Grip Sport Championship 2011
The North American Grip Sport National Championship is in the books. It is amazing how months and months of preparation culminates in one day of chaos and then is just over in the blink of an eye, but what an amazing competition it was!
This year, the competition was held in Crooksville, Ohio. For the past few years, I have held it here in Bradford County, either at the Edge in Towanda or here in my garage in Wyalusing. This year, I changed the venue as a way to make it easier for the competitors to get there and attend this awesome showdown, and it made a huge difference this year, nearly doubling the crowd from 2009 and more than doubling the turnout from 2010.
Aside from the change of venus, there were a few other things that were changed or added in order to enhance the contest and make it more appealing for the competitors to attend.
Last Fall, I came up with several Divisions based on past performance and experience level in Grip. For instance, for anyone who totaled 800-lbs between Rated Grippers, Axle Deadlift, and Two Hand Pinch, they were given “Elite” status. This was patterned after the title of Elite used in Powerlifting, and it also was chosen to give a pat on the back to EliteFTS which is a company who has supported us here at Diesel Crew greatly over the years.
By separating the Elite competitors out of the main group of athletes, the “Open” division, it enabled much of the core group of Open competitors to battle it out more intensely. Most sports have classes such as this and I feel it was a good move. It can be intimidating to go against a guy like Andrew Durniat who already has a National Championship win under his belt in your first contest, and it can get frustrating having to go against guys like him for years and years, so I am glad everything went well with these Divisions.
Also, this year, I implemented a Novice Class at Nationals. These would be competitors in their first year of competition. Many questioned why I would let Novices compete at Nationals if they haven’t really “proven themselves worthy” to be at this level of competition, but I went with it anyway, because when it comes to grip competitions, there is no better way to improve than to actually compete and between Nationals, Gripmas, the Texas comps, Michigan, and the Arizona comps, there is no better level of competition out there.
One other controversial decision I made this year was allowing Wild Card events in the Weekly Diesel Grip Challenge to give people an actual chance to go to Nationals. This year, we had four people qualify for Nationals in this manner. Only one of them was able to make it to the competition, which was disappointing, but each competitor that couldn’t make it certainly had good reasons to miss it.
So, what we ended up with was a group of 3 competitors in the Elite category – Andrew Durniat, Adam Glass, and me, Jedd Johnson. In the Open category, we had Mike Rinderle (D.C.), Brent Barbe (Pittsburgh), Chris Rice (Crooksville, OH), Tim Struse (Tuscon, AZ), Nick Rosendaul (Columbus, OH), Matt Cannon (Minneapolis), and Josh Dale (St. Louis). Most of this group are perennial competitors at Nationals or Gripmas. Tim Struse actually put on his own competition this year in AZ. Matt Cannon is fairly new to the Grip Sport scene, and may actually be considered a Novice by competitive experience, but he chose to waive that status, which is an option for any Novice competitor (you just can’t go back to Novice after competing Open).
In the Novice class at Nationals, we had Malcolm Majesky (Wooster, OH), Matt Massaro (Wooster, OH), Austin Acree (Minneapolis, MN) and Daniel Reinard, who flew in from Los Angeles, Cali.
Not a single person that competed in the Novice class could be ashamed of their performance. Each one of them put up numbers that were deserving of Open status, and I expect most of them will compete as Opens upon their next opportunity to compete.
Also, I wanted to point out, that you can’t just sign up for Nationals and compete. You have to meet qualification standards. There are many different standards that were implemented this year, and they range from breaking established contest records, to certifying as Captains of Crush, Mash Monsters, or Red Nail Benders, to lifting certain numbers on designated recognized Grip Sport Lifts, and even for attaining certain feats of strength in a Grip Sport medley.
So without going into too much detail, each and every person at Nationals earned their spot in one way or another.
This year the events were similar to other comps and also at the same time a bit different from normal competitions. The first two events, Grippers and Two Hands Pinch are almost always the first two events in any Grip Sport contest, but after that, things got a little different. The third event was the Medley, which involves lifting and loading many items, just like a medley in a Strongman comp. This year it was put third instead of the normal last place because the fourth event, the Wrist Roller, would have wreaked havoc on Medley strength, and the Medley is one of the funnest events in a contest, so I did not want to hinder people’s performance. The final event was the Stronger Grip Plateau Buster. A One-Hand Deadlift, I placed it last because of its ability to tear calluses and I didn’;t want anyone’s performance in later events hindered because of it.
The way we contest Grippers in Grip Contests is we set the gripper handles to parallel with the off hand. This is done not as a way to cheat the feat, but as a way to give everyone a fair chance on them, regardless of hand size. In addition, because of the requirement to check the set depth with a 20-mm block in the World’s Strongest Hands Series, we also swiped that very same block through the handles at Nationals. To my knowledge, having to hold the gripper in the set, swipe the block, and then close it down affected no one adversely. In fact, I know that Andrew closed a gripper rated at roughly 9-lbs heavier than what he closed last year at Nationals. Tim Struse closed this same 191-rated gripper and nearly got a 195, which is unbelievable. I actually closed the same gripper this year as I did last year, 182-lbs, so the block set did not hinder me, either, and I tied with Adam Glass.
TWO HANDS PINCH
This event has been held at the Nationals / Global Grip Challenge (former name of my contest) since its inception in 2005. It uses an adjustable apparatus that I actually show you how to build in Home Made Strength II – Grip Strength Edition. Because it is adjustable, each athlete can compete at any width he chooses, whereas prior to 2005, normally two 45-lb plates would be used, which would really make it hard on smaller handed individuals.
I was extremely happy with my performance in this event, as I moved up my number as the World Record Holder. In November 2010, I pushed my mark to 262 and at nationals I moved it to 264, also trying 271, breaking it off the ground.
Shot #1 by Melissa Rinderle:
Shot #2 by Darrin Shallman:
My back was pretty badly injured, so I was very reserved in my celebration, but I can tell you for sure that I was ecstatic beyond belief when I lifting the implement to the crossbar at 16.5 inches, nearly pulling it to lockout, before setting it back down under control.
Another highlight was that Adam Glass got 240-lbs on his best attempt. This event still has proven to be a challenge for Andrew to master, essentially the only Grip event known to the world that he has had trouble on. In total, 7 competitors lifted over 200-lbs, and there were also a couple of Bodyweight+ Pinchers, notably Adam, Daniel, and Cannon. Awesome stuff.
The Medley at Nationals was the biggest one ever, totaling over 50 items and allowing for nearly 70 points. As I always like to introduce new aspects into the medley, this year I instituted a Power Stairs portion and a High Box portion. The Power Stairs were built by my good friend Sean Dockery and was roughly 4 feet high with four steps and you had to start by picking the implement up from the ground and touching it on each step until reaching the top, permitting four points for each of four items.
The High Box was a nearly 5-foot box that required you to either high pull or clean and press the implement in order to load it. I was not happy having the Medley be just a pick-it-up-and-set-it-down event this year, and after all, it is Nationals and I wanted to raise the bar as far as athleticism is concerned.
Durniat cleaned house here, getting in the mid-50’s for points. I got the high 40’s. My back held me back somewhat, but in the end, I was just simply out-dueled in all-round strength and endurance. Bottom Line.
The next event was the Wrist Roller pulling weighted Sled, an event I invented for last year’s Nationals. Since that competition in 2010, the Wrist Roller Pull or Lift has been used in about 4 or 5 competitions, each promoter putting his own “spin” on it.
This year, Andrew was kind enough to bring his entire Wrist Roller set-up and assemble it. His is a 2-inch wrist roller. Mine is 3.5 inches. His set-up was WAY harder than mine. I feel I was prepared very well for this event, however, I made a very bad tactical move by taking the chalk off my hands before the event. This was very sophomoric of me, as for smooth steel and plastic grips I always leave a light layer of chalk, but I failed to do so this time and it hurt me bad. I gave up considerable points here, points which I really needed going into the last event…
Mike Rinderle on the Wrist Roller
In deciding the support event for Nationals, I really wanted to choose something that was pure support grip and not something that was larger and would be an advantage for larger-handed individuals. For instance, Rolling Thunder is a class Grip Contest event, but because the implement is so large, it is much easier for larger handed individuals. In all actuality, things like Rolling Thunder are NOT SUPPORT GRIP. In truth, this is another test of strength all together that is known as Open Hand, because most can not get a full wrap around the handle. True support grip is where the fingers support the load statically and are aided synergistically by the thumbs. In order to accomplish this, the handle must be narrow.
There are many events that are contested with a narrow handle, but the Plateau Buster is one of the best for ease of loading, and as we found out, for judging too. We went to lockout on this one, as defined by an erect posture with hips and knees locked. The shoulder is nearly impossible to lockout with a one-hand lift. This lift also proved to be easier to judge and would probably make more sense than, say, vertical bar lifts, where the range of motion is only two inches, and also One Hand Deadlifts using Powerlifting bars which make judging the height of the bar in comparison to the knee a challenge and a pull to lockout impossible, as you would end up pulling the bar into your crotch in the straddle position.
Unfortunately for me, my back was so messed up that I could not muster a pull with 260-lbs. Going into the comp, my best training pull was 430, and I would have needed ALL of that in order to keep a number 2 spot. At this point, Andrew had beaten me on three of the four events so beating him would have meant getting my Voo Doo Doll out and jabbing it with needles in addition to injecting it with the plague. I did not want to go there because I have a lot of respect for Andrew and his abilities. So I sat down next to Doc, who was judging and I kept score and watched my National title get snatched away by Durniat and broken by Glass.
Despite the result, I do not have one single regret about Nationals. In fact, as I told my newsletter subscribers, I am proud of myself for not pushing through the pain on the last event and potentially doing damage to myself for months to come.
My hat goes off to Andrew for another convincing win and to Adam who has shown us that by finding a program and protocol that works for you, you can accomplish tremendous things in this sport.
I also want to throw out a salute to Brent Barbe, who for the second year in a row finished in second place. This guy does not mess around and he came into Nationals in less than optimal training status, experiencing an injury about a month before the comp.
In addition, I want to say thanks to Chris Rice, his wife Teresa, and his two sons for all they did to help me run the competition. Huge thanks as well to Sean Dockery who judged the entire day, taking a tremendous load off my shoulders. Thanks to all the competitors who helped manage weights during the medley. Props to Mary Anne McKeague who did all of the loading on the Pinch as well as much of it for the PB. Big recognition to Brendon from Durniat Strength who helped with loading as well, and also to Darrin Shallman, weekly submitter of Grip Challenge videos who drove 5 hours to watch the comp and who also helped out a great deal in organizing the weights in the medley.
And also, thanks to all of you who have supported me for so many years and sent me emails and Facebook posts of congrats when you heard I broke the record again.
Yep, another National Championship is in the books, and it was an effort of many to be so successful, that is for sure!
Guys, please check out the unbelievable list of sponsors that sent money, gift certificates, prizes, etc to the competition. I was able to award something to every single competitor this year due to the outstanding participation of these companies. Please check them out at this link and support those who support us: 2011 Grip Sport Championship Sponsors.
All the best in your training!
Don’t let that stop you from building a REAL GRIP.
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