Best Grip Strengtheners: The Top 5 of 2018
|Grip Strengthener||Score||MSRP||Handle Material||Individual Fingers?||Adjustable?|
|Top Pick: IronMind Captains of Crush Hand Gripper||
|Best Finger Trainer: Gripmaster Pro Hand Exerciser||
|Best Value: Luxon Hand Grip Strengthener||
|Gripmaster Hand Exerciser||
|Kootek Hand Grip Strengthener||
We bought five of the best grip strengtheners and tested them on hands of all sizes. The IronMind Captains of Crush Hand Gripper is our favorite thanks to its efficacy and superior build quality.
For how simple it is to train, grip strength is frequently neglected. What’s more, its applications are surprisingly diverse.
Power lifters are probably the biggest beneficiaries, but everyone from pianists to rock climbers cares about grip strength. And we could all use a little more confidence in our handshake, right?
Luckily, training grip is neither difficult nor expensive. Specialized disciplines may call for specialized training, but there’s just one fundamental exercise: squeeze really hard.
All these products help accomplish that goal. What’s more, they’re all fairly good. I’m reasonably confident that with a well-structured program any of these five devices could help you effectively build grip strength.
All the same, differences in build and budget make for different experiences. For individual details, read on.
Top Pick: IronMind Captains of Crush Hand Gripper
Thanks in part to its catchy name, the Captains of Crush Hand Gripper is a popular and time-tested option among grip strengtheners.
After living with one for a month, it’s not too hard to see why.
Of all the devices we tested, this is the one that felt most like a true piece of gym equipment. Burly, ergonomic, simple, and brutally efficient.
The design is straightforward: two diamond-textured handles separated by a simple three-coil spring.
Forged of aluminum and steel, the Gripper is hefty but not too heavy. With no moving parts, the device is as durable as they come.
The handle angle fits neatly in the hand and allows a full range of motion. With this device, it was easy to execute a simple and effective hand workout.
IronMind is on your side here — they provide helpful training instructions on the packaging and offer a downloadable training booklet. Their advice is sound: warm up, focus on quality over quantity, and train progressively.
That last recommendation is where the Gripper falters slightly. IronMind offers a wide range of resistances (up to a seriously beefy 365 pounds), but you’ll have to buy an individual Gripper for each one.
Progressing requires a significant investment. IronMind recommends having a warm-up Gripper, a work-set gripper, and a stretch-goal gripper.
That’s a noble aim, but even a single Gripper is the most expensive device in our test. Not everyone has that much cash to spend on their grip.
Dinging accessibility even further, testers with especially small hands found the Gripper less usable. Most managed well enough, but the petite-fingered were forced to slide their hands up the handles, decreasing leverage and comfort.
And while 60 pounds is a decent introductory resistance, it may still be too heavy for some.
As a result, the Gripper is best for the devotee. If grip strength isn’t a priority, one of the cheaper or adjustable grip strengtheners will get the job done. But if you’re serious about training, the Captains of Crush Hand Gripper is as good as it gets.
Best Finger Trainer: Gripmaster Pro Hand Exerciser
This category is worth setting on its own, because not all strengtheners can target individual fingers.
In fact, Gripmaster (in various forms) seems to have that niche cornered.
For disciplines like climbing or music, training individual fingers may be critical. If you’ve never tried a Gripmaster, you may be surprised at how relatively weak some of your fingers are.
Luckily, Gripmaster delivers a solid product. The primary differences between the Gripmaster Pro and the regular Gripmaster (reviewed below) are the Pro’s larger range of motion and padded finger surfaces.
The Pro also offers a heavier maximum tension, although, like the Captains of Crush Hand Gripper, it isn’t adjustable so you’ll have to buy a new device when you progress.
Those virtues make the Pro the choice for gripsters who are serious about finger strength.
The larger range of motion makes workouts much more efficient, and the padded fingertips make difficult workouts more comfortable. Dedicated trainees will likely exceed the regular Gripmaster’s maximum tension of 9 pounds per finger.
The Pro is not without its flaws. We found the palm-rest shape to be slightly less secure and comfortable than the regular Gripmaster, thanks to the lack of a thumb-side tab. The larger range of motion was less friendly for testers with small hands, some of whom found the device too wide to be ergonomic.
The Pro is also the second most expensive device in our test. It’s not too much more than the regular Gripmaster, but it still requires multiple buys to progress.
For all these reasons, the Gripmaster Pro is best suited to serious trainees with medium to large hands.
Best Value: Luxon Hand Grip Strengthener
The price of the Luxon strengthener is in the ballpark of most of our devices, but it comes in packs of two.
As long as you can buy with a friend, that makes it an excellent budget pick.
For the price, the Luxon device is versatile, accessible, and surprisingly effective. It’s not the most sophisticated or durable gripper, but it gets the job done, especially for beginners.
The Luxon’s primary virtue is its adjustability. The two handles are connected by a hinge, which sits below a spring with a screw-adjusted length. Lengthening the spring increases tension at the handles.
The tension begins at a mild 22 pounds, which is friendly enough for almost anyone to train. The screw is intuitive and takes only seconds to adjust.
The spectrum maxes out at 120 pounds. We found this resistance level to be plenty for all but the most serious trainees.
The downside is comfort. Most testers found the Luxon trainer less ergonomic, and the thinly padded plastic isn’t as comfortable during workouts. On the other hand, testers with small hands still found a good grip on the Luxon.
The chief argument in the Luxon’s favor is value. If you were serious about gains but only wanted to buy a single gripper, this is the one to get. It’s simple and not quite as well crafted as other options, but it’s effective nonetheless.
And if the Luxon price jumps or you only want a single device, shop around — duplicates litter Amazon.
The conventional Gripmaster is still a good option for anyone looking to target specific fingers.
It’s more approachable than the Gripmaster Pro, and although it won’t take you quite as far, it may be a better option for some.
Despite our test models having the same claimed finger tension, the traditional Gripmaster feels like an easier squeeze.
That’s mostly down to a smaller range of motion, which also makes the original friendlier for those with small hands.
The rubber palm grip can chafe over time, but it’s secure and ergonomic. The finger pads have no padding, which makes them a little less comfortable than those on the Pro.
But the Gripmaster still delivers on its essential promise, which is a training program that encompasses all the fingers. The tension for the Gripmaster starts at just 1.5 pounds per finger, which is an accessible entry point for beginners or grip rehab.
This Gripmaster isn’t adjustable either, but at $14.95 retail it’s among the cheaper devices in the test. If you don’t need a heavy-duty finger trainer, or your digits are suited to a smaller size, the Gripmaster won’t disappoint.
At first glance, the Kootek grip strengthener seems to promise the best of both worlds. It shares the basic design of the Captains of Crush Hand Gripper but offers adjustable tension.
In practice, neither aspect is executed well enough to take home any awards. The Kootek is still a competent strengthener, it just wouldn’t be our first choice.
The aluminum alloy handles are a hair smaller in diameter than the Captains of Crush, and as a result they dig into the hands more.
The angle of pull is altered as well, which makes the motion feel less ergonomic.
The adjustability is functional but not particularly pleasant. The design is innovative — the top portion of each handle unscrews, allowing the inner beam to slide out.
The greater the distance between the handles and the coils, the lesser the tension. Kootek claims a range of 50-150 pounds, but the heavier tensions feel light for the weight, and tension isn’t always consistent throughout the range of motion.
To make matters worse, the inner aluminum arm is coated in a grease-like lubricant. That makes adjustment easy, but it also means that your table (not to mention your hands) are likely to get some secondhand grease.
Needless to say, that’s not ideal for grip training. The screw-top handles are a little finicky to manipulate, especially when re-screwing after adjustment.
All in all, the Kootek is a little more trouble than it’s worth. That’s a shame, because at just $12.99 retail as of this writing it would be a good value.
As a budget-friendly intro trainer, it’s still not a terrible option. But for most trainees, we feel there are better buys.
Here are the best grip strengtheners:
- IronMind Captains of Crush Hand Gripper
- Gripmaster Pro Hand Exerciser
- Luxon Hand Grip Strengthener
- Gripmaster Hand Exerciser
- Kootek Hand Grip Strengthener
How to Choose the Best Grip Strengthener for Your Needs
Types of Grip Strengtheners
The strengtheners in this test fall into a few basic categories, which I’ll call coil, spring, and articulated.
Coil strengtheners are built around a coil of metal (in this case, aluminum alloy). The gripping motion tightens the coil, which returns to its original position on the negative of each rep. The IronMind and Kootek devices fall into this category.
Spring-based strengtheners have handles separated by a hinge and bound by a spring. The tension and length of the spring dictate the difficulty of the squeeze. The Luxon strengthener is an example of a spring-based strengthener.
Finally, articulated strengtheners allow each finger to be squeezed individually. They’re built around a series of springs, which separate the contact patches from a central platform. The Gripmaster series is the most popular line of articulated grip strengtheners.
As a side note, all these grip strengtheners train what Breaking Muscle calls crush strength, or the grip between your fingers and your palm. Climbers looking to train pinch strength will need different exercises, and grip endurance requires a different approach.
For crush strength, however, choosing a grip strengthener comes down to a few basic priorities.
Do You Need to Train Individual Fingers?
This question is down to what you need your grip for. If you’re a lifter or want a strong handshake, it’s fine (and even preferable) to train the grip all at once. After all, that’s how you’ll be using it. These trainees ought to look at coil and spring strengtheners.
Climbers, guitarists, and pianists may want a more targeted approach. These disciplines call for dexterity and strength in each digit — many climbing holds only have room for a finger or two. Trainees looking to assess individual fingers should look into articulated strengtheners.
Fixed vs. Adjustable
Fixed-tension grip strengtheners are set at a particular resistance level. Once you outgrow one you’ll have to buy a new device to advance. Many brands offer their strengtheners in multiple tension levels.
If you’re serious about grip training, the static strengtheners are the more efficient and well-built group. They have fewer moving parts and are built to last — just be prepared for the cost.
Adjustable grip strengtheners may be customized for different hands and tension levels. Most offer plenty of range, especially at beginner-friendly resistance levels.
If you’re just starting, or you’re not sure that you’ll want to invest in multiple devices, an adjustable strengthener is your best bet. The Luxon and Kootek devices are both adjustable.
A strengthener that you can’t pull is useless, but one that’s too easy won’t help you progress. For many beginners, a light-to-medium tension will probably be within reach.
Still, you won’t truly know until you get your hands on one and try. Return for a different tension if necessary. If in doubt, you can always just buy an adjustable device.
How We Tested
This was a simple test. There’s only one thing to do with grip strengtheners — squeeze. For the testing period, I used all five grip trainers to consistently train my own grip.
To double-check my impressions, I handed the devices over to a few friends with hand shapes of varying sizes. They all put in brief workouts with each device to see how ergonomics and efficiency held up across different hand sizes and shapes.
Devices were then scored in three basic categories. Efficiency and usability were the primary score categories, with a modifier for adjustability.
How effectively does the device tax my grip? How often and how quickly do I achieve a quality workout?
How intuitive is the device to use? How ergonomic is the design? How comfortable am I during workouts?
How much can I control the tension of the device? How much can the device grow with me through my training?