Grip Training: Hold On With A Bulldog Grip

massive forearms due to heavy grip training

A few years ago, Josh Hanagarne, aka The World’s Strongest Librarian, sent me this great piece of work on grip training. Enjoy. (BTW, the quote in the title is from Abraham Lincoln).

I got into grip training for two reasons:

Number one, it looked fun and people I liked were doing it. Monkey see monkey do.

Second, I was getting strong enough that my hands were starting to become my limiting factor. This was a sobering realization which took place at the intersection of Lame and Weak.

Like most things I like right off, once I jumped in, I jumped in all the way. Grip training was addictive for me. Better yet, it gave me one more way to make progress, which is usually the major ingredient in how happy I am. I could either set aside dedicated days for grip work or, the more I learned, I could squeeze it into my normal workouts without much of a headache.

Before I tell you how I add grip training to your workout, I just want to give you a quick look at four different types of hand strength so that you don’t overemphasize anything or neglect anything that could be useful to you.

Crush Grip

This is what most people think of when they think of grip training. Squeezing the hand closed as in a handshake, or closing a pair of grippers. To develop serious strength, you’re not going to want a gripper from Shopko that you can rep out with while watching TV. Heavy grippers are out there, you just may never have seen any if you haven’t gone a-lookin’.

Here are my two preferred options.

  • Captains of Crush from Ironmind Enterprises: These are great grippers. If there is a downside it is that to climb the mountain from the easiest to the most challenging, you’ll have to buy approximately one million of them. Okay, not a million, but even at $20 per set, I would rather not buy as many as it would take. If you don’t mind that, they’re great. I would advise that most men who lift weights start with the Trainer, then progress to the #1.
  • David Horne’s Vulcan Gripper: This is essentially many, many grippers in one. The easiest range on the easiest spring is below the trainer, and the hardest spring on the hardest setting is way up there with the top Captains of Crush. These ship from England to the States for about $110 total, if I remember correctly. I’ll never buy another gripper now that I have this one.

Pinch Grip

This is just what it sounds like. How hard can you pinch? If you were to hang some weight from a 2×4, then you grasped the board by digging your fingertips and thumb into it, you would be working your pinch grip. This is the essential part of hand strength for anyone interested in feats of strength like tearing cards or phone books. It is simply about how much pressure you can generate while drawing your fingertips and thumb together. So far my favorite tool for this is the Stronger Grip leverage block, which allows you to do bicep curls while working the pinch grip.

Support Grip

Think of this as squeezing with an open hand. If you were to put a can of soda in your hand and then squeeze it as hard as you could, that’s support grip. For this type of training, my favorite tools are:

  • A thick barbell (2” or 3”. 2 will be plenty for most people who don’t have enormous flippers for hands like me) for deadlifts or a thick dumbbell handle for rows
  • The Ironmind Rolling Thunder Handle
  • A thick pull-up bar

Again, these are great pieces of equipment, but you can do it on the cheap. If you can find something that you can’t close your hand around, squeeze it and you’re working support grip. If it is something you can add weight to, or you can hang weight from it, all the better. You’ll be able to track your progress more effectively.

Leverage Direct Work for Your Wrists

The wrists are strongest when they are trained statically, not dynamically. By dynamic, I mean flopping them around with little wrist curls on a cambered EZ bar. By static, I mean locking the wrist into place and moving it against resistance.

My favorite exercise for this is the plate curl. Here’s a video of strongman Adam T. Glass doing a plate curl with a truly ridiculous weight:

This movement allows you to work the vanity muscles but also puts a great amount of resistance on the wrists.

Working Grip Training Into Your Workouts

During your normal workout, simply experiment with throwing reps of various grip exercises in between your normal sets. Pinch something. Squeeze a gripper. Do a plate curl. Do two. Play around with a thick bar. A few reps here and there during a more traditional session can yield huge benefits.

And of course, if you’re anything like me, you may very well wind up with some dedicated grip training days in your future. It is fun. But just as good, it’s useful. A few reps here and there and you can, at the very least, ensure that your hands will never be your limiting factor.

Josh Hanagarne author

Josh Hanagarne is a fanatic about strength, both mentally and physically. Unfortunately, it seems his website is gone and his social media accounts are deleted, but you can still read about him online and check out his award-winning best-selling book The World’s Strongest Librarian on Amazon.

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