Training Your Grip

In Tuesday night’s Gutterfighting class, we got off on a tangent about grip training and broke out some of the grip toys we have.  A lot of people don’t really think about grip too much. Nevertheless, there are so many instances across the wide spectrum of martial arts training, whether empty-hand, or in the utilization of weapons, that could benefit from improved grip.  Aside from that, whenever I have concentrated on grip training, I find that my hand and wrist pain (from years of repetitive computer work) completely disappear. 


Dexterity Balls

Before I use other things, I tend to “warm-up” with dexterity balls, also known as Chinese meditation balls.  There are a number of exercises you can do with these, believe it or not, and they come in different diameters.  I do find the practice quite relaxing.  The great grip master, John Brookfield, also uses them, and I believe when I ordered them a few years ago from Ironmind, they came with a manual that he wrote.


Expand Your Hands bands

Next, I move onto some Expand-your-hands rubber bands.  You place all five fingers inside the band as it rests/loops around the fingernails; extend your fingers outward, thereby opening your hand.  In my mind, this is great for balancing out the grip work that involves so much flexion of the fingers and hands.

After warming up and extending, I get down to the realy nitty gritty: Captains of Crush grippers, pinch grip tools, and various wrist strengthening tools like the Twist Yo’ Wrist and a wrist roller. 


Captains of Crush Grippers 

COC Grippers

Captains of Crush Grippers

Everybody loves these.  They are kind of addictive, and every time my partner has brought these out for LEO training classes, they just cannot get enough of them.  COC grippers come in lots of different strengths, beginning with the “Guide”, at 60 pounds of resistance.  Most of you men out there will probably be able to start with the Sport (80 pounds) or the Trainer (100 pounds).  For women, it’s hard to say, and you will have to experiment to find out where you need to start.  For strength, I would recommend training every other day, and do about 3 sets or so of 5 to 6 reps on each hand.  Once you get in the groove, you can certainly do more.  As a general rule of thumb, we say that if you can get 10 good reps on a gripper, and be able to “grind” the ends together when you close it, it is time to step up to the next gripper.  If men can close a #2 (195 pounds), they are getting into very respectable territory.  The same goes for women closing the #1 (140 pounds).


Pinch Grip Tools

Hub Grip
Block Grip
Block Grip

We have the hub-style gripper (who needs tools to get off lug nuts when you have your monster hands?) and the block gripper (for your C clamp—great for shooters!).  We use the Olympic size loading pins (with clip).  These are awesome, and you can just lift them up, or even take a little farmer’s walk with them.  I won’t kid you.  Using these pinch grippers is not incredibly exciting training, but you will definitely reap benefits from the time you put into it.  We also have several of the IMTUG grippers for working two-finger grip.  These help you build up strength in individual fingers.

Wrist/Forearm Tools

Homemade Wrist Roller (left) and Twist Yo' Wrist
Homemade Wrist Roller (left) and Twist Yo’ Wrist

I have a love-hate relationship with these.  They are great, but they hurt like the devil.  I have a Twist Yo’ Wrist tool.  It is cylindrical, and you grip it as you would to remove a jar lid.  Roll the climbing cord, with weight attached, on and off the cylinder.  It sets your forearms on fire!  It mimics the wrist rehab exercises for ulnar and radial deviation. 

I fashioned my own wrist roller with PVC pipe, climbing cord, metal washers and a clip.  I drilled a hole in the middle of the pipe and fed the climbing cord into it.  I attached a clip so I could add Olympic plates.  Similar to the Twist Yo’ Wrist, I roll the cord on and off the pipe, and I extend my arms with palms facing down.  I suppose you could use it with palms up, though I never have.  I’d rather do standard wrist curls for that.

In addition to all the aforementioned tools, kettlebells do wonders for your grip.  Some people want to use gloves because they hate calluses, but they are truly missing out on the added benefits of slinging these little cannonballs.  John Brookfield does a number of different things for grip that cost little or no money, including “bone dry”.  All you do for this exercise is fill a bucket with water, dip a towel into the water, and wring out as much water as you possibly can (hence the name, bone dry!).  Rope climbing and towel pull-ups are tremendous for grip.  Picking up sandbags, wherein the weight shifts, can be great for grip.  We have a lot of manuals with ideas for training grip, and the possibilities are endless! 

If you want specialized grip tools, Ironmind is an excellent place to go.  That’s where we have bought many of our tools: 

Now go forth and work on your death grip, my friends.  I daresay in the process, you will develop a very respectable, if not scary handshake. 


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  1. was wondering where a person can get some of those elastic bands for the fingers….they are also good for carpo-tunnel in the wrist to strengthen them

    • Yes, most definitely! Great for rehab. It helped me. The bands can be found at Ironmind and I really recommend them. I also have one of the rehab eggs, too.

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