your forearms together, making it a very efficient way to train your arms.
Take a towel and tread it through the handle of a kettlebell.
Take one end of the towel in each hand. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms by your sides.
Keeping your elbows tucked into your ribs, bend your arms and curl your hands up to your shoulders. Extend your arms and repeat. Keep a tight grip on the towel so that you don’t drop the weight on your feet.
Towel Grip Triceps Pushdowns
Most towel grip exercises are pulling exercises which means they work your back and biceps.
This one is a pushing exercise, so it works your triceps instead. Do this exercise instead of rope-grip pushdowns. Standing in front of a high pulley machine, thread your towel through a carabiner and hold one end in each hand.
Make sure your hands are level. Pull your elbows down and into your ribs. Keeping your upper arms stationary, extend your elbows and push your hands down to the outside of your thighs. Raise your arms back up and repeat. Keep your elbows tucked in to your sides throughout.
Towel Grip Deadlifts
Deadlifts are already a good forearm exercise but using a towel grip makes them even more so. Don’t go too heavy with this one; if your grip fails, you could end up dropping the bar entirely.
Place your barbell on the floor and stand with your toes beneath it, feet about hip-width apart. Loop two towels under the bar and grip the ends, one towel per hand.
Drop your hips, straighten your arms, lift your chest, brace your abs, and pull your shoulders down and back. Without rounding your lower back or losing your grip, straighten your legs and stand up. Put the bar back down on the floor and repeat.
You can also use this grip variation for Romanian, kettlebell, and trap bar deadlifts.
Towel grip training is deceptively simple but will add a whole new dimension to your workouts, turning every exercise you do into a hand and forearm strengthened. A firm grip will improve your performance of lots of different exercises, from deadlifts to power cleans to pull-ups.
A weak grip can severely undermine your workout, bringing your sets to a premature end. A stronger grip means you’ll be able to do more reps or lift more weight, and that means better results. Grip strength is also vital for many sports, including rock climbing, martial arts, and rugby.
However, as effective as towel grip training is, take care not to overdo it. Using this training method too often could cause overuse injuries and tendonitis, both of which can be very debilitating.
Introduce it gradually and use it sparingly to enjoy all of the benefits and none of the drawbacks of towel grip training.