DEVELOPING GRIP STRENGTH
Why a strong grip?
Although a certain level of hand and forearm strength is necessary for the uses of everyday life, most of us will never really need the additional strength that can be developed from a well-designed course of hard grip training. However, developing hand, forearm and wrist strength is rewarding and results can be seen quite quickly, if the required work is put in. Before embarking upon grip training you need to have an idea as to why you would like stronger hands. Some will want a better grip for sport; others would like to be able to perform the old-time strongman feats of strength such as nail bending and card tearing; maybe shutting the #3 is your goal (Ironmind CoC #3 grippers, one of the hardest grippers in the world to close). Often, trainers feel their hands and forearms are the weak link in their physiques and would like to rectify this. The personal reason that you have is necessary for goal setting and developing and maintaining drive and focus. Contrary to popular belief, conventional weight training or bodybuilding will not develop strong hands. A little more strength than average will be noticed, as any training produces a crossover effect, but to develop mighty hands, specific training is required.
Grip training is an umbrella term that covers crushing, pinching and holding. I am going to categorise wrist and forearm work under this term also.
· Crushing: Squeezing grippers, pliers, hands, nutcrackers etc. Crushing strength can be developed using either the Captains of Crush range of grippers or the Ivanko Supergripper. Crushing strength can also be developed using a variety of other tools including plate loaded grippers, high density foam and self resistance work.
· Pinching: This area utilises the thumb and fingers and for training purposes strength is usually developed isometrically. Training tools are easy to improvise, and wood blocks of various thickness attached to weights are easy to make and convenient. Block weight lifting using the sawn off ends from cast dumbbells is rewarding and fun. The thumb can also be developed using self-resistance work.
· Wrist work: Wrists can be trained using isometrics or isotonics though I personally feel isometric wrist training to be more beneficial in developing functional strength. Exercises for the wrist include lever bar work, reverse curls and nail bending.
· Forearm work: The forearms respond well to low repetition work despite high repetition work often being cited as more productive for this area. All muscles adapt according to the stimulus provided and also the nature of the stimulus. Some forearm exercises include wrist curls and reverse wrist curls, hammer curls, reverse curls and to a certain degree all grip training.
Creating a workout
A sample beginners workout could include:
Mon: Crushing and Pinching
A good starting point for crushing would be 3-5 sets using the Ivanko Supergripper or Captains of Crush grippers. As a beginner one warm up set may be necessary. Additionally warm up your hands before beginning any crushing training. This can be done by holding them under the hot tap (be careful that it’s not too hot!) or in a bowl of hot water. Warming the hands like this can really make a difference to the amount of force that can be generated. Once past the absolute beginners stage all non warm-up sets should be performed to failure to maximise the training response.
There are a variety of training techniques that can
be employed using the grippers. These include partials, negatives
and forced reps. Strap holds have proven popular in working up to
closing the next level gripper, and I employed them effectively
myself when training to close the #3. I will go further into depth
with these particular methods later. As far as the number of
repetitions to be used, always consider the results that you are
trying to achieve. If you want to be able to perform many
sub-maximal squeezes; train at a lower intensity with that goal in
mind. Likewise if your goal is to generate great power in one
squeeze, plan your training accordingly.
To develop tremendous crushing power in the hands every squeeze should be performed as if your very life depended on it. There should be no half-hearted attempts here. If you find it helps, psych yourself up before each crush to increase your focus. Your goal is to try and generate and transmit every single ounce of power you possess to your hands, for one almighty burst of energy. If performing reps I would suggest no more than five and go to failure on a sixth attempt.
The amount of rest that you take between workouts is
absolutely vital when using maximal intensity. Five days would be
the bare minimum amount of rest needed before another workout. Seven
days would probably be better. The theory that muscles begin to
atrophy after four days or 96 hours is, to the best of my knowledge
unproven. The human body is much more efficient than that. In my own
case, I’ve gone three weeks between workouts and found that I have
increased in strength.
Contrary to popular belief I feel that nutrition is
the most overestimated aspect of training culture. I don’t believe
that it is necessary to eat more than 3 or 4 meals per day and
certainly not necessary to work out precisely the protein,
carbohydrate or fat amount per meal. I eat when I’m hungry and stop
when I’m full.
As unique, thinking individuals we should lead
balanced, well-rounded lives with time for meaningful relationships
and varied interests, which allow us to develop fully as human
beings. The goal of weight training or any exercise program should
be to enhance our life; not be our life.
( Ed Note: This is only part one of Martins journey into the fascinating world of grip training, more installments will follow)