Last year, I met a great coach named Matt Ellis from Primal Athlete Training Center, at a seminar I attended. It was great meeting him.
We sat down for lunch one day between sessions at the workshop, and we started talking about a possible resource we could put out for track and field throwers to help them develop their hand strength in a way to both increase their performance AND to prevent injuries from taking place.
In the short video below, I talk about our project and what it covers for the throwing athletes of Track and Field.
The DVD Artwork features Adrian Wilson. Adrian is a highly respected strength athlete, as well as an Elite Track and Field Thrower, 3X Highland Games World Champion, and she became the first Woman Certified as Captain of Crush.
If you are thrower or are a coach that works with throwers, make sure to sign up for updates regarding this DVD. In it, we should dozens of way to strengthen and bullet-proof the hands. And don’t worry about having to take out a second mortgage on your house to buy all the equipment. Many of the drills we show involve using equipment you already have at your gym, or things you can easily make yourself.
Shooting any gun requires careful precision in order to shoot accurately. It also requires you to have the strength to control the firearm, as well as the endurance to continue to exhibit this control throughout the full time shooting is done.
For someone who has never shot guns, they may not realize the level of strength that shooting a firearm requires. However, when you consider the overall weight of a rifle, shotgun, or muzzle loader, standing there shooting time after time can tired out the body if you are not used to it. After all, there is a reason a table is used to sight in a rifle for hunting season – this helps keep the gun still and takes strength and endurance out of the equation.
Although pistols are much lighter in comparison to rifles, shotguns, etc., the need for proper levels of strength in order to shoot accurately and maintain your accuracy for time is even more important because the pistol is held with the arms extended. This creates a lever through your upper body as you aim, so each joint from the core to the shoulder and out to the hand must maintain integrity, or else your shooting accuracy drops like a rock in a pond.
Without a doubt one of the biggest weak points when shooting a pistol will be the hands and wrists. Although many of the men and women who rely on pistols as part of their job are in excellent condition, often the training they do does not emphasis the grip very much, and can leave a whole in their physical strength that can hold back their shooting ability.
Here is a video I recently shot where I discuss how to strengthen the hands for shooting guns.
With this in mind, here are a few ways to improve your grip strength for shooting guns.
1. Increase Full Body Strength for Shooting a Gun
Some of you may already be doing some form of weight training, but if not, you should seek to bring up your overall body strength. Cardio is not enough. You need to hit the weights.
If you have never trained with weights, or if it has been a while, you are probably best off starting with some bodyweight work. Good Upper Body Bodyweight Exercises include Push-ups, Pull-ups, and Dips. For the Lower Body, you can’t beat Bodyweight Squat variations, lunges, and bridging.
After some time of this, you can move into some weight training. For general strength, you can stick with the basics. Always keep doing Pull-up and Chin-up variations, but also learn how to Bench Press, Overhead Press, Deadlift, Row, and Squat properly, and you will be well on your way to developing the full body strength that will keep your legs, core, and torso stable for handling a gun.
2. Increase Your Grip Strength for Shooting a Gun
There are hundreds of ways to increase your grip strength for shooting rifles, pistols and other firearms. This website has some great posts laying out some very good high-impact grip training exercises that will carry-over well for your shooting.
However, taking a “shotgun” approach (pardon the pun, but I couldn’t resist) when addressing your grip strength is a mistake. You should always have purpose in your training. With that, let’s outline each aspect of the grip that needs to be addressed in your training.
A. Hand Strength
When discussing grip training for firing a weapon, the important thing to remember is that you must include work where you actually hold and fire your weapon, for the sake of specificity. However, there are some ways you can use strength training tools at the gym to get your grip stronger in some degree of specificity, as well.
Crushing / Grippers: As one of my readers, Gary Reiche, wrote in, you must be able to squeeze a pistol with some appreciable force in order to control it. He says:
“I am an avid handgun shooter who trains grip using blobs, wrist movements etc, however the most important area to focus on is the crushing aspect for handguns, notably by using grippers. -Gary Reiche-”
When you train with your Grippers, don’t get stuck in the rut of just performing a bunch of repetitions when you train them. Remember, when you fire a gun, you must exert a longer, controlled squeeze for control, so make sure you duration of force with your grippers lines up well with the time that you will be shooting your firearm.
In other words, if it takes 8 seconds to empty all the rounds in your gun, then practice your holds for 8 seconds or even longer with your gripper. It is also not a bad idea to hold the gripper up and away from you, just as you would when you are aiming and firing a pistol.
Crush Grip Training for Pistol Shooting Hand Strength
Because the gripper is lighter than the pistol and entails less leverage, I’d also like to suggest some other drills that can help you build more well-rounded hand strength and to help to take your performance to an even higher level by working other areas of grip strength.
Pinch: The Grip used on the handle of a pistol is also a Pinch. When discussing Grip, Pinching is the type of grip where the thumb is the limiting factor. Usually the thumb works in opposition to the fingers, but in the case of shooting a pistol or other gun, the handle of the firearm is not really large enough for the thumb to work against the fingers and instead it works to secure the handle against the palm.
Plate Pinching is a fundamental way to train the hands with the thumb as the limiting factor. There are many combinations that can be used for Plate Pinching but some of these put the hand in a very wide open position. The grip on a pistol is fairly narrow, so Narrow Pinching is probably the best option.
Narrow Pinch for Pistol Grip Strength: Plate Pinch Plus Weight
For this drill you will need two 10-lb plates, a chain, carabiner, and loading pin. Put some weight on the loading pin and attach it to the chain. Pinch the plates and lift the extra weight off the ground.
This lift closely mimics the positioning of the thumb when gripping a pistol. Concentrate on 5- to 10-second holds and work both hands.
Open Hand Training: Of course, open hand training is always a good option for bringing up your general hand strength. Five years ago, this would have meant buying a thick handled dumbbell or an fat barbell (called an Axle), or wrapping something around the dumbbell to make it thicker, but these days, there is a much simpler option. Fat Gripz will pop right onto a dumbbell, barbell or other device (like a chin-up or pull-down bar). The investment is much less than a thick-handled dumbbell or fat axle, and much less cumbersome than wrapping a towel around the handle.
Fat Gripz Band Hold
Many people do not realize that Fat Gripz can be incorporated with bands, in addition to barbells and dumbbells. For this drill, choke a band of the appropriate strength level to a sturdy object. Attach the Fat Gripz handle to it and take a position as if holding a pistol. Be sure to cycle through all the grip positions used by both hands. The same type of drill can be done mimicking the position taken when shooting a rifle as well.
Please take note that I do not shoot pistols, so my technique may be somewhat off. Be sure to approach your resistance training the way you would your shooting by using the proper stance, body positioning, etc, when performing these drills.
Wrist Strength is important for shooting. The wrist needs to be strong in order to keep the gun steady, and it needs to have endurance in order to perform well over the duration of a shooting competition.
There are many great ways to train the wrists using leverage devices. Leverage devices can be just about anything where there is weight held out away from the hand. Hammers, sledgehammers, baseball bats, and even loadable dumbbell handles can be used to train the wrists.
Since the leverage experienced in shooting a pistol mostly takes place along the lines of deviation, these are the movement patterns that should be trained for pistol performance. From time to time, wrist flexion and extension exercises can also be peppered in for well-rounded development.
Leverage Bar Hold
This simple exercise can be done with any type of leverage device. Here, it is done with loadable dumbbell handles, which are a fairly common item at gyms and can be picked up for cheap at sporting goods stores.
Grip them by the end of one loading sleeve and hold them at your sides for time. This trains the muscles on the thumb-side of the wrist (the radial deviators), which can tire out when shooting a pistol, especially one-handed.
When you reach the point that an empty loadable is too light, feel free to add weight. If 2.5-lbs weights are too heavy for you, try balancing or hanging something across both handles for some extra resistance. Naturally, if the implements are too heavy, feel free to choke up on the handles.
Hybrid Grip Drill – PVC Banded Hold for Pistol Grip
I also came up with a pretty cool way to train the hands specifically for firing a pistol in an article I wrote a while back, called “Functional Grip Training for Law Enforcement.” This combines several of the disciplines we’ve already discussed.
“One of the challenges of aiming a gun, especially for those who are new to using a pistol, is the leverage of the heavier firearms in the out stretched arm. Their surprising weight causes new personnel to shake and become incapable of maintaining an accurate site picture, let alone an accurate shot. The following exercises will help strengthen the lower arms and wrists to be better prepared to aim and hold a gun.
For this exercise, you will need a length of PVC Pipe 1.5 to 2.5 inches in diameter about 5 inches long, a large carabiner, and some JumpStretch or other elastic training bands.
Run the band through the PVC Handle and clip the carabiner onto the bands. This will keep the bands from popping back out through the pipe. Next, choke the bands toward the bottom of a squat cage or other sturdy structure.
Stand several feet away from the squat cage, grasping the PVC pipe as if it were the handle of a firearm. Raise the handle upwards, attempting to keep it perfectly vertical. Once it reaches shoulder height, keep it there, performing holds for time, shooting for a solid 30 second hold.
Both hands can also be used on the device, allowing for more band tension to be used.”
There you have a few of the ways you can train your body and your lower arms for increased performance. Without a doubt, there are many, many more things you can do. Remember, shooting a pistol is very technical and requires physical strength throughout the body.
Also, as you can see, it is not necessary to always buy extremely expensive gear in order to train the grip. Sometimes all you need is already at the gym, or somewhere in your garage.
Any further questions, feel free to comment below, and do not be afraid to direct others who you shoot with you to this article and this site.
One movement that has become more and more common amongst gripper specialists and those who compete in Grip Contests is to have their grippers rated.
The way this is done is by using a device called the RGC to hold the gripper in place and then hang weight from the end of the handles until they touch together.
It is a very reliable process, and the results are often very repeatable.
Many people over the years, after having seen that I own a device called the RGC that will rate the strength of your hand grippers, have asked me to rate their grippers on my device. With the increased popularity of Gripper Ratings, I have decided to make this a service here on the site.
In the video below, I take you through the entire Gripper Rating Process:
Benefits of Having Your Grippers Rated
Comparisons Between Manufacturers: Having your grippers rated helps to be able to compare the strength of Grippers that are from different manufacturers that use different numbering systems, such as Heavy Grips and IronMind, as well as companies that do not assign a numeric value to their grippers, such as the Tetting/Beef Builders and Manus Grips.
Contest Preparation: On top of all that, it also makes it real easy for you to know where you are at as far as your current gripper strength and what to try to close at a contest. For instance, if you know that you are closing 145-lb rated #3 grippers in your training, then you know it is probably a safe bet that you will be able to close a gripper at that rating when you go to the competition.
Training Progression Models: Another advantage is that you can more easily apply classic progression models to your training when you have them rated. For instance, if your grippers are all rated and you know that you have a 120, 124, 129, and 133, then you can treat them as if you are adding weight to a barbell in the Bench Press or Deadlift, and go for a set of 6 with the 120, a set of 4 with the 124, hit some doubles on the 129, and then finish with some singles attempts on the 133.
There are so many benefits to having your grippers rated, that they far outweigh the negatives.
Negatives of Gripper Ratings
Handle Thickness: We can look at handle thickness as an example that throws off the ratings. For instance, as far as I know, Robert Baraban grippers have a slightly thicker handle. This makes them easier to close because you don’t need to move the handles as far. So even if the rating of an RB is equal to that of a Captain of Crush, the COC will most likely feel harder to close because you must force the handles together by moving a further distance.
Condition of Knurling: Also, things such as the condition of the knurling on your gripper handles can throw off the “feel” of the effort required to close a gripper. For instance, if you have 4 #3 grippers and two are about 10 years old, while the other two are only a few months old, then it is likely that the older grippers’ knurling is worn and the newer grippers’ knurling is more rough. The rougher knurling may make the #3 grippers feel a bit easier to close, even if the ratings of all the grippers come out the same. Remember, the rating device is testing the strength of the spring primarily.
And these are the types of points you will come to know as you train with your rated grippers more.
Over the last year, many people have asked me to rate their grippers. They love having their Grippers rated because it allows them to have numbers that actually mean something, versus the multiple number assignments that exist, which do not line up with one another.
Other Ideas I am Developing
I also plan on printing an informative packet on the gripper rating process for all customers who send me their grippers to rate. A major part of this packet will involve information on the rating process, specifics for my procedure, details of note regarding your specific grippers as well as how to keep your grippers in good condition for the long haul.
How to Get Your Grippers Rated
You will be able to send your grippers and I will put them through the rating process. The prices for this service are as follows:
$10 per Gripper for 1 to 4 Grippers
6 Grippers for $50
13 Grippers for $100
This cost includes return shipping on the Grippers (within the US).
I can do pretty much any gripper from IronMind, GHP, HG, Tetting/Beef Builder, Manus, etc.
I can not rate grippers like the HG400 and HG500 because their handles are too thick and will not sit in the guide on the rating device.
I also can not rate Vulcan Grippers or V2′s as they are too long to rest on the rating device.
To have your grippers rated, please contact me to let me know you will be shipping them through my email (jedd dot diesel at gmail dot com) or through Facebook. After Hearing back from me, please package them carefully and send them to the following address:
PO Box 806
Wyalusing PA 18853
I do ask that you wait until receiving word back from me before shipping grippers to me, as I would hate for you to ship them and have me be on vacation or traveling for work and cause a longer delay than is required because I am unavailable.
After the training methods I was introduced to by Paul Knight last year, I truly believe that knowing the strength of the grippers you are training with is an important key to seeing progress and continued development in your training.
When your grippers are rated, you can essentially line all of your grippers up from easiest to hardest and know within a pound or two, how closely each gripper compares with the next. When you have grippers from the various companies, having all of them rated can really help you out.
If you have any questions on the Gripper Rating Process, please let me know, by either emailing me (jedd dot diesel at gmail dot com) or call the Diesel Hotline: (607) 857-6997. Leave a message if I do not pick up.
In 2013, there is going to be some SERIOUS GRIPPER DAMAGE.
All the best in your training.
Get ALL the Info You NEED TO KNOW in Order to Dominate Grippers. Order CRUSH: Total Gripper Domination today.
If the bench Press is a lift that bothers your wrists as well, then I hope you check out the video below.
In it, I talk about the alignment of the wrist bones and how these bones interact with the bones of the hand and forearm. In addition, I also talk about how to take care of the wrists to keep them feeling good so that they do not affect your Bench Press training.
So, in review, make sure to keep these three points in mind when you are Benching:
Warm-up: Get some blood flowing into your hands and wrists so that the tissues become more pliable and you can better exert force into the bar.
Stretch Between Sets: You would be surprised how much of a difference it makes for your wrists if you do some light stretching between sets. The Thumb + First Two Stretch that I show in the video above is a favorite of mine.
Use Proper Technique: Part of the correct bench press technique is to keep the wrist straight. Having the wrist bent way back can cause extreme pressure in the wrist. This change may feel weird at first, but over time you will grow used to it and enjoy the reduction of nagging pain in the wrist.
I think these slight changes in your technique, preparation, and approach will pay big dividends for you in your training, by helping you to avoid wrist pain.
If you are experiencing wrist pain, and you want to end it for good, you should check out Fix My Wrist Pain. Rick Kaselj and I worked together on this and it is helping people out already.
Special Introductory Price ($27) Ends Tonight – Grab FMWP Today!
If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below and I will be glad to get back with you.