Primarily aimed at strengthening the hands, grippers typically utilize muscles responsible for the movement of the four fingers, excluding the thumb in the crushing grip. 

This isolation exercise involves opening and closing of the wrists, meaning your forearm flexors and extensors are engaged. Working your grip strengtheners and builds these muscles, tightening and bulking up your arm aesthetic. 

History of the Gripper

The first gripper devices to be well documented in history came from the early 20th century and constructed using wooden handles. Advertised in bodybuilding and weightlifting magazines, most of these tools were not at all difficult to close, thus rendering themselves quite ineffective.

In the 1930s, however, the legendary professional strongman Tomas Inch possessed two nutcracker-style grippers that he regularly used for challenging others to grip-offs for fun. Almost no one else was able to close them, rendering him the unofficial grip champion of his time. 

As the 1900s progressed, the old models were gradually replaced with cheaply made plastic-handled grippers that can now be found in fitness equipment and sporting goods stores. 

Iron Man magazine developed and sold Iron Man Super heavy Grip Developer in 1964. These heavy-duty grippers were quipped with steel handles and proved quite difficult to close.

Modified versions of the Iron Man gripper are still widely used today. 

How to Use Grippers

A simple and rudimentary gripping exercise, the gripper concept is an easy one to ‘grasp.’ 

Step 1: Hold the gripper by the handles in one hand

Step 2: Squeeze your fingers together in an effort to force the handles to close

Step 3: When the handles are closed or you are unable to move them any closer together, release the hold.

Step 4: Repeat the exercise until the desired number of reps has been achieved. 

Pacing: Historically, grippers were thought to carry the most benefit when used in high repetitions in rapid succession. While this may quicken reflexes in the forearm, it was later found that a better way to increase strength is to perform low repetitions of slowly executed squeezes using a more challenging gripper. 


  • Compact Design
  • Travels easy
  • Can be performed anywhere
  • Strengthens grip
  • Builds forearm musculature
  • Improves functional strength of the forearm
  • Improved forearm aesthetic
  • Quickens reflexes


Though the basic movement involves a one-handed grip and squeezing the handles together until they close, there are variations of the basic movement, including:

  • Negatives: Instead of holding the gripper closed and them allowing it to open, you resist the opening of the gripper
  • Strap Holds: After closing the gripper, you keep it closed, biting the handles down onto a strap with weight hanging from it
  • Varied Tempo Grips: Hold and release the grips with various levels of speed.
  • Partial Movements: If a gripper proves too difficult to close, just move it as close together as you can. 
  • Two-Handed Grip: If you cannot close the gripper single-handedly, you can use two hands until your forearm strength improves. 

If you don’t own a gripper, but want to increase your grip strength, squeezing a tennis ball can have a similar effect. 

Find the Gripper that’s Right For You

Though features may vary from brand to brand, most grippers are designed using a torsion spring with two handles. Exact dimensions and materials of the spring differ depending on the model but can be made using a variety of different types of steel. Handle materials can include, plastic, steel, wood, or aluminum. 

The heavier duty the materials, the harder the grip will be to close, so its recommended that you try out a variety of grippers to see which one works best for you.

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