Building Grip Strength: Myths and Methods ExplainedTuesday, 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,
with my Definitive Gripper Training DVD, CRUSH: Total Gripper Domination.