Article by By Zach Coulter
First off I have to say that the absolute #1 source for grip info and the only place you can talk to over 70 certified captains of crush, all the mash monsters, elite benders, strongmen, and all around kings of grip is the gripboard You must have an account (free)to view or post. Read up and ask questions there that this article doesn't answer.
First things first, you need to know what a good hand gripper is and no it's not something with plastic handles and a tiny 3/16" spring.
These are what I'm talking about: Ironmind Captains of Crush(COC) grippers:
Beef Builder grippers(BB):
Robert Baraban Deluxe Adjustable Hand Gripper 50/500lbs with Negative Rep Handle: The RBA Black Deluxe has an extended handle that can be screwed on in order to train using negative repetitions (close the gripper using two hands, resist the opening gripper with one hand) and the handle on which you wrap your fingers around is shaped for added comfort which really helps especially in the last reps
True heavy duty hand grippers are designed and built to increase crushing hand strength. These are not your $5 sporting goods specials, they average around 20 US$ plus shipping. The COC's are considered the gold standard of grippers and are made to strict standards.
If you visit gripboard you may see someone rate a gripper as 2.6 or 3.2, these depend on the person but they are referring to the specific gripper being a little more than half again as hard as a COC #2 or a bit harder than a COC#3.
The Beef Builders and RB hand grippers are handmade and are of very good quality. You can also contact Warren Tetting (of Beef Builder grippers) and he can make you a custom model to your specifications, knurling, handle spread, toughness. HG hand grippers are the bottom of the barrel but are useful training tools. HG's vary a lot hence their price. In fact, when you look at the big picture the HG's don't get very difficult until the HG250 and HG300.
Like everything else, there is a right way and a wrong way to hold, or seat the gripper in your hand. Watch this informative youtube video:
I'm not going to bother saying "don't over train" because when you first get the hand grippers you will over train, everyone does, and your hands will be very sore, a deep soreness in the knuckles, wrist, palm and fingers. This will go away with more frequent training on the lighter grippers.
When it comes to frequency no one general rule applies, some guys can train balls to the wall 7 days a week and get good results while some can only do so 1 or 2 times a week, find what works for you. Once the initial soreness in your hands goes away you can easily gauge how long it takes your hands to recover and base your training around that.
HIGH VOLUME HIGH VOLUME HIGH VOLUME HIGH VOLUME!
Beginners should use HIGH VOLUME, take a gripper you can close (if you can close a #1 then take the Trainer, if you can only close the HG200 then take the HG150) with you everywhere you go and just do closes.
Take the gripper with you where ever you go and do over 100-200 closes throughout the day, every day for a week or two then take 2 days off or as long as it takes for your hands to heal and you'll find that your grip strength has grown by leaps and bounds, then redo it with a higher strength gripper. As a beginner the #1 goal isn't to find your max and work with it, it's to increase the strength and durability of the tendons in your hand then work from there.
A little realized fact about hand strength is thumb strength. Thumb strength is vital to all forms of hand strength, even when closing grippers. If you're going to have strong hands then you'll need strong thumbs and the way to get strong thumbs is to work with block weights and pinching.
Block weight training is where you take something as simple as a brick and tie weights to it and lift, the thumb is forced to push the brick into the fingers. Pinching is where you take two smooth, metal plates and "pinch" them together and try to lift them. You could use varying widths and surfaces to add or subtract difficulty.
The pinnacle in block weights is to lift "the blob". "The blob", made popular by Richard Sorin, is 1/2 of a vintage 100lb York dumbbell, the sides are rounded and smooth and it weighs 50lbs:
The pinnacle of pinching is to pinch two 45lb plates together and fully deadlift them. You can exceed these "feats" but these are considered the benchmark for the elite.
There is one more area that is extremely beneficial; thickbar work. You simply use barbells and dumbbells with thick handles, starting at 2" and on up to 3". This is very effective because it engages the whole of the hand at one time, kind of like a squat for your hands.
Another way to work your thumb is with the Robert Baraban pinch grip adapters. The Pinch Grip adapter is an innovative new device that allows you to squeeze yet more benefit from your adjustable or regular gripper. The two sleeves fasten easily onto the end of the handles of your gripper and allow you to exercise a greater range of motion for your thumb - hugely beneficial for increasing your pinch lifting power:
The benchmark for the elite thick bar guys is lifting the "Thomas Inch Dumbbell", a 172lb globe ended dumbbell with a 2.47" handle:
There is also what is called the Millennium Dumbbell that weighs in at 225lbs with a 2.38" handle, only a handful of men worldwide have even dead lifted the "MDB". You can also read more on thumb strength on gripboard.
Here's a way to unique way to train your fingers: The Robert Baraban 3" or 4" Thunder Ball:
Gripper training techniques
Gripfaq.com describes gripper exercises but here are some not mentioned. Two finger closes, try closing the T with two fingers, then work towards the #1. Especially work like this with your pinky and ring fingers, these fingers are perhaps 99% of most people's weakness when they first start out with grip so the more strength you gain in these two fingers the faster a higher gripper will fall.
One finger closes, I don't recommend doing these with a heavy gripper because if you're not warmed up properly you could pull a tendon or hurt yourself some other way but I do them with the G and S and they have really helped my closing strength.
Inverted, you can Invert the gripper and do closes that way, you'll probably be stronger this way with your left hand because of how the spring is wound.
Extensors are the muscles on the back of the forearm involved in opening the hand and are extremely important to hand health and strength. While training grippers, pinches and anything involving closing the hand you may develop a strength imbalance between the two sides of your forearm and you will feel pain or soreness in the back of your hands and your progress on you grip training will halt.
To cure this you must train the extensors, and you should train them all the time! Some ways to train the extensors are reverse barbell curls; you could wrap rubber bands around the ends of your fingers and open your hand. Open pretty much means your pinky and pointer fingertips are farther from the tip of your thumb than you middle finger is long. My middle finger is 3 1/4" long so my pinky and pointer should be more than 3 1/4" from my thumb. Fingertip pushups work too.
Rest and Recuperation
Rest is the most important thing in weightlifting of any kind. If you feel deep pain in your hands (and you're more than a complete beginner) then stop gripping for a few days. Contrast baths are good for recouping faster; you fill two buckets or sinks with very hot water in one and ice water in the other and just switch your hands from one to the other every 2-5 minutes. You could dip your arms up to your elbows in ice water for 2 minutes then take them out for 2 minutes and repeat until you feel better.
Play with some dexterity balls or Chinese balls to get the hands loosened up. Anything that gets blood flowing to your hands is a good thing so there are some weird ones, like wearing mittens to bed, it sounds stupid but it does work. I've actually found that playing Fight Night Round 3 on the PS3 gets my hands pumped, in fact I've used it as a warm-up before though I'm pretty sure playing the Wii wouldn't have the same effect.
Well this is just a primer for those who are interested in grip strength, so good luck to all of you future gripmonsters! Keep in mind I'm leaving out card tearing, phonebook ripping, steel bending and all sorts of other fun feats of strength!
For further reading look into:
I bought two hand grippers, the trainer and #1 from Ironmind Captains of Crush(COC) and they are just right for a beginner gripmonster like me!!
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