I’m occasionally asked Is the Rice Bucket good for strengthening the hands?” I reply:
No. They are a waste of time.
The Rice Bucket has been around a long time – it was recommended to me when I was 10 years old. I did them, but even at a young age didn’t find them effective. For rehab it can be an effective tool, but as a recommendation for athletes to build grip strength…I stand by my answer.
No – the rice bucket isn’t a good tool to build grip strength. Here’s why:
1. “Strength” is a Specific Term
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Nothing that you can do for dozens of reps or for countless minutes can be deemed a strength exercise. If we’re really being specific, anything you can do for more than 5 reps or a handful of seconds isn’t really developing strength, either.
Distance running? Not strength. 100 ab crunches? Not strength. Sets of 20 front squats? Not strength.
Rice Bucket for 5 minutes, resulting in a moderate “burn” of the forearms – NOT strength.
2. Your Grandma Could Do Them
Watch the following video. Your grandma could do this. Don’t tell me she couldn’t. Do you want real strength, or grandma strength? Again – for rehab, the rice bucket can be a good tool. But for building forearms that will improve athletic performance? Not so much.
3. Strong People Didn’t Get Strong Doing Them
When’s the last time you saw a 250lb guy with a 600 pound deadlift telling you to build your forearms this way? Do you think he got to be able to hold such massive amounts of weight in his hands by flicking rice around? No.
Rather, he got there by moving heavy weights with his hands.
Many of the people who will recommend these are old and/or scrawny – do you really want their advice about how to get strong hands and forearms? The actually strong people are carrying heavy things around or pulling their bodyweight up with their fingers (climbers).
Would 5 minutes of Rice bucket or 5 minutes of the following farmers walks increase grip strength more? Do you really have to think about it?
4. There Are Lots of Better Exercises Grip Exercises.
If you want to build a stronger grip and bigger forearms, there are countless exercises that would be more beneficial in the same amount of time you would spend doing rice flicks.
The Tommy John rehab circuit is one of them, and it covers all 6 motions of the forearm. This is a great circuit for baseball and softball players. Plus, you can do these exercises with legitimate weight and progressively load over time, which is essential for longterm strength gains.
Flicking and crunching rice in a bucket has very little resistance. Just because it gives you a burn after 5 minutes doesn’t make it useful. Many people believe that feeling a burn means its working for them, but feeling a burn isn’t always a good indicator that a performance goal is being met.
5. They’re Rehab-Level Resistance
Again – the level of resistance the rice is going to provide is negligible.
As of this article, my best rack hold is 585lbs for 15 seconds. How is crunching my hands into a bucket of rice going to improve on my already high level of grip strength? They may help keep my forearms healthy – which is definitely beneficial – but they won’t make them stronger.
6. They’re Not Progressive
How do you get better at rice bucket drills? Do them longer, I assume.
If doing them longer is the answer, then again – not a strength exercise, not something that will set a foundation for an athlete.
Do you get rice-shaped lead? A jacuzzi full of the grain? Go to China and dig your way back home through the center of the earth? There’s really no way to get better at it and prove that you’re continuing to get “stronger.”
Sure, people may just say that rice bucket drills are to be mixed into a regimen and not really progressed, but screw that – I can prescribe dozens of progressive and highly effective grip strength exercises that are proven to create elite grip strength. The bucket can’t deliver on that, and the old guy who’s recommending it to you probably can’t either.
7. They Don’t Create Balanced Musculature
If your grip is strong, performing super-light rehab exercises like the rice bucket isn’t going to balance out your forearm and hand musculature. A sprinter with super strong quads needs super strong hamstrings and glutes to balance his legs – performing heavy strength exercise with one and not the other doesn’t cut it.
To train your crushing grip to be very strong, then mixing in a low-resistance exercise like rice drills for the rest of the forearm movements (again – there are 6 directions of movement controlled by the forearm that combine to create all the motions we use) is missing the point. If you train for strength in one movement you need to train for strength in the others, lest ye have a big imbalance and predisposition for injury.
Does The Rice Bucket Have a Use?
As a strength builder, no. It’s for this reason that it concerns me when folks recommend the rice bucket to young athletes to build their forearms up.
The rice bucket can have its place – rehab for hand injuries or overuse – folks like climbers swear by them, and people with finger-relate ailments could benefit from the motion.
But, the rice bucket is not a great use of time for developing legitimate grip strength. For any amount of time spent on it, I could do infinitely more productive exercises to build hand and finger strength. Even if it’s only 1 minute per day, I’d rather be doing something else for my hands.
What To Do Instead
#1. Use Thick Grips on Your Barbells and Handles.
By gripping a thicker handle, you force your hand to work harder to maintain a solid grip, especially as it’s going through a range of motion. Fat Grips are cheap and effective, and you can take them with in your gym bag.
Check out Shark Grips here [affiliate link]
#2. Ironmind Captains of Crush Grippers
These are the gold standard of heavy grippers – they make them so tough, that most men can’t even close the easiest versions. Definitely check these out.
Check out Captains of Crush Here [affiliate link]
#3. Metolius Rock Rings
These are great hand grips that you can use in the gym. They’re also very compact, durable, and will challenge your hands in numerous ways. They are a training device for rock climbers.
Check Out Rock Rings Here [affiiate link]
Build Your Grip!
No Matter What You Do, You’re On the Right Track…A Stronger Grip Is CRUCIAL In Almost Any Sport You Play.