Hold On With A Bulldog Grip

Working grip training into your workouts

Improve your grip strength

Grip strength does more than improve your golf game.

I invited Josh Hanagarne, aka the World’s Strongest Librarian, to write a guest post. Not surprising, he sent me a great piece of work. Enjoy. BTW, the quote in 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 in to my normal workouts without much of a headache.

Before I tell you how I work grip training in, 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, then squeezed it as hard as you could, that’s support group. 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 work for 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.

Incorporating grip work

Easiest thing in the world. During the course of 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 days in your future. It really 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 is a fanatic about strength, both mentally and physically. You can read more about his strengths at Worlds Strongest Librarian.

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16 Responses to “Hold On With A Bulldog Grip”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Todd Boyer and Project Swole, Top Sites Fitness. Top Sites Fitness said: Hold On With A Bulldog Grip: A strong grip helps more than just a handshake. It's great for golf, and so many ot… http://bit.ly/gZvuxd [...]

  2. Greg says:

    Plate curls. That’s hard-core dedication to a craft. But, most people don’t consider the fact that your contact with an object (i.e. grip) is really the limiting factor when it comes to how that object can be manipulated.

    And, of course, pulling off like ripping phone books in half at parties is impressive as heck. :-)
    Greg´s last [type] ..Bicycling On Vacation – Ding Darling at Sanibel Island

  3. Todd says:

    LOL Yes, strongman feats always go over well at a party.
    I noticed when training for powerlifting last year that my deadlift was hindered greatly by my grip strength. I knew that I had more “lift” in me, but I wasn’t sure if my hands would be able to hold on to the weight. Since, I’ve become a huge fan of grip strength training.

  4. Great post Josh!

    As you progress in your training and build your strength, there’s always a limiting factor of some sort. It’s the weakest link in your strength chain…the squeaky wheel.

    For the longest time it was my back, but once I started focusing on really building that, my wrists started squeaking (metaphorically of course). :) I’m looking forward to implementing some of the exercises you’ve mentioned. Especially since they’re the sort that can be performed easily throughout the day by a desk dweller like me.

    Crush it,

    Lean Muscle Matt´s last [type] ..Shiver Walk to Fat Loss

  5. HAHA! I can honestly say that my grip strength will never be a limiting factor. In other words, I will never be so strong that my grip strength cannot support the weight I am trying to lift. And while grip training isn’t my thing, I have been addicted to other types of physical challenges, such as # of burpees I can do in 10 minutes or bettering my time on doing 100 burpees. That stuff becomes addicting!
    Susan@Home Workouts´s last [type] ..Plant Based Diet An Actual Cure For Cancer

  6. Josh is really smart and most people agree that he is a truly talented writer. This is a great piece on grip training. I personally love to use compound exercises like deadlifts, barbell rows, shrugs, and of course pull ups to train my grip. It’s always good to change up equipment too. Thick bars on the deadlift, towel pull ups, and heavy rows work great. Of course I always enjoy hammer curls, grippers, plate pinches, and sand grabbing for additional grip training. Not quite sure if I ever want to do 45 pound plate curls, but more props to anyone who can do it.
    Forearm Exercises´s last [type] ..How to Treat Shin Splints

  7. Todd says:

    @Matt, Finding that limiting point, and working through it can be quite “fun”. Something to focus on.

    @Susan, Josh is always talking on WSL about doing things like that. He’s always trying to break a new personal record on just about everything he does. He’s one of my strength heroes.

  8. I’m finding that when I don’t have a useful comment dut to the fact that I can’t contribute to anything, retweeting is a pretty solid thing to do since I’m a rock star. I tweeted :)

  9. I also hit enter without spell checking. My bad.

  10. Todd says:

    RT’s are ALWAYS welcome, Julie, especially by a rock star like yourself. :) Thanks for stopping by.

  11. Jedd Johnson says:

    Nice article, Josh. Way to spread the word about the importance of Grip Training. Keep it up, brother!


    Weekly Grip Strength Challenge – Can You Lever an 8-lb Sledge?

  12. Todd says:

    @Jedd, thanks for coming by and commenting. BTW, love your site. That looks fantastic!

  13. Bry says:

    I’m having the same problem with my hands. The targeted muscle group is capable of doing the exercise with heavy weights, but my hands don’t like it. Maybe I should be doing this…
    Bry´s last [type] ..FitPoint- Workout Buddies!

  14. Todd says:

    @Bry, absolutely. Grip strength training will really help in your lifting routines.

  15. Hey everyone, sorry I’m so late. Great batch of comments here. Todd, I’m not seeing an option for me to reply to individual comments. Am I missing something?
    Josh Hanagarne´s last [type] ..The Librarian- The Lawyer- and The Greatest Discussion of All Time

  16. Todd says:

    No, that’s one of the drawbacks to this free theme. One day I will be able to afford a premium theme, and that is on my list of wishes.

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