I have been training back with straps for awhile and decided it is time to do some grip training. With straps I was able to build a bigger back and increased the amount I can lift in every back movement. For example, if you can handle 275 lbs in the barbell cheat row for several reps you should be able to handle around 425 lbs for the same amount of reps with straps.
This gap in strength isn’t a result of weak forearms or lack of grip strength but is rather the product of a strength increase made from pulling heavier weights that normally couldn’t be lifted without the aid of straps. This fortunately caused all my pulling muscles (back, lats, traps, and biceps) to grow extensively while my forearms didn’t get trained.
Many powerlifters use this approach to develop their grip strength by working with straps until they reach a target weight; then they focus on building the grip to match what they can lift with straps. Building grip strength can be accomplished in a relatively short time frame whereas the target weight they are trying to lift can take years to accomplish; for example, the target weight in the deadlift.
Many powerlifters only deadlift heavy once a week in order to prevent burning out the central nervous system. Forearms are a small muscle group and can be trained frequently for an extended period of time without consequence. A powerlifter can bring up his grip strength in a matter of 6 months whereas building a substantially heavy deadlift can take years of dedicated training.
There are many ways to build grip strength; however, if your focus is a heavy deadlift or a big back then it makes more sense to take advantage of movements you already perform such as deadlifts, rack pulls, shrugs, and barbell rows.
For deadlifts and rack pulls, isometric lockouts can be done using a double overhand grip. When doing this activity remember the principles of specificity. If you are building your grip to match your 1 rep max deadlift with straps then there is no point performing isometric lockouts for extended durations. A heavier weight held for 12 seconds is more effective in developing the grip for his specific goal than using less weight and holding for 30 to 60 seconds.
Another method to build the grip is to use a double overhand grip without straps for barbell rows and shrugs if you have already trained with straps for an extended period of time. Try starting with about half the weight you normally can use with straps in these exercises gradually increasing the weight over an extended period of time.
Training the grip using these methods is more effective than using other auxiliary exercises that have little or nothing to do with your specific goal.
Get strong with straps first as grip is usually the weak link. Once your target goal in the deadlift, shrug, or barbell row has been met then lose the straps and use the strength you have acquired in these lifts to get a grip on your back training.