This time, let's turn our attention to another "specialty" area of
strength: grip strength. As many of you have discovered in your grappling practice, having a powerful grip is a great benefit to your techniques. We'll look at some ways to train the grip that can apply very well to grappling.
This time, lets turn our attention to another "specialty" area of
strength: grip strength. As many of you have discovered in your grappling practice, having a powerful grip is a great benefit to your techniques. Well look at some ways to train the grip that can apply very well to grappling.
First off, a good reference for many great ideas regarding grip training
is the book "Mastery of Hand Strength" by John Brookfield. Its available
from Ironmind ( www.ironmind.com ). It discusses the various types of grip strength and how to train them. Well draw on some of that info for our discussion here today. Well also look at some grappling-specific ideas to really supercharge your grip. According to Brookfield, there are 3 types of grip strength: crushing (as when you shake someones hand and squeeze ), pinching ( as when you grasp something by using your thumb and fingertips ), and holding ( such as carrying a suitcase or lifting a barbell ). Lets discuss each of these types of strength and how they apply to MMA.
Often measured by using squeezable "grippers", this type of strength uses the fingers and the palm/base of hand. The thumb does not play a
significant role in this type of grip. The advantage of this type of
strength is the ability to squeeze something very tightly ( the wrist of
an opponent who is trying to escape, for example ). The best, and
traditional, method of training this grip is to use spring grippers. The industry standard for grippers is the Ironmind "Captain of Crush" grippers from ( www.ironmind.com ). These grippers are quite heavy-duty compared to those you typically see in a sporting goods store. They are available with spring tensions ranging from about 100 lbs. ( triple the average sports store gripper! ) all the way to about 365 lbs. ( which has only been closed by one person in history ). There are five "steps" of these grippers, and I recommend that you start with the "Trainer" model or the #1 model ( if youre pretty strong ). Ive seen strong weightlifter-types who couldnt close the #1 when they first try, so dont choose one with your ego. Get a gripper you can do some good work with, and then progress up into the heavier models. As Ironmind states on their website, you wont get much stronger doing endless repetitions with a light gripper: you must treat grip training just like heavy bench/squat training. This means low reps at heavy resistance!
Another great means of progressively training your crushing strength is to use an "adjustable" grip device. Ivanko makes an inexpensive model that has a large range of adjustment. It uses two springs which are placed in different positions to create variable resistance. Its a good starter device for those of you interested in specific tools for grip strength.
The Rolls-Royce of grip machines is currently the "Gripanator" from PDA. This device matches the grip angle and size of spring grippers, but allows plate-loading to set your desired resistance. Its truly a state-of-the-art tool for developing crushing strength. It allows you to perform heavy negative motions, as well as providing complete adjustments for hand size and range of travel. Both of these devices are available from PDA at ( www.fractionalplates.com ). There are some other methods of developing this type of grip. You may use a small pair of pliers to pick up any type of weight. You simply put a strap onto the desired weight ( bucket of sand, weight plates, whatever ) and squeeze the strap with the pliers to lift the weight. Youll be holding the pliers upside-down with the jaws by your little finger for this movement. Depending upon the weight, youll have to squeeze very hard to hold onto the weight. You may also use a small pair of wire cutters to cut tough wire for reps. Cut off just a little bit each time, so youll get more reps out of a given length of wire. To vary the exercises, try using just two or three fingers, etc.
In my opinion, this is the type of strength most useful for MMA. It
involves the use of the opposition of the thumb and fingers, and relates
to the gripping of larger objects. Many trainees with good crushing strength are disappointed to find that their pinching strength is quite weak. This is because they have not trained their thumbs effectively! The thumb contributes the same amount of force to this grip as do the fingers. Methods of training pinching strength usually involve gripping wider objects, either in static lifts or in tossing the object from hand to
A simple method to demonstrate pinch grip is to place two 25# Olympic
plates together with the smooth sides out. Lift the plates by "pinching" them together with thumb on one side and fingertips on the other. This is a pretty good challenge, and if you cant lift them, try three 10# plates
instead. World-class performance in this lift is two 45# plates! You may
also make an adjustable rig by using a short ( 8" ) length of 2 x 4
lumber: put a screw-eye into the narrow edge of the wood, and hang weights off the eye. This is the same strength used if youve ever seen anyone attempt pullups from a pair of ceiling rafters.
Another valuable tool for pinch strength is the "Titan Telegraph Key" from
Ironmind. This device allows you to pinch plate-loaded variable
resistance by squeezing two finger platforms together with a lever/fulcrum arrangement.You can picture this device by imagining a seesaw with weights on one side, and you must lift the weight by pinching the other side of the seesaw to the ground.
( www.ironmind.com )
The most versatile tool for pinch strength is the block weight.
Brookfield goes into great detail involving the use of block weights in his book. Basically, you cut the handle out of a solid dumbbell, giving you two identical block weights. As the weights get heavier, they also get wider! This makes it extremely challenging to progress through the range of weights available. Just find a used sporting goods store or garage sale for your supply of block weights. You can simply lift block weights, toss them from hand to hand, or perform various traditional weightlifting movements with them! Using your imagination, you can customize a routine with them to suit your needs.
This type of strength involves the holding of weight without hand motion.
Examples are hanging from a pullup bar for time, lifting a heavy deadlift,
or performing the "farmers walk".
The finest exercise for this type of strength is the farmers walk.
Simply put, pick up a pair of heavy dumbbells or block weights and walk with them for distance/time. Youll find that your grip suddenly decides to "not behave"! This exercise will really blow up your forearms!
You may also have contests with training buddies to see who can hang onto pullup bar for the longest time. To make it tougher, use only one arm.
Obviously, it will be wise to combine all the types of grip strength into
an overall program to maximize your grip. Crushing strength work will
develop your maximal strength, pinching grip work will enable you to grasp an opponents upper arm, etc. with better results, and holding strength work will give you the endurance to hang onto a grip when you apply it.
Youll see quick improvement in you grappling performance if you havent trained your grip before. Grip strength is a non-specific enhancement that will provide benefits in many areas. You may become more resistant to wrist injury, such as landing a punch unevenly and torquing your wrist, etc.
Well discuss how to combine all the elements of strength training we have described into a simple weight routine in the next column. This will
include the big lifts, neck, abdominal, and grip training.
Good luck and play safe.
If you would like to contact Mr. Aldridge concerning anything related to the issues he discusses, drop him an email