First, watch this video.
I am going to talk about hand strength, specifically the crushing strength of the hands.
For a long time I honestly didn’t like grippers. I did not “get it” with all the buzz and excitement some men had around what gripper they could close. I have owned Captains of Crush grippers for a long time, but I very rarely used them.
I know why I didn’t like them too, I was not very good with them. More specific to this idea; grippers are incredibly specific in their groove. Closing a #3 is not a surefire bet to elite hand strength, because you could still suck at pinch, support, bending, ripping, and levering.
To that same end, not being able to close a gripper does not mean someone is weak. Plenty of very strong people who are unable to close heavy grippers.
#1 the set position of a gripper is critical.
For every movement there is a position where physics are optimal for power demonstration. With grippers this position is so precise that 1/8″ can throw off a great close to a huge miss.
#2 gripper tend to smoke the hands and over fatigue them (belief system! not automatically reality)
I was certain of that point! If I work on my grippers often I will backslide on my other lifts/movements.
Why did I believe that? So many others told me it was true. I never put that to the test back than. I never tried it out in a measurable way to see if this was the reality for me. See what happens when you don’t question your practices?
#3 jumps in resistance were so big. If you buy a Captain of Crush #1, #2 and #3 and think you will close the three you have a rude awaking coming.
Here is an example why. Imagine you want to deadlift 500 lbs, and right now you can lift 235. You have three barbells. They are globe bars and the weight is fixed (stay with me) one weighs 150, one weighs 315, one weighs 495. Do you think you could get to 500 with just those three bars?
#4 little progress! I found it hard to get excited to play with my grippers back then because I had two which I could easily close, one which I struggled with, and two which I couldn’t do anything with, it was frustrating. Meanwhile, I had 30 other lifts and movements which were cruising right along. Pretty easy decision to make day to day on what to train. Move forward or don’t go anywhere? I’ll take option 1 please.
Closing the tetting retro “Heman” gripper from a no set position, 9 June 2008
2009 Things Start to Turn around
The first big change for me and grippers was developing a set technique. I started working with 5 different set techniques I learned from observing videos of talented grip athletes, and I used them over and over until one stuck more than the rest. This is the same technique I teach in both Grip and Rip 2.1 DVD in the gripper section and in ISG Vol 1.
The second big change was fixing my bad attitude towards grippers. The two people I would like to thank for that are Ben Edwards and Jedd Johnson who both gave me some tips and encouragement to give them an honest go.
The third big change was getting more grippers so that I had more levels of difficulty.
Things moved along much better than. By March of 20o9 I was consistently closing my #3 right sided. I had a detour from grippers during the summer because I was in WY on a machine gun range.
The gripper day that stands out the most for me is 17 Nov 2009, the day I was able to close my #3 with both right and left hand. Not only was I able to get my easy #3, I closed all 4 of my #3s that day with both hands.
Wondering what was so special? 17 November was about 6 weeks in to my Gym Movement trial run, or my “Is Frankie Faires full of shit?” experiment.
A month later I released my under appreciated programming with biofeedback part IV video, which detailed my gripper training. It was not taken very well by the grip community. Instead of anyone using it, they simply said I was a dumb ass for challenging the ideas which were passed down from grip lore and legend.
Now of course, the funny part is the same people who told me I don’t know what I am talking about/I suck at grippers/toe touches have nothing to do with grippers are paying me for training information specifically relating to grippers. Everything is funny until its not funny. You laugh now, I will get paid later. Sadly while I am on track to hit my next goal of a COC 3.5 certification some of these same people can’t even train anymore because these heavy negatives/forced reps/over crushes damaged their hands and arms. Natural selection is not just an idea.
The kick in the ass
In April of 2010 David Horne, a true Grip Master who has kicked everyone in Europes ass in grip sport said he was throwing a world wide contest in the fall and was looking for promoters. I volunteered for the job.
From April to June I did almost no gripper training at all. I was able to close a #3 for a single or two.
In July my Vulcan hand gripper arrived. The day it arrived I closed level 13 one time. It was hard. I did roughly 11 reps that day.
The first leg of the contest was in mid-August. I was working with the gripper 3-4 days a week for moderate volume (15-30 reps) with a moderate difficulty (level 9-12).
Leg 1, I closed level 15, epically missed 16
Leg 4, I closed 17, barely missed 18.
One week after the contest I closed level 18.
So the Worlds Strongest Hands 2010 Series was my kick in the ass.
So what happened from there?
I totaled up all my volume from 2009 to September 2010. My records are complete, because my particular personality disorder demands training information is tracked.
Total closed for all grippers during this nearly two year period: 671 reps.
Oct 2010: I did 850 reps. In 31 days I did more work than I had done in two years. The Vulcan was testing well daily. I figured out some key sticking points which allowed me to find strong positions to work in daily.
Nov 2010, over 900 reps. Easier than the 850 from Oct.
Level 18, vulcan hand gripper gold spring
December 2010, I completed the Ironmind Captain of Crush certification by credit card setting a brand new out of the package #3 COC. During this month I dropped my volume under 500 reps. Grippers did not test well (predictably) as often.
Beef Builder Elite, tougher than any #3 COC
Jan 2011: So far we are only 12 days in to the year, I have closed a gripper more than 1,500 times. It is possible at this rate I will go over 3,000 reps before the end of the month. I work with a range between Level 12 and level 16. My daily volume has been between 125 and 300 reps. This is all done in under 30 minutes, with most of them being 15 minutes or less.
So now you maybe wondering, how does this story help you?
First of all, how awesome is that? That makes you better right?
Seriously, I am telling you this to help you out.
Lets look at four sacred cows of grippers that I have challenged here, maybe they are hurting your training too.
- grippers must be trained with low reps
- grippers require a lot of recovery time, and will heavily impact your “CNS” (those who have said this to me did not know much about the CNS, or any tissue system. Buzz words are so fun!)
- its takes years to make progress with crush grip
- you have to use over crushes, negatives, and forced reps
Now lets look at how this story impacts those ideas.
Low reps: maybe a gripper is special, but your hand plays by the same rules are the rest of your tissue. This means there are no correct and incorrect rep ranges, simply ranges which test better than others. I will say it seems better progress is made but some people to use very high reps. From a skill point of view it is more practice in that position, from a tissue point of view it is far more overload.
Recovery: Did my mitts get sore after days of 200+ reps? Yup. Do 200 reps of any loaded movement and you have a good chance of being sore. Did it change my plans for the rest of the week? No. I did not miss even one workout over the month due to excessive fatigue, pain, or discomfort. In fact my training volume is increasing in all lifts. A global step towards better…
Years to progress: I don’t think so. I think if we give someone who is brand new an adjustable gripper like the vulcan and the testing protocol they will make pretty damn fast progress. level 13 is like a hard 2.5/easy#3, level 18 is 3.5 level difficulty. I am moving 19 now more often. It is only a few more months and I will close 20. Like everything else, do the right things and you can move as fast as you can move. Do I think everyone who reads this will have the same experience as I? Nope, maybe you will do better.
Over crush, negatives, forced reps: these are three techniques I do not use. I do show them to people so they can make a choice, but I do not use them. Each of the three is an example of using effort in training. I have made tons of progress without using these heavy effort techniques. I have effectively learned closing a gripper is easy. These techniques are teaching you closing a gripper is harder. I will add these three techniques are associated to thumb, elbow, shoulder, and finger pain and injury. You now have all the information you need if you wish to explore them.
So do you want it to be easier or harder to close that #3 when the time comes?
So How do You make faster progress with your hand strength with grippers?
- First figure out the reason why you are using the grippers. Do you want to close a certain gripper, do you want to do a certification program like COC or Mash Monster, do you want more muscle mass, or do you just want more crushing strength?
- Start using the testing protocol to determine when it is best for you to train the gripper
- Avoid the elements of effort in your training (excessive tension, unnatural breathing patterns, poor postural alignment, training to failure)
- Be experimental with your training, not ideological
- Use a variety of tools
- Adjust stance and positioning as often as possible
- Keep it fun (making progress will help)
- Do not listen to your critics negative comments, but do look for possible value in their feedback
- Record your progress for future experiment data
- Reap the rewards of your invested time and training
Here are a few other gripper articles I have written this year, the sum of this will help
- Crush grip training, how I have made big improvement this year
- Build stronger hands fast, how to set a gripper
- How to close a captain of crush #3 gripper faster
IMPORTANT: everything I have said here is useless unless you are willing to question it and run your own experiments.
My methods have worked for my body, but that does not mean it is right for yours. I have showed you the most important step in this article. If you would like more information in detail about grip training, pick up my DVD