The Benefits of Towel Pull-Ups, Rows, and Much More

Believe it or otherwise, you have a tool that may strengthen your grip sitting in your room, and you probably apply it everything but grip training each day. What’s this magic exercise implement? A towel. Probably the most underutilized tools for challenging and creating a stronger grip.

More than likely, you’ve probably seen a towel employed for pull-ups or other movement variations before, but maybe you have tired structuring a workout around it? Grip can be quite essential in strength sports, as it’s relevant for literally nearly every movement you perform in the gym (sans some leg movements). Training this limiting factor could be frustrating sometimes since the grip is a little more complicated than simply just grabbing an object and squeezing tight.

Like anything else during a workout session, we should approach grip with progressions, variations, and differences in intensities. In the following paragraphs, we’ll discuss types of grip strength, muscles needed to strengthen grip,?research that’s been done on kinds of towel exercises, benefits, towel variations, and supply a sample workout. Consider this your towel grip training handbook.

Grip and Back Muscles

Types of Grip Training

Three Kinds of Grip

Before diving into towel-specific training, it’s probably a good idea to comprehend the various ways we can train our grip. In terms of grip training, you will find often 3 ways described that people use,

  • Pinching – The use of the hand and fingers to make a force that’s held beyond heavy forearm use. This is typically trained with things like plate pinches, which only include the thumb and fingers.
  • Gripping – The mixture of our hand’s grip and forearm to create force. This could be trained with pulling movements.
  • Crushing – Using the hand and forearm to squeeze or crush something. This would resemble most grip training devices or grip specific machines.

To produce a sound and equal grip, it’s beneficial to train all three aspects. The “gripping” category is truly the most important and most frequently trained element, but training another two with purpose is simply as important. Also, a failing grip could be indicative of where you might be falling short in one of the three grip types.

Grip Training Musculature

Forearm Musculature

In reality, top of the arm’s muscles will be involved to some extent in grip training, too, especially in “gripping” movements, but for this article, we’ll cap the musculature to the forearm and below. Multiple muscles will be involved with gripping and they’ll be predominately the flexor muscles of the forearm, or the muscles which make your fist curl inwards.

Forearm Muscles and Grip Training

Since towel grip training involves primarily “crushing” and “gripping” most the above muscles will be used to some extent throughout each one of the variations. The degrees may change slightly with respect to the angle where the pulling/squeezing is happening, and how the towel is being used.

Hand Musculature

Similar to the forearm, the hand muscles will be receiving worked in pretty much every type of exercise which involves the grip in the gym. Here is a diagram which includes the muscles of the hand.

Grip Training and Hand Muscles

For towel variations, the hand musculature is slightly more relevant because this workout implement involves a higher degree of crushing strength to ensure we don’t lose our grip throughout movements, and the hand is remains in a state of producing lots of force.

Towel Grip Variations and Science

Unsurprisingly, there hasn’t been a ton of research performed on towel exercise variations and also the musculature they benefit. Although, this study from 2017 compared the conventional pull-up, suspension device pull-up, and towel pull-up and variations in muscles worked between the three.

In the research, researchers analyzed 15 healthy resistance trained men and women coupled with them perform 3-reps for each pull-up variation. To be contained in the study, subjects had to be capable of singing five consecutive bodyweight pull-ups, so they had prior pull-up experience.

For the study, researchers analyzed the electromyography (EMG) of the latissimus dorsi, biceps brachii, mid-trapezius, and posterior deltoid. Researchers found that all the variations facilitate similar effects on muscles analyzed. One difference they found could be that the middle trapezius was slightly lower in the towel variation, but the latissimus dorsi was higher for towel pull-ups.

When you consider the possibility rise in flexibility for that towel pull-ups the higher activation is sensible. Unfortunately, this research didn’t take a look at grip EMG, however it was still being cool seeing similar benefits its the variations, aka performing them in some places will not likely limit progress for bigger muscle groups if grip is your goal.

Benefits of Towel Grip Training

A few of the benefits which come along with towel grip training really are a little subjective, and every athlete may find that they benefit them for different reasons. Below are three from the bigger advantages to supplementing towels in your workouts to strengthen grip.

Crushing and Gripping

Arguably the biggest advantage of using towels in exercises is that they heavily train two specific regions of grip. Both of these areas include “gripping”, which is standard with many pulling movements, and they also train an athlete’s “crushing” strength because of the forced squeezing of the towel to support one’s bodyweight and external weight.

Increased Selection of Motion

This was mentioned previously within the science portion, but using towels may allow athletes to improve their range of motion for various movements, which could help muscle activation and movement mechanics. With many towel variations, an athlete can pull themselves higher to some bar or perhaps a weight nearer to the body

Free, Fun, and Challenging

The last benefit is among the most common sensical, but towels are great because they’re free to use and are a relatively safe method to challenge yourself. Most have use of towels within their gym and nearly every type of strength athlete may benefit by challenging their grip here and there.

Towel Grip Variations

1. Towel Pull-Ups

The biggest variation you’ll see used with a towel may be the pull-up. This requires whether longer bath towel or two smaller hand towels. If you’re just beginning, and have smaller hands, you might wish to take the two smaller hand towels.

Author’s Note: Make sure to grip the towel evenly on both sides to ensure a well-balanced pull. You may also perform all of them one towel.?

2. Side-to-Side Towel Pull-Ups

You can perform side-to-side pull-ups on a regular bar, however it can seem to be awkward sometimes, specifically for individuals with shoulder injuries. One way to train this variation and test your grip is adding a towel, which could also assist you to improve your flexibility at the top.

3. Towel Hangs

Towel hangs are an underutilized tool for grip-specific training, and they could be a great finisher following a long day of lifting. Similar to how you’d set up for any towel pull-up, you’ll hang each one or two towels from the rack, then rather than physically lifting yourself – simply grip and hang.

There really are a couple various ways you are able to train these, and below we’ve included a number of the variations.

  • Standard holds for sets and time.
  • Uneven holds where one for reds is higher than the other, that will cause slight additional flexion somewhere (something a bar can’t do).?
  • Single-arm holds with light ground touching (since you’re training crushing too), or completely hanging free.?

4. Towel T-Bar Rows

T-Bar rows are awesome for multiple reasons, mostly because they’re a terrific way to train the upper/mid-back whilst teaching strong lifting postures. With the addition of a towel you can increase the flexibility with this movement, along with the amount of grip strength it takes. Plus, you can perform these with lighter in weight and higher reps if you’re a new comer to towel training and wish check your grip benefit.

Author’s Note, to achieve better range of motion – take smaller plates!

5. Towel Inverted Row

This movement can look similar to your standard inverted row, but rather need you to use two hand towels as leverage to pull yourself up. One down side to this variation is that your flexibility will in fact be slightly decreased because of the towels, although, it’s a great progression for training bodyweight movements having a towel.

Towel Grip Training Workout

Grip Finisher Workout

The workout below can be used as a finisher or additional grip-focused training day. If you have trouble performing any of the reps, sets, or movements, then try to cut back the intensity to advance accordingly.

  • A1. Towel Pull-Ups: 3 x 5 (Tempo: 301
  • B1. Towel T-Bar Rows: Thrice 8
  • C1. Partial Side-to-Side Towel Pull-Ups: 2 x 4
  • C2. Towels Hangs: 2 x 20-seconds

Other Grip Training Articles

Outside of this towel-focused article, we’ve compiled a strong list of content to help you enhance your grip. Here are four of our favorite BarBend articles that focus on creating a stronger grip for every strength sport.

  • 9 Best Movements for any Stronger Grip
  • Grip Exercises Borrowed From Rock Climbers
  • How to coach Grip for Strongman
  • Grip Training Tips In the Dinnie Stones World Record Holder

Wrapping Up

Using towel training to enhance your grip is a fun, challenging, and non-committal way to potentially improve your grip strength. The use of towels doesn’t require a full change in programming, that is an added perk they need to offer. In addition, the use of towels is free of charge and virtually any athlete could benefit from their use.

Editor\’s note: This information is an op-ed. The views expressed herein as well as in the recording are the author\’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.