This past weekend, I competed at the Gripmas Carol, an annual Grip contest promoted by Chris Rice.
Like others have said this was a bittersweet trip for me because Chris has announced that this year’s contest would be the last of its kind he would be holding.
Nevertheless, I made the trip to enjoy the chill of the Ohio air one more time in the Gripmas Contest setting.
I competed in the Elite category. The way Elite level is decided is the Total between RGC Grippers, Two Hands Pinch and IronMind Axle. Once your total hits 800-lbs you are entered into the Elite Category. This put me in competition with Andrew Durniat, my perennial adversary and the 2011 North American Champion in our Division of Grip Sport.
From the beginning of the contest, we knew it would be a close battle. Many times over the years our scores have ended with just 1 to 3 points’ difference when we have battled it out head to head, and this time proved to be no different.
Event 1 – Choked Grippers
The first event was choked Grippers, meaning a hose clamp was used to keep the handles of the gripper at parallel, so only the final portion of the close, the Finish was contested.
This event is a mystery to me. In training, I could not close my 168-rated Elite Gripper and then I ended up closing a 195-rated Super Elite at the contest. How this is possible is beyond me. I have no idea where the extra closing power came from.
My first attempt was on a 191-rated gripper, which I closed easily to my surprise, and which gave me some confidence going into the next three attempts. For my second attempt, I went for the 195, but missed it and when I asked Sean “Doc” Dockery if I was close he said, “Nope.”
Doc has become the go-to judge in Grip, volunteering his time on many occasions over the years fro Chris Rice, and for me as well in this year’s National Championship which was also held at Chris Rice’s facility. He is absolutely the best judge in Grip, if you ask me. So for him to say that I was nowhere near closing the 195, I knew that I was way off, and needed to get serious on attempt three.
My third time to the Gripper Table, I was very nervous. Andrew had just closed a +/- 214-lb gripper, so I knew I had to do some damage on this one and PR on this piece. I was very deliberate on my positioning and on my set and drove the handles home on a secondary pule for a good close of 195.
I don’t recall what I went on for my fourth attempt. It doesn’t really matter because I missed it. Plus, Andrew closed something like a 224-lb #4 gripper. It is a World Record Close for Choked Grippers. Andrew had already staked a solid lead for himself, beating me by nearly 30-lbs. I knew going into the next event, Two Hands Pinch, that I would need to finish about 40-lbs ahead of him in order to even up the score.
Event 2 – Two Hands Pinch
As most of you know, I held the World Record in this lift with going into Gripmas with just over 264-lbs, or 120-kg. However, the word in the Grip Strength Rumor Mill was that Andrew had been training the Two Hands Pinch pretty hard coming into Crooksville, so I knew it was not going to be a cake walk.
Something many of you may not realize, however, is that there are actually two classes of Two Hands Pinch being recorded these days. Recently, the Lightweight Class was instituted and a separate record is maintained for anyone weighing 82.5-kg or less is entered into those standings. Going into Gripmas, the leader in the 82.5-kg class was Daniel Reinard. He set the mark at Leg 3 of World’s Strongest Hands at my gym in October.
However, another member of Durniat’s camp, Brendan Gerber, had been killing the pinch in his training leading up to Gripmas, nearly doubling a weight that would have beat the record. He showed up on the day of the contest and showed everyone what it was like to be 18 again, and took the title – pinching 206-lbs and some change.
Brendan Ferber – 206-lbs
For this event, we used my Euro plates on Doc’s newly built instantly adjustable apparatus, which enabled us to perform the Two Hands Pinch event in one trip up through the weights, starting out around 100-lbs and moving the whole way through without having to clear the weights off and start again for the next thickness. This really improved the event. Normally all the people at 44-mm go, then 48, then 52, etc. But on this day it was one trip through the weights and with a twist of the front collar the spacers could be pulled or replaced and people lifting different widths could feel the intensity all at the same relative time.
My opponent, Andrew Durniat, finished his attempts in the low 230’s, and I began mine in the low 250’s. This was my second competition competing on 58-mm which recently has been feeling like the perfect width in my hands.
I debated going for a new world record on my first attempt. That would have made all of my attempts World Record Attempts, but Chris encouraged me to take a safe lift, which I agreed to. Bombing out would have meant I would have been mathematically eliminated from the contest, so I decided to hit 254-lbs for my first attempt, which was called on YouTube, “the easiest looking lift of 254-lbs ever,” or something along those lines.
1st Attempt – 254
With a legal attempt in the books and 1st place in the event in my pocket, I decided to try to push my record up. My training had been very intense going in and I had implemented training techniques that I never have used previously. Unfortunately, the last week of training I developed the same strange cramping sensation that I have had occasionally in the past which caused me to abort my final session of 2HP training. But once I pulled 254 and felt no pain, I was confident for my first attempt on 268, below.
2nd Attempt – 268
Having my hand slip off the plates like that is very uncommon for me. What I believe happened is I may have left too much chalk on my right thumb, causing it to slip off the plates. This normally isn’t a problem, but in this case, the edge of my thumb got a chunk taken out of it and the contact left my right thumb completely numb and my left thumb partially numb.
Because of the numbness, I took a little extra time for my next attempt at 268.
One thing that I am just now remembering is that my hands were extremely cold going into the pinch. I don’t mean that I wasn’t warmed up – in that regard I was feeling fine, however, my skin was noticeably cold to the touch. I was wearing gloves and hand warmer packets so this should no have been the case, but I had others test the backs of my hands and sure enough everyone said they felt chilled.
I was past the point of caring about my hand temperature now, anyway, so I began my preparation for my third overall attempt and second at 268, this time making sure that my hands were chalked evenly but not too heavily.
3rd Attempt – 268
As you can see in the video, this one was very close. There was no slippage from chalk, but it felt as though I was leaning forward over the apparatus a bit more than normal because I was worried the collar would hit the stick instead of the loading pipe. This got me out of my normal pulling path and I just barely hit the stick. In my recovery to redirect the apparatus, I lost balance and when I set the Euro down, I lost my balance even more, stumbling back and nearly going through the table like Jeff Hardy.
I was seeing stars for a moment because I was squeezing so hard on the implement and tracking the end of the pipe so closely, but I quickly recovered, and let out a chuckle in relief of getting a successful lift.
For my fourth and final attempt, I went for 270. I truly feel that if I would have gotten 268 on the first attempt and not cut my thumb and had it go numb on me that I would have had a successful lift of 270-lbs.
4th Attempt – 270
I was very happy with my performance in the pinch, and not just because I was able to push my number up, but because I was able to regain my composure for the last attempt. In the past when I have broken the record, I have gotten so emotionally overwhelmed that the following attempts are hindered by my inability to control my nerves. This time, however, I was able to get centered and get back on the platform in control. The apparatus felt outstanding, my thumb skin was great, and my back was solid. I just think I was missing a bit of neural connection due to the slipped attempt at 268 and couldn’t regain it in time for the fourth attempt.
By now, Andrew and I were ridiculously close. If memory serves, I had drawn slightly ahead of him, going into the next event, Double Sledge Hammers.
Event 3: Double Sledge Hammers
The Double Sledge Hammer event was the biggest surprise of all for me at Gripmas. I trained my ass off on this thing for months leading into the contest and all I got out of that training was a heap of frustration. Instead of two 12-lb hammers with 30-inch handles, I got two 16-lb sledges with 32-inch handles.
In training, my best performance with my 16’s was a set of two reps with the bare implement and 1 rep with the implement plus 2 washers weighing about 1/2-lb apiece, so I was not sure what to expect using shorter handles and lighter base sledges.
I managed a legal lift of 47.5-lbs in this event, getting beaten only by Andrew who successfully performed 50-lbs. I tried 50-lbs but the first time the additional weights got hung up on the tracks, so I was granted another opportunity. The same thing happened to Andrew. Unfortunately for me, he was able to come back on his second try at 50-lbs and get it – I was not, so he finished 2.5-lbs ahead of me in this event.
Now, going into the medley, he was slightly ahead of me, maybe by .5 points or so. Unfortunately, right now I do not have any footage of the rest fo the events because I put them on Steve Slater’s computer in order to conserve hard drive space and I have not gotten them back yet, but once I get them, I will post them up. This event was very cool. I would agree with others that this was the best contested sledge event that I have seen. If it is contested again, however, I am sawing a couple of inches off my sledges so that I can train this one a bit more effectively.
Event 4: Medley
Chris is famous for devising awesome Medleys. This year he had 25 total implements, but two of them were bonus items, a 60D Nail bent in Reverse style and a 12-inch length of 3/8-inch square stock bent braced over the thigh or knee. These two bonus items could be attempted once 20 challenge items were successfully loaded/lifted. Also, some weights and implements were made more challenging for the heavier weight class and Elite weight class.
Regretfully, I don’t have the video for this event either because the footage is still with Steve Slater. I did however complete 20 challenge items and get to go after both bends, which went down pretty easily. I think I totaled 23 items out of 25, which was one better than Andrew, so now, going into the final event, the Hercules Hold, Andrew had a lead on my by just 64/1000’s of a point.
That is just one reason why I think our proportional scoring system is so great. With Strongman scoring, we just would have been tied, but with the way we keep score in North American Grip Sport, it really shows you how close or how far apart competitors are.
Event 5: Hercules Hold
The Hercules Hold is historically a Strongman event, but it is also a fantastic way to test support grip, and there are many reasons why. First off, Chris used small handles, so hand size was completely eliminated from the equation. Next, because the weight is lifted for the athlete, the event tests grip strength primarily and full body strength or current conditions of the back do not factor in, as in a Farmer’s Hold or Frame Hold.
Again, Chris increased the weight used in each category. He was originally going to have the Elite Division do the same weight as the Opens, in the neighborhood of 264-286 (I can’t recall) but we talked him into going an even 300-lbs per hand.
Not one of my smartest decisions. Support grip like this is my weakest facet of Grip Strength, and Andrew easily handed my ass on a platter. I held the implements for about 23 seconds while he crept close to a minute. Such a large differential that late in the game spelled the end for me as Andrew pulled away handily, finishing about 6 points ahead of me when the cloud of dust settled on the Crooksville landscape.
Regardless of the finish, I was happy with my performances. A PR in Grippers, Euro Pinch, and Sledge Hammers, plus I won my first medley in quite some time.
It will be a shame if Chris sticks with his current decision and runs no more Gripmas Carols. The mid-December drive through Western PA and West Virginia in order to find the Grip Garage nestled in the hills of Ohio will be a trip that I have grown accustomed to making each year and will be sorely missed going forward.
My hat is off to Chris on well run comp, Doc for excellent judging, Tony, a friend of Doc’s who kept score all day long, Teresa for the excellent meal, all the other Gripsters who lent a hand, supported me and the others, all those who brought cookies and apple crisp (Mary Anne) and definitely to Andrew for another excellent performance on the platform.
Next competition on my radar is Mighty Mitts will take place at the Arnold Classic Weekend, I believe the first week in March. I am not sure what the events are yet, but I am already planning my general training for it.
Also, just like two years ago when I first broke the record in the Two Hands Pinch, I will be releasing a documentary DVD of my training. Again, this year, I recorded all of my 2HP Training Workouts and will be compiling it all into a DVD to be released in early 2012.
If you’d like to see my first documentary, The Road to the Record, click the image below.
Before I commence on that project, though, is a DVD I shut with Mike Rinderle on Braced Bending. Once that is out of the way, then I will tackle the next documentary.
Then immediately after that, I will be releasing another DVD with Steve Slater. Together we released Intro to Strongman Training earlier this year and on the Sunday after Gripmas, we shot another one together, thus the reason I needed the extra hard drive space on my camera.
It is sure to be a busy few weeks coming up, but I am striving to bring you the absolute best information for your strength training goals. If you want to know how to bend just about anything in your path, Rindo and I will show you how in our Braced Bending DVD. If you want to see ways that no one else is training Two Hands Pinch, my documentary is for you, and if Strongman is your thing, then you better keep an eye out for this project Slater and I have coming out.
In the meantime, all the best in your training.