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Building Grip Strength: Myths and Methods Explained

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011


It’s no mystery that I obviously love Grip Training. I do it every single day I train as long as I am injury free (and sometimes I still do it anyway if I am hurt, I just do something else).

My love for developing Grip Strength spilled into a love for competing at Grip Strength in 2003 and my obsession is showing no sign of slowing down any time soon.

Now, even if you do not love Grip Training yourself, you have to agree that having a strong Grip is an advantage, whether you obsess over grip training like me or not.

Advantages of a Strong Grip

Stronger, Heavier Lifts
With stronger hands and a better grip you can lift more weight in pulling and rowing exercises, you can handle more weight in pushing movements like the bench press, and you can control more weight in lifts the squat. Stronger Hands = Bigger Lifts

Better Endurance / More Reps / Better Progress
You are limited in many case by the number of reps you can perform in an exercise. Imagine how much your progress would grow if you could do more reps in all lifts? One aspect that holds people back is their grip. Their grip fails or slips and they end up losing reps and cutting sets short. This is a bad equation only made worse by using the dreaded 6-letter word STRAPS.

Better Performance in Sports
Many sports depend on having strong hands and wrists: Baseball, Wrestling, Football, Rugby, Tennis – even soccer performance is increased by having strong thumbs for passing the ball back into play. With weak hands, you take a back seat to others on the court, field and mat.

Stronger Resiliency Against Injuries
If you do consistent work for the hands, wrists and forearms you build up strength and become resilient against injuries. You can take more bumps at a high intensity level and continue to play at a high level. If an injury does take place, the stronger athletes bounces back quicker. Unfortunately, the thumb is often neglected, which results in the incapacity to return to play which is something I will be covering later on this week.

These are just a handful of the benefits from having a Strong Grip, but I have found in my recent travels that some people are confused about what it takes to develop a strong grip.

Grip Training Myths

I believe in Bigfoot, but not in the following myths…

Grip Training Myth #1 – You Need a Ton of Grippers

First off, you do not need two dozen grippers in order to develop a strong grip. Having a bunch of them is a hell of a lot of fun if you want to have the ability to make small jumps in gripper strength increases, and it is a must if you plan to compete (unless you have the Vulcan Gripper), but if you are looking to just build massive grip strength for the advantages listed above, a couple of Grippers will do you just fine.

Grip Training Myth #2 – You Need a Huge Variety of Griplements

Next, you do not need a bunch of Griplements (specialized Grip Training Implements) to build a strong grip
. Even though I have more Griplements than you can shake a stick at, and continue to look for opportunities to buy and build grip training equipment to expand my collection, you can by with a just a handful for variety.

Grip Training Myth #3 – Grip Training Takes a Lot of Time

Finally, you don’t even have to add time to your workout in order to develop a monster grip. You can simply replace some of the things you are already doing with more grip-intensive pieces of equipment.

And that is what I want to show you today – How to Implement Grip Training without Adding Extra Time to Your Workout. In order to do this, we will use a couple of simple Grip Training Concepts…

Grip Training Concepts

Grip Training Concept #1 – Evolution of the Movement

One of the principles in the Diesel Method is to go beyond the normal limitations of a movement and evolve it into something more challenging in order to increase the demands and as a result make you stronger and a better athlete.

There are many ways to do this, but one such way in order to bring about a more Grip Strength intensive training effect is by modifying the equipment used.

In the example below, instead of using normal equipment such as Powerlifting and Olympic bars, we will use Sandbags and Axles, which require a much more open-handed position and make the lifts more difficult to perform and more demanding on the hands, thus increasing Grip Strength.

Grip Training Concept #2 – Integration

Integration means that instead of just working the Grip in isolation, such as with Grippers or by pinching Block Weights to develop grip strength, we will be working much of the body all at the same time with the hands still being targeted heavily.

One way to accomplish Grip Training Integration inexpensively and effectively is with a Sandbag.

Benefits of Sandbag Training

The Sandbag is an excellent piece of training equipment. Specific models are sold on-line, such as the Ultimate Sandbag (you can get one here through my link: Ultimate Sandbags), or you can make your own sandbag from a duffel bag like I did years ago.

Aside from being versatile (sandbags last a long time), they also enable you to train with speed and explosion, and they work the grip.

  • Speed and Explosion – You can throw Sandbags around without mercy. This enables you to develop serious power and strength. Performing Cleans and shouldering movements with the sandbag also trains triple extension, a powerful movement pattern involving the ankles, knees and hips, which is found in many sports and is often trained with the Olympic lifts.
  • Grip Strength – Depending on where you grip the sandbag, you can bring about different levels of Grip and Forearm Strength. For instance if you grip it with an open hand like a bear hug or monkey grip, you will work your fingers, thumbs, wrists and forearms all the way up to the elbow. This is the best way to go about it for the Grip Training effect. You can grip the handles if you wnt to, but in my estimation, that takes a lot away from the benefits of the lift.
  • Metabolic Effects – Because Sandbag Training involves so much musculature you ended up torching a lot of calories and hitting your conditioning as well. Since it is so much fun, you don’t mind breathing so hard you burn your throat or the aching of the glutes because you know you are throwing around serious weight like it is a rag doll.

Benefits of Axle Training

The Axle is really nothing more than a long thick bar. Axles are sold at many on-line locations. The prices can be scary at first, often in the hundreds of dollars, but they come specialized with collar fittings and sometimes knurling. These additional features make them more expensive.

You can actually make your own out of just a pipe and it will get the job done. Joe Hashey and I show everyone how to make the most awesome Axle ever known to man in our Home Made Strength DVD as well.

What’s great about Axles is the fact that anything you can do with a barbell you can do with an Axle, you just can’t do as much weight or as many reps because the thicker grip tests your hand strength more.

Implementing Grip with Little Special Equipment and Zero Extra Time

One of the things I have been doing more of lately is back-to-back sets of lifts. It allows me to get more work done in a shorter period of time so I can spend more time working on Grip.

I told you I was obsessed.

Below is a video clip where I perform Sandbag Shouldering with Bent Over Axle Rows in a back-to-back fashion.

For this set, I performed 4 shoulders to each side followed by 8 reps in the Bent Over Row. The set itself is not that long, but the cardio demands far exceed normal set, plus you get the benefit of direct grip strength and forearm work while working the rest of the body as well.

Subscribe and Comment on the Video Here: Sandbags and Axle for Grip Strength

If you are wondering about the rest of the workout, this combination was actually Part II. Part I was Pull-ups and Pull-aparts and Part III was Side Rows and Face Pulls. I would have liked to have done Deadlifts first or at least somewhere in the workout, but testing for it wasn’t going well, so I switched on the fly.

I also did a bunch of Thick Bar Work after all of this and got several good singles in the Double Inch Dumbbell Deadlift, which i got on video but have not edited yet. Hopefully I can get to that soon.

I hope this article has been helpful in pointing you in some directions you can in order to implement grip strength training. A lot of the information out there leads one to believe you have to all this stuff with a bunch of excess equipment and spend a lot of time doing it in order to develop a grip that would scare the likes of Fritz Von Erich, but that just isn’t the case.

If you have any questions, please let me know by leaving a comment below.

All the best in your training,


Discover EVERYTHING You Need to Know about Gripper Training
with my Definitive Gripper Training DVD, CRUSH: Total Gripper Domination.

Beginner Odd Object Training – Safety Considerations

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

fire hydrant carry odd object
Dan Cenidoza – Hydrant Carry, 2005

Odd Objects are implements used for strength training that are different from normal strength training tools like dumbbells and barbells.

The size, shape, and weight of Odd Objects make them more challenging to grip, hold, and control, and their bulk makes their center of gravity hard to predict.

Examples of Odd Objects include kegs, sandbags, atlas stones, natural stones, fire hydrants, wheel barrels, logs, tires, block weights, kettlebells, and more.

diesel keg training

In recent years, Odd Object training has become more popular and they are being used at all levels of strength training and conditioning, including the High School, Collegiate, and Professional levels.

Odd Objects are also often used in the sport of Strongman and Grip contests. The competitors in these sports spend hours training with the sport-specific implements in order to master them and be ready to lift them when they get to their competitions.

Because of the popularity of odd objects, strength enthusiasts and those interested in building muscle may also want to add them into their routine for an additional challenge and variety. However, it is important to understand that Odd Object training can entail more risk, especially for those not used to dealing with their dynamic and unpredictable nature.

Starting Out

It is important to start out slow with Odd Object training. Just like any new activity, there has to be a conditioning, or ramp-up period instituted in order to do it safely.

Just like you can’t go from having a sedentary lifestyle to running a marathon, you can’t expect to go from working out on machines and doing very basic lifting to doing heavy Odd Object training without getting sore or even having an injury.

If your normal training routine involves primarily barbell and dumbbell work while seated or laying on a bench, cable work, or lifts done in machines, then you have work to do before getting involved in Odd Object training. These types of lifts are mostly isolation movements, meaning they target primarily one joint during the movement. While this type of training can be used for getting a huge pump and building muscle, they do little to prepare you for awkward weight bearing lifts involved in Odd Object training.

Prior to getting involved with things like heavy sandbags, logs, and other bigger and heavier objects, it is important to move away from only doing isolation movements and move toward including multi-joint and closed chain movements in your program.

Multi-joint movements are easy to spot, as they include movement over more than just one joint. For an example, tricep pushdowns done on a cable machine are an isolation movement – they target the triceps and involve movement mainly at the elbow only. Close-Grip bench press targets the triceps, but incorporates movement both at the elbow and the shoulder. This in turn brings more muscle into play and increases the demand on the trainee, moving them closer toward being prepared for Odd Object strength training.

Closed kinetic chain movements (CKCM) are also important in conditioning a trainee to Odd Object training. Closed Chain movements are done without sitting on a machine but rather while standing or exerting force directly into the ground. They are also often weight bearing in nature and require more energy to stabilize the joints of the body while the movement of each repetition takes place.

Thus, instead of stopping at Close-grip bench press, an even better option for getting ready for Odd Object training is some form of standing overhead press. This still works the triceps, but you also get the benefit of more shoulder work, core stimulation and full body coordination and stability. Other examples of movements with a closed kinetic chain are the Squat, Cleans, Deadlift Variations, and Lunges.

Proper Lifting Form Cues – Mental Checklist

atlas stone training

For those new to this type of training, it is important to set-up correctly prior to doing any lifts. Following is a Mental Checklist to go over when working with closed kinetic chain, multi-joint movements.

Head in Line with Spine: The neck should not be flexed or extended while lifting. It should remain in neutral alignment with the spine to prevent injury. The neck can also be stabilized further by pressing the tongue into the roof of the mouth.

Shoulders Back: Posture is important the entire way down the torso. The shoulders should not slouch forward or there is an increase risk of injury. The shoulders should be pulled back during most of these movements.

Proud Chest: This cue works in tandem with the shoulders. By maintaining a proud chest the thoracic area remains rigid and the spine stays in proper alignment.

Push Belly Out: Take a deep breath and push the belly out. This creates intra-abdominal pressure and helps brace the core and stabilize the torso. This can increase the blood pressure for a short time, so any trainees with health concerns in this neighborhood should exercise caution.

Hips Back: The first movement in most closed-chain, multi-joint movements, should involve pushing the hips back. This helps maintain a safe lordotic curve of the lumbar spine, where it arches inward toward the stomach, rather than rounding away.

Again, the value of this type of training is bridging the gap from isolation movements that are very predictable in nature and moving toward the unpredictable nature of Odd Object training. Training like this helps with coordination, stability, core strength, joint stability, and the ability to react to and counteract outside forces.

Training with Odd Objects

After several workouts performing these free-standing, multi-joint movements, now it is time to move into using Odd Objects. For Beginner Odd Object Training, I like the use of something like a stiff heavy bag. Heavy bags are large and bulky, but their filling is dense and does not shift like that of a slosh pipe or a loosely packed sandbag. This way, the trainee is able to work with the increased size of the implement but not such a dynamic center of gravity.

Heavy bags come in many lengths and weights. The one I use is about 40-lbs. This is a good starting point for the new Odd Object trainee and it will help build confidence with a non-conventional implement.

Now, the same closed-chain, multi-joint movements that are done with a barbell can be done with the heavy bag: Squat, Deadlift, Clean, Press, Clean and Press, etc.

Other movements that can also be done with the heavy bag include Shouldering the Bag, Shoulder Squats, Waiter’s Bows, etc.

Also, because the Heavy Bag does not have to be loaded with plates or any other means, transitions from one movement to another can be quick, increasing conditioning and allowing you to get more work completed in a shorter time.

Sometimes, the best way to put new types of training into action is to see them being done by someone else. In the video below, I go over many of the above mentioned movements, plus other ones. So grab your heavy bag and go along with this video.

Incidentally, if you do not have access to a heavy bag, a sandbag or a loaded duffel bag will work well. They can be a bit more advanced though, because the load inside them may move, causing the sandbag or duffel to flex during the movement, so be prepared if you go that route.

In closing, Odd Object training can be used for a welcomed change of pace from your normal training routine. However, depending on the current ability and training status of the trainee, there may be some transitional work that must be done for a short time beforehand in order to assure safety. With proper caution and consistent training, Odd Object lifting can be a safe and rewarding activity that will help you build muscle, improve your conditioning, and increase your athleticism.


If you have any questions about how to get started with odd Object training, please do not hesitate to ask. Leave a comment below or shoot me an email through the RESOURCES button above.

All the best in your training,


Other Odd Object Info at Diesel

We’ve got tons of information here for you on Odd Object Training. Here’s just a sampling…

How to Lift Kegs Safely
Using Odd Objects for Conditioning
Introduction to Odd Objects
Similarities Between Olympic Lifts and Stone Lifting
Atlas Stone Beginner Training Tip
Benefits You Get from Stone Training
Sandbag Circuits for Serious Conditioning
Killer Sandbag Workout

Ultimate Forearm Training for Baseball | How to Bend Nails | How to Tear Cards | Feats of Grip Strength Explained | How to Build Your Own Equipment | How to Lift Atlas Stones | The Sh*t You’ve Never Seen | Sled Dragging for Athletes | The Road to the Record DVD