Get a Grip on a Gripper

by Thom Van Vleck

Last Monday night the Jackson Weightlifting Club did one of our Strongman Shows at a Bible Camp near Clarence, Missouri. As we had done this camp for 6 straight years I was trying to come up with some new feats so that those that had been there several times would not be seeing the same old stuff. As I scanned the JWC Training Hall I noticed my “Captains of Crush” Grippers and came up with an idea for something to do with them.

Once at the camp and during the show, I called up the head camp counselor and gave him a regular store bought gripper and I closed the #2 then we switched. He struggled to put a kink in the #2. Then I gave him the “easy one” (a #1) and he failed with it after much straining and groaning. The kids got a kick out of it and I managed a few reps with my #2 to at least make it look like I had some grip. I don’t claim to be a “grip master”, but 10 reps with my #2 is my best.

There are all kinds of grippers out now. The Captains of Crush put out by Ironmind, Heavy Grip Hand Grippers, JB (John Brookfield) grippers, and many others. But what was the original? It got me to thinking and I did some research.

I found some info that gives credit to Thomas Inch as having what were called “nutcracker” grippers that he challenged people in the audience to try. I know there were probably others, but I was thinking in terms of the more modern, steel spring “Super Gripper”.

I had recalled seeing a “Super Gripper” in an old Ironman magazine and after some research (me looking thru my collection of old Iron Man mags!), I found it. It required a reputed 220lbs of pressure to close and was sold from 1964 to 1977. They evidently enjoyed very limited success, but were the inspiration for the Ironmind “Captains of Crush” grippers that started the “Gripper” revolution in 1990 that goes strong today!

I know there is a whole sub culture of strength that now wraps around grippers and training not just to build grip strength but to be able to close a stronger and stronger gripper. I like to break mine out every so often in my training rotation, but I don’t rely on them solely for my grip strength. Personally, I like to train mine with a straight arm as I don’t want to develop the habit of “bending my arm” as I flex my grip. You don’t want to flex the arm on a clean or snatch, nor in highland games or many strongman events. So why not train grip with a fully extended arm?

A final note, if you go out and buy yourself some heavy duty grippers, work into them slowly. I have had at least one training buddy, and myself, sprain a knuckle going too hard, too fast and not warming up enough. That was a painful injury that took a long time to heal and interfered with my other training (and it even made work difficult as I type a lot!).

So, get a grip on a gripper!

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