Does anyone know if the forearm grab/hold (both people holding each other's forearms) provides more grip/strength then the normal wrist to wrist grab (similar to traditional handshake) if you are trying to pull someone - let's say hanging from a height.

two hands clasped together palm to palm

hands clasped around the others forarms

For the second picture I'd like to clarify that both people are holding each other's forearms. Asking this question because I started wondering as I've seen both versions on TV and was wondering if the 2nd one is even viable in any situation or it's pointless compared to the 1st one.

  • Your first picture shows them grabbing each other's thumbs, with the load being taken in more of a hook grip secured by the thumb hold. Not quite a handshake. Also are you worried just about the security of the grip, or associated risks (injury)?
    – Chris H
    Jan 21, 2019 at 17:26
  • 1
    Mostly about security as to 1 person slipping and falling, but I'd like to also know associated risks to both.
    – Swaftt
    Jan 21, 2019 at 20:44
  • Second better than first, but neither as good as grabbing each others' elbows, when you are close enough. Jun 23, 2021 at 16:57

2 Answers 2


The first is not recommended, the reason being that the hold is only as strong as the weaker person's grip. If that grip fails then the other is in practice holding only their thumb. You're not going to be picking someone up by their thumb. It's also dependent on wrist and bicep strength to hold the hands in a valid position to load the grip. You'll this on TV because it's very bicep dependent and good for showing off the build of your actor. As a general rule, never use it outside providing token support.

The second gives the combined grip strength of both persons. If one fails then the second would still have a firm grip on a solid part of their person. It allows better bracing of your feet and pulling against lat and core strength rather than just arm strength. It fails against the first only in terms of flexibility of support, but that is also one of its strengths.

You can test this with the assistance of another person, load each as much as you can then have one person release their grip and see what happens.

  • You might want to add an additional point -- in the case that only the same two arms are involved (ie, R-R or L-L): Method one doesn't work at all; no grip is obtained. Method two still works just as well.
    – Martin F
    Feb 25, 2023 at 22:07

The position that the first picture represents provides a more natural hand position, with a lot less strain for the wrist. Also, you are holding a thinner part of your partner's body (the hand) which is more ergonomic and therefore, easier to grip than a wide forearm (picture yourself trying to grip a small baseball or a big basketball, which is easier to hold?).

The second picture (forearm grip) is the exact opposite. The unnatural hand position and the awkward wrist strain equals a more difficult hold, partially loosing the ability to grip with the ring and pinky fingers.

Also, the first kind of hold frees the wrist, allowing more mobility, which might be useful in order to lift someone using an angle that is not straight up (let's say you are laying down on top of a cliff, perpendicular to the fall)

That being said, the only case I would see the second one being more effective would be when both of you have terribly sweaty palms and the contact of both of them together increases the sweating. But generally, I would say the first one is the best one, for the reasons stated above.

I didn't find that info in the internet, I'm just talking from personal experience (rock climbing and aerial silks)

  • IME the first grip works quite well when wet, helping someone out of the water (is sweat or river water slipperier?) But then you're not generally taking all their weight, and the angles work well
    – Chris H
    Jan 21, 2019 at 20:04
  • 2
    @ChrisH, that's what buoyancy aid shoulder straps are for, paddlers come with handles :)
    – Separatrix
    Jan 23, 2019 at 15:14
  • @Separatrix often true, but it's good to have a choice of stance on a slippery bank, and this gives more options. I'm not saying I could come anywhere near bicep-curling the people I paddle with, but I'm more often than not the rescuer and considerably bigger than them.
    – Chris H
    Jan 23, 2019 at 16:11

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