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Big forearms immediately convey the difference between a legitimately strong individual and a prissy pump-and-pose, chrome machine junkie. Beyond that, a strong grip is crucial for success in any combat or strength sport and for, you know, picking stuff up and putting it down.
Building a strong, crushing grip shouldn’t be an afterthought. It is both an art and science. Because of this, I decided to consult world-renowned grip training expert, Joe Musselwhite, affectionately known in the grip training world as “Mighty Joe” or “Dr. Grip.” Joe owns the largest grip training museum in the world and, of course, possesses world-class grip strength.
“The following exercises transfer or carryover well to deadlifts, pull-ups, rowing or any exercise where a stronger crush/supporting type grip is needed,” Joe says. “When it comes to increasing one’s crushing strength or supporting strength then thick-bar training is king.”
Joe is referring to bars that are 1.5 inches or thicker with 2-inch diameter being the standard. Here’s his unconventional routine for building and unconventional crush grip.
Perform a deadlift with both hands pronated and hold at the top. Focus on squeezing the bar as hard as you possibly can for 5-6 seconds. Rest 1-2 minutes between sets. This will rapidly increase one’s crush/support strength. Instead of making this a back workout, keep the weight low-to-moderate and focus on squeezing the bar as hard as possible.
Grab a fat bar overhead and hang with your arms at full extension. On this exercise you will squeeze in pulses as hard as you possibly can. Rest 1-2 minutes between sets. Each pulse should be an explosive and concentrated effort. This will increase one’s crush/support strength endurance.
On this exercise, you will have two dumbbells of different weight but one will have a “Fat Grip”-type handle on it and the other will not. Begin with the thick-handle dumbbell and perform the reps. Immediately upon completion, grab the standard-handle dumbbell and do an equal amount of reps. The standard handle (1″) dumbbell should be the weight you would normally do with dumbbell rows for 10-12 reps. The thick bar dumbbell should be of a weight that you can complete the reps.
After you have completed the Grip Training Exercises described above then it’s time to reward your hands’ efforts with some rubber band finger extensions. Simply take a couple of medium strength rubber bands and wrap them around the ends of your fingertips and start extending and flexing your fingers until you feel a real good burn in your extensors on the back of your forearms – no need to count reps. One set should suffice, assuming you perform this until your extensors are fatigued.
Afterward, lightly stretch your flexors (belly of forearm) and extensors (back of forearm) by getting down on your knees and placing your palms flat on the floor in front of you and very lightly start to stretch the flexors. Next, stretch the extensors in the same manner but by placing the back of your hands on the floor and lightly stretch them as well. Be careful if you’re not used to stretching tight forearm flexors and extensors as you can tweak your wrists and cause them to be tender for a few days. The post-grip training will create balance in your forearms and grip by training both sides of the forearm along with the stretching to keep the muscles from becoming adaptively shortened (over time) and therefore weaker. Never stretch muscles prior to strength type training – this includes your grip – because this can limit the amount of force you can exert during your workout.
Joe advises to give the above routine an honest try once or twice a week and continue to do so for at least 4-6 weeks and you should notice a great improvement in your crush and supporting grip strength and grip endurance strength. Skip at least two days between sessions and preferably set aside a day for your grip training.
Josh Bryant, MFS, CSCS, PES, is the owner of JoshStrength.com and co-author (with Adam benShea) of the Amazon No. 1 seller Jailhouse Strong. His new book, Built to the Hilt, is now available at Amazon and EliteFTS. He is a strength coach at Metroflex Gym in Arlington, Texas, and holds 12 world records in powerlifting. You can connect with him on Twitter and Facebook or visit his website at www.joshstrength.com