|Get a Grip|
by Donna Slagga of weighttrainersunited.com
When I first started lifting, my grip wasnít something I worried about. I did no special training for it because it was never an issue. I did dumbell rows, chin-ups, heavy shrugs and deadlifts, and these exercises were more than adequate in keeping my grip strong. Anytime I saw an article on grip work, Iíd skip right over it and move onto something that I would find more useful. Grip articles were for those people who wore wrist straps on every exercise, including bench and squats. Iíd see them in the gym tying themselves to every apparatus possible, figuring there was a Freudian explanation I could do without knowing. Then there were the Pirates. Some of the more industrious members would have these steel hooks that would velcro around their wrists. These people didnít even have to curl their fingers around a lifting strap. They would hook themselves up to a bar and hardly use their hands at all. Grip articles were for these people, they just didnít know it.
One day out of the blue, things changed. I hit the end of a training cycle and went for a deadlift max. I warmed up to 300 lbs. with no problems. My grip was the furthest thing from my mind. I loaded that magic 315 on the bar to give it a ride for a new PR. I took my grip and up it started to come. Over my knees the bar went and just as I was approaching lockout, it happened, my grip went. The hand that has the overhand grip couldnít stay closed! Down came the bar, crashing to the floor. I was dumbfounded. Never had I had the slightest indication of a grip problem. I figured it was a freak incident and tried the 315 again. Up it went, only this time my hand opened even earlier in the lift. I just couldnít believe it, could my hands be betraying me? I wondered if perhaps my back was the problem and I just wasnít strong enough for the 315, so I threw on those wretched wrist straps to give it another shot. 315 popped up to lockout nicely. It felt so good I went to 330 and up it went as well. I had my answer, my grip couldnít cut it. Now I needed to figure out what to do about it.
I delved into as much material on grip strengthening as I could find and started implementing exercises into my workouts. I decided to add one grip specific exercise at the end of my squat and deadlift workouts. Iíd change the exercise often to stop my body from adapting to it and to attack the weakness with a number of approaches. The first exercise I tried was the Coan Holds. Ed would do this exercise as a way of working his grip. You set a bar inside a power rack at knee level. Load the bar up and grip the center knurling with one hand. Have a workout partner pick up the weight and then once you are in a locked out position, they let go. You simply hold onto the bar until the weight uncurls your fingers. It is good to have your workout partner balance the bar if one side dips, which always seemed to happen. You would do these holds for 2 sets of 30-40 sec for both hands. Iíd have my workout partner time me with a stopwatch, just to see if I was improving. Next up was the Hammer Strength Gripper. This is a machine the size of a seated calf. Itís the machine that you usually find a person that uses wrist straps resting on, between their sets of wrist strapped curls. You load weight on it and have to squeeze two bars together. Basically, itís like closing your fist under resistance. I would do them underhand, overhand, using my hand for some sets and using my fingers for others. Sometimes Iíd do reps, sometimes Iíd do a static hold for time. I also worked some of those coil grippers into the mix. Some days Iíd do reps, some days Iíd place a quarter between where the handles meet when it is closed and do static holds for time. Plate holds were another exercise. Iíd take two plates and put them together, smooth side out. I would then pinch grip them together and walk around the gym carrying them this way. I worked very hard to be able to handle 2 25 lb. plates only to see my husband, Mr. Forearms, who has always had an incredible grip, pick up two 45ís this way like they were 5 lb. plates
Nobody likes a comedian! Thick bar training was another thing I worked into the mix. Some gyms actually have a thick bar, a 2Ē or thicker bar special for working your grip. Our gym does not so I went out and bought pipe insulation, the thick, foam type, and would place that over the bar to thicken it. I would do chin-ups this way, as well as deadlifts, shrugs, any type of pulling motion. I was on a mission.
So, what was the result of focusing directly on grip work? Well, after about 3 weeks of it, something popped in my forearm up by the elbow, complete with bruising, and I couldnít close my hand for weeks. I could barely tie my shoes, never mind grip something. I had become a little too focused on strengthening the weakness and had pushed to the limit. I thought since I used my grip all the time, it was conditioned for some hard, direct work. This was not the case. You have to slowly increase the intensity of your grip training just like with any other body part. You canít just start pounding away at it unmercifully. Once I finally healed, I decided to take another route. One exercise that I hadnít tried, because it was too basic and not so direct, was to do my deadlifts with a palms down grip. I figured Iíd start training my grip that way and once it was better conditioned, then I would add in some of the harsher work. I would use the palms down grip on all weights that I could hold onto. Early in a cycle that meant I would do the whole deadlift workout with palms down. As the weights got heavier later in a cycle, Iíd do all my warm-ups palms down and then use my competition grip on the main sets. Every workout Iíd try to go further before having to switch to my competition alternate grip, always shooting for that 5 or 10 lbs. more. I had decided not to use chalk as that forced me to grip the bar even tighter, making me work harder in my mind. I noticed my palms down weights increased quickly, as did the size of my forearms. After using this method for the entire 8 week training cycle, I maxed out at 355 and my grip was like steel. Iíve since gone on to pull in the low 400ís with no problems. I never did add in any of those other exercises, though Iím sure they are good and could be the answer to someoneís problem. I found an approach that worked for me and with a little luck, maybe there is something in this article for you.
Related Info: Super Gripper-
The Ivanko Super Gripper is one of the most efficient forearm strengthening tools known to man. At just over two pounds, the Super Gripper is lightweight, portable and perfect for anyone who is serious about grip strength.
The sturdy die-cast metal frame is extremely durable and the pair of high tensile springs can be easily adjusted to provide over forty resistance levels. More springs are available upon request.
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