HUBanero Training or Setting Your Grip On Fire

by James Fuller

Driving home from the 2013 Heavy Lift Championships, I realized I had a puzzle to solve.  How to continue improving my Hub lifting ability without the aid of Frank Ciavattone’s large hub Yorks? Remember, Frank’s hubs are the SAME 4  3/4″ across as on my 100 lbers!! Lifting by the hub is NOT at all like lifting a thick bar, pinch gripping a bunch of 10 lb plates or crushing a gripper to death. Hub lifting is uniquely it’s own. The performance is not straightforward as Al Myers can tell you.

4 Spoke Grip Nemesis

To Frank’s meet, I brought 2 45lb BEN Deep Dish plates. These were my Hub Lifting practice plates. The hubs are the same 3  1/2″ across as my York Deep Dish 45’s but have only 3 ’spokes’.  The spokes are the risers on plates most people don’t notice. Near the lip or flange of the plate, they start low and and gradually get taller like a ramp until they merge into the hub.

I showed Al how to grab the hub with index and middle finger together while the ring finger is on the other side of the spoke. The thumb doesn’t seem to contribute much. The pinky ‘backs up’ the ring finger at best. From here twist hand INWARDS against the spokes, as if to unscrew the top off a pickle jar. Now pick up the weight. When I’m done training with these plates it is the ring finger(s) that feel the most stress/work. The twisting helps get my hands closer to the hub and effectively ’shortens’ my fingers. As Al pointed out a smaller hand person has the advantage when it comes to Hub Lifting. The larger the hand, the more work that has to be done  by the finger tips alone.

My 4 spoke York 45’s give me nothing to twist against. The spokes are laid out differently and require me to pick them up ’straight on’ by the finger tips. I can not lift them this way…yet. I need something lighter but with similar dimensions. I believe I’ve found a possible solution. I bought a couple of Fire Hydrant Nozzle Caps(FHNC) at a local Antique shop.

Comparison of Nozzle Cover: Gripping Lip (left) and Gripping Base (right)

These caps provide 3 different gripping ‘handles’ to train. The top is a pentagon. One fits a thumb and 3 fingers while the other fits a thumb and 2 fingers. Oddly, the smaller pentagon is on the heavier cap. The second ‘handle’ is a lip just below the base of the pentagon. The lip can only be picked up by the finger tips. The 3rd handle is the base below the lip. This is the widest part of the cap. One measures 4  3/4″  and the other is 4  1/4″.  One flares out much like a hub. The other  is straight and has finger holds. With hand over the pentagon, there’s more distance between the palm and the fingers, requiring more fingertip strength to pick up the cap. The insides are threaded so that I can attach a pipe and add weight.  The whopping cost for these caps were 10.00$. Some rattle can rust converter to keep the tetanus down to a minimum and I’m off to the races. I’m curious to see how training with these turns out. You certainly can’t beat the price. Remember, there’s nothing like fire hydrant parts to add fire to your training.

The Hub Lift Clean & Press

by Al Myers

James Fuller hub lifting an Old-style York Deep-Dish 45 lb plate, then cleaning and pressing it!

Last month at Frank’s Barbell Record Breakers  James Fuller did something that really impressed me.  Most of us know James by his secret forum identity only (61pwcc , ok – it’s not a secret anymore!!).  I first met him at the Heavy Lift Championships in York, PA in 2011.  James epitomizes an all rounder – he is constantly thinking of different lifting movements to incorporate into his daily training.  He is interested in ALL TYPES of strength.  Just watch some of his YouTube Videos of his training in his dungeon and you’ll see what I’m talking about!

Now what did he do that impressed me so much?  Well – even though he did several spectacular record lifts that wasn’t it. In fact, this strength feat was done as an exhibition lift that is not an official lift of the USAWA and thus is not a record of any kind.   It was him hub lifting an old style deep-dish York 45 plate, then cleaning it, and finishing off by pressing it.  That’s quite a grip feat.  James commented in the forum by saying, “I hub lifted one of Frank’s York Deep Dish 45’s and he in turn used MY York Deep Dish 45’s that I just got. Been wanting to Hub Clean & Press a 45er for awhile.”

I have a old York deep-dish 45 in the Dino Gym, and I’ve only seen a few lifters even lift it up by the hub.  I consider that a great grip feat and definitely puts a person in a “class of their own”.  Performing a Clean & Press by the hub is just unreal!  I just hope James shows up at the Heavy Lift Champs this spring in Walpole, as I’ll try to talk him into repeating this effort so I can see it first-hand!

Hey…Get a Grip

by Roger LaPointe

An Old Time Strongman curling a York 45 by the hub!!!

Check out this photo from the April 1941 Strength & Health Magzine. What you see is Tarzan Lunt, the weightlifting coach of the Harrisburg YMCA, curling a York 45 pound Olympic plate, by the HUB. Pretty cool.

Now, you want a good grip? Sure, the guy with a crushing hand shake is a jerk. Yet, wouldn’t it be nice if your grip were so rock solid that you had to deliberately NOT crush people’s hands? It’s not merely and issue of spending hours a day doing specific grip work. You have to have proper rest, recovery and variety in your grip training.

Today, I spoke with a juggler, who has been in the Guinness Book, about heavy juggling. He found that more than an hour a day with 5 pound juggling weights lead to tendonitis in his biceps tendon, at the elbow. However, 4 pounds was OK. Crazy. Right? Today, at 70 years old, he has found that he loves training with our solid wood Indian Clubs that weigh 1 1/2 pounds. Guys, that is really significant. Look up the weight for juggler’s clubs. Jugglers use materials that differ by ounces, the vast majority less than one pound in total weight.

Why are clubs important?

They develop wrist and forearm strength, combined with flexibility.  Then switch to something like grippers and thick bar work.

The JWC Monster Wrist Roller

by Thom Van Vleck

LaVerne Myers, of the Dino Gym, training on the JWC Monster Wrist Roller in preparation for next month's USAWA Grip Championships.

Recently, I made a monster wrist roller out of spacers from an old disc (farm implement that would bust up clods after plowing or aerate the ground).  These spacers look like giant spindles and are about 2″ in diameter in the grip.  I put three on a 1 1/4″ bar.  The two outside ones were for grip and the inside one was to roll up the rope which was attached to a vertical bar loaded with weight.   I was so pleased with it, I made one for Al Myers who then took it and improved up on the design.  I have to admit, Al’s is now better than mine, although I made some changes to mine based on Al’s ideas.

At any rate, I have been using it lately for my grip.  I use it just like a regular wrist roller but I set in in my squat racks  so that it take the pressure off my delts and puts all the emphasis on my forearms.  I try and get really aggressive rolling the weight up and use enough weight to really challenge me.  I pretend I’m trying to squeeze water out of a rock!!!!!

Wrist rollers are a great training tool, even if you don’t have a “Monster” one like me and Al.  If you come to either the Dino Gym or the JWC Training Hall, you will have to give them a try!  Grip has always been stubborn for me to make progress so any new toy adds new excitement to my training and for now, the Monster Wrist Roller is what’s new in my grip training!

WORKING MAN’S GRIP TRAINING

BY DAVE GLASGOW

DAVE GLASGOW IN FRONT OF THE FORGE THAT WAS USED TO HEAT THE DRILL BITS. DAVE IS USING THE 16 POUND SLEDGE HAMMER THAT WAS MENTIONED IN THIS STORY. THIS PICTURE IS FROM 1978.

FOR SOMEONE WHO HAS NEVER, SERIOUSLY, TRAINED GRIP, I THINK I HAVE A FAIR GRIP.   I AM CERTAIN I KNOW WHY!!  I SUPPOSE MANY WILL QUESTION IF THIS IS A TRUE “GRIP WORKOUT”, HOWEVER, I THINK THE STORY BARES TELLING, IF NOTHING ELSE.

MY DAD, JOHN, HAD A DRILLING BUSINESS THAT HE STARTED IN 1957.   I BEGAN HELPING POP FROM AN EARLY AGE.  WHEN I GOT OUT OF COLLEGE, (I DID’NT GRADUATE, BUT THAT IS ANOTHER STORY!), I WENT TO WORK FOR POP FULL TIME.   I WAS YOUNG, IN GOOD SHAPE AND I REVELED IN THE PHYSICAL ASPECT OF THE JOB.

WE RAN WHAT IS CALLED A “CABLE TOOL” RIG THAT DRILLED MUCH AS A GIANT CHISEL DOES.  THE MAIN COMPONENT OF THIS DRILLING RIG WAS A STRING OF “TOOLS’, AT THE END OF WHICH WAS A GIANT BIT. DEPENDING ON THE SIZE OF THE HOLE YOU WERE DRILLING, THE BITS COULD WEIGH FROM #200 TO A HALF TON OR MORE.  THE BITS WERE NOTHING MORE THAN HUGE CHUNKS OF STEEL WITH A SHARPEN END.  IT IS THIS “SHARPENED” END THAT MAKES UP THE CRUX OF THIS STORY.

IN ORDER TO SHARPEN THESE BITS, YOU HAD TO PUT THEM IN A FORGE, HEAT THEM UNTIL THEY WERE WHITE HOT, THEN, BEAT THE END WITH A SLEDGE HAMMER TO GET THE ANGLE (POINT) YOU NEEDED.

MOST OF YOU HAVE HEARD THE PHRASE, ‘STRIKE WHILE THE IRON IS HOT!!?’   THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT WE HAD TO DO!  TWO MEN WERE NEEDED TO DO THIS, WITH ONE MAN ON EACH SIDE OF THE BIT AND HAMMERED THE END WITH A SLEDGE UNTIL ONE OF THREE THINGS HAPPENED.   ONE- YOU COULDN’T BREATH; TWO- THE IRON GOT TOO COLD OR, THREE- YOUR GRIP GAVE OUT!

NOW, FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS,  I SEE IT HAS RECENTLY BECOME FASHIONABLE TO USE A SLEDGE HAMMER FOR AN AEROBIC WORKOUT.  THAT IS ALL WELL AND FINE;  HOWEVER, WE WERE DOING IT TO MAKE A LIVING!! AEROBIC WORKOUT BE DAMNED!!

THROW INTO THE MIX; WE HAD THREE DIFFERENT WEIGHTS OF SLEDGES. TWELVE, FOURTEEN AND SIXTEEN POUND, THE SIXTEEN HAVING BEEN USED BY MY GREAT UNCLE FOR THE SAME PURPOSE BACK IN THE LATE FORTY’S.  AS YOU SEE, YOU COULD VARY THE WEIGHTS, REPS AND NUMBER OF SETS, JUST AS YOU WOULD YOUR REGULAR WORKOUT.

BY THE TIME WE FINISHED, I SWEAR, THERE WERE TIMES I THOUGHT MY FOREARMS WERE GOING TO EXPLODE! THIS WHOLE PROCESS WOULD TAKE ABOUT THREE HOURS FROM THE FIRST “BEAT” UNTIL YOU HAD THE FINISHED PRODUCT, TAKING ABOUT FIVE TO SIX “BEATS”, WITH ABOUT TWENTY MINUTES BETWEEN “BEATS”. THE NET RESULT BEING, FOR THE REST OF THE DAY, AND WELL INTO THE NEXT, YOU WOULD WALK AROUND WITH ‘POPEYE’ FOREARMS!

NOW, BEING YOUNG, DUMB AND FULL OF ….EAGERNESS,  I FELT IT UNMANLY TO USE ANYTHING LESS THAN THE 16#.  HOWEVER, AFTER THE THIRD “BEAT”, I WOULD RELENT AND CHANGE TO THE 14#, AS MY LUNG CAPACITY WAS NOT NEAR AS GREAT AS MY BONEHEADED PRIDE!!

SO, YOU BE THE JUDGE!! IS THAT A WORKOUT OR NOT??

I MIGHT ALSO COMMENT THAT MY POP, WHO WAS FARM BOY STRONG AND OIL PATCH TOUGH, WOULD OUTLAST MY BROTHER AND ME, THEN STAND THERE, CALL US “CANDY-ASSES” AND BURST INTO UPROARIOUS LAUGHTER AT THE SIGHT OF HIS OFF-SPRING GASPING FOR BREATH!!

All-ROUND Grip Strength

by John McKean

Rob McKean showing total body work (and enjoyment!) from squeezing the life out of dear old Dad!

My neighbor once shouldered a 604 pound wrestler and body-slammed him.  A gym full of iron game devotees also witnessed him doing a strict bench press of 330 pounds for 38 consecutive reps – no wraps, no suit, no drugs! Except for a busy work schedule, my old buddy would have challenged Paul Anderson for a berth on the ’56 Olympic weightlifting team.   Art Montini knew him as a fellow “Odd-lift” competitor (curl, bench press, press-behind-neck, squat, deadlift – like a version of All-Rounds, before official powerlifting!). You may know him as Bruno Sammartino! Yes, THAT Bruno – pro wrestling’s “Living Legend,” the athlete responsible for selling more tickets than any wrestler in history!

Before breaking in to the pro ranks, Bruno set all Pittsburgh heavyweight lifting records and even won a physique contest or two. During very intense workouts, however, his most unusual exercise, always thinking toward wrestling, was to grip a long, heavy boxing bag and squeeze for all he was worth. We would call this a “bear hug,” and the young lion eventually acquired the power to EXPLODE these rugged combinations of thick canvas and sand! In his first crack at the heavyweight wrestling title (in what was later revealed to be much more of a serious grudge match than “entertainment”), Bruno applied his very brutal gripping hold onto longtime champion Buddy Rogers, acquiring a submission within 47 seconds of the match!

The total body Iso-Hug on a sparring mannequin, for all-round grip strength

Naturally, we young teens were anxious to emulate our hero’s training procedures. I found the heavy bag squeeze to be superb grip strength training, not only pumping the forearms, but also going full circle to yield arm, delt, and pec strength. Heck, the hips, legs, and back were intensely involved too – truly an all-round gripping exercise!! Since the material always “gave” a bit when hugged with intent, what started as an “isometric exercise” of sorts ended up more as a short range type movement, as in subsequent power rack lifts.

The old sand bags are still around, but few of our weightlifting gyms have them. I suppose you could sneak up and try this on a lifting partner – though I did this once with Art, and he BIT me (of course, I found out the hard way that Art was actually an undefeated collegiant wrestler in his early years!). These days, however, there are lifelike mannequins that provide a realistic type body gripping (see photos) and supply a rugged “moving isometric” form of work. Or you could build a bag – fill it with stones, sand, or straw.

John exploding the top of a small sparring bag with his killer headlock !

One old time wrestler, Ed “Strangler” Lewis, a generation before Bruno, built himself a special skull sized bag to religiously train his deadly headlock. It was said no other wrestler, back in the 1920s when the professional sport was entirely legitimate, could ever defeat him. In fact, his crushing arm grip was so intense that even willing sparring partners were hard for ole Ed to come by! I can personally attest to the gripping STAMINA that a headlock squeeze will yield; if one holds on, giving his all, for a minute or more to a small bag, then the forearms and biceps feel swollen to Mr. Universe proportions!

WE in the USAWA pride ourselves on lifts that work the total body! Throw away those wimpy little hand grippers or soft tennis balls, and grab onto something that’ll cause all-round crunching effort!

Ring and Pinky Thick Bar Deadlift & Farmer’s Drag

by Ben Edwards

Ben Edwards demonstrates the Ring and Pinky Fingers Thick Bar Deadlift and Farmer's Drag.

The ring and pinky fingers are the weak link when training with thick bars. This article introduces the reader to specialized training designed to improve the support grip strength of the ring and pinky fingers. I call this combo exercise “Ring and Pinky Thick Bar Deadlift and Farmer’s Drag.”

This is the hand placement for this grip.

The equipment needed is minimal. An Olympic barbell and about 200 pounds of weight plates will provide adequate resistance options for everyone from a raw beginner to an advanced strength athlete.

I borrow the name for this exercise from Farmer’s Walks – where an athlete walks while holding a weight in each hand.

A Ring and Pinky Thick Bar Deadlift and Farmer’s Drag is performed by grasping one end of an Olympic barbell – at the end of the loading sleeve – using only the ring finger, pinky finger, and thumb. Then you simply deadlift the barbell and then you have the option of dragging one end of the barbell while you walk with the end you’re gripping elevated.

To minimize damage to one end of the barbell it’s best to drag the bar on grass or dirt – if you choose to do the Farmer’s Drag – instead of the Farmer’s Deadlift.

As with the Farmer’s Walk, there are two basic methods of increasing the difficulty of the exercise.

1. Add more weight to the bar. The weight is added to the same loading sleeve that you are gripping with your ring finger, pinky finger, and thumb. That way the weight plates won’t dig a wide furrow in your yard if you’re doing the Farmer’s Drag.

  • If you’re worried about the bar damaging your grassy training area you can secure the end of the bar that you’re not gripping into a single roller skate – duct tape comes in handy – and perform the Farmer’s Drag in your garage, on the street, or on a running track. All without fear of damaging the bar or the training surface.
  • The roller skate tip also works well for a trainee that isn’t strong enough yet to drag the empty barbell using their ring finger, pinky finger, and thumb strength.

2. Drag for longer distance if you’re doing the Farmer’s Drag.

  • Or hold for a longer period of time if you’re doing the Ring and Pinky Thick Bar Deadlift.

TAILORING A WORKOUT TO YOUR GOALS

For Maximum Strength – Heavy Loads and Short Holds.

  • Holds should be kept in the 5-second to 10-second range if maximum strength is your goal.
  • This holds true whether you’re doing the Farmer’s Drag or the Farmer’s Deadlift.
  • The Farmer’s Drag will simply be done for very short distances and the Farmer’s Deadlift will be done for low reps – anywhere from 1 to 3 reps.

For Strength-Endurance – Moderate Loads and Long Holds.

  • Holds can be much longer than when your goal is maximum strength. 30 seconds to 60 seconds is a common approach to strength-endurance training.
  • The Farmer’s Deadlift will be done for higher reps – anywhere from 8 to 20.

Thom Van Vleck’s “Get a Grip” Tips

While Mac Batchelor had huge hands, he also developed them with many different implements and techniques.

by Thom Van Vleck

This is my entry in the DB Walk 3.5″ handle contest!  I like my odds better this time with so many winners.  But honestly, me writing about grip training is a bit like a fat guy telling you how to diet!

A great grip has eluded me in my 34 year lifting career.  Sure, there are things that I do better than others, like the pinch grip.  I have also never lost a deadlift in a contest due to grip.  But the reality is that I have small hands for my size and a strong grip never came naturally to me.  So maybe you could consider me the “hardgainer” when it comes to grip and maybe that makes me more of an expert than I thought.  After all, they say mediocre players make the best coaches.  The best athletes generally don’t make good coaches because everything came naturally to them.

As a result, I’ve read a great deal about grip training.  I would recommend  any of John Brookfield’s books on grip training.  I have also got to train with two of the best short steel benders in the world, John O’Brien and Brett Kerby.  So, most of this comes from those experiences but I will end with one tip that I came up with on my own, so hopefully you will get at least one original idea out of this!

1. Specify

Over the years my focus has changed in the strength world.  I have competed in Olympic lifting, Powerlifting, Strongman, USAWA All-round, and my passion for the last 15 years has been Scottish Highland Games.  All require grip strength and lots of different types of grip strength.   If you are going to do a  bench press meet you don’t just work Behind the Neck Presses, you work the Bench Press and all the muscles specific to that event!  Don’t just throw in some wrist curls at the end of your workout.  Train your grip specifically for how you are going to need it.   This doesn’t mean you find one grip exercise and work it to death.  You need to get some books, read some articles, talk to some good grip guys and get a list going  and keep track of what you think works for you.   If you came to my gym I could show you over 100 grip exercises to do and all of them I have done myself at one time or another.    In the process, I have figured out what works for me and for the specific event I need it for!

2.  Training

Try to quantify your workouts as much as possible so you can be progressive.  Don’t just take a weight and do it every workout, it’s PROGRESSIVE resistance that’s key.  Keep some magnets around to add fractions of pounds.  Get some fractional plates or the “poor boy” method is go to the tractor supply and get some large washers that will fit on a 1″ bar, two of them will weigh from 1/4 to 1/5 of a pound.  Get enough to supplement your 2 and 1/2lb plates and if you can, get some 1 1/4lb plates.  You need to be able to add fractions of weight to any implement and push yourself.  Plan your workout, set goals, cycle your grip training just like you would for any contest, including giving it a break from time to time.

3.  Mental Aspect of Grip

I think Grip training is more mental than most any other kind of training.  I have watched John O’Brien and Brett Kerby grimace in pain doing the short steel bending and having folded a 60 penny nail a few times….it just hurts!  Your hands are full of nerves and that is why.  Sure, Squats are hard, but your hands will hurt!  So, there’s a mental aspect to this that needs to be overcome.  I saw John O’Brien drive a 60 penny nail deep in his hand and he still finished the bend and did three more shows that same weekend.   Most grip guys have mastered pain.  Working you grip requires pain tolerance and can also teach it!  Brett told me that his hands have hurt so bad he thought he’d seriously injured them.  It’ll hurt….get over it.

4.  Just One Original Thought

Ok, let’s see if I can impress you.  Most of what any of us knows about anything we learned from someone else.  Here is something I came up with on my own (but that doesn’t mean someone else didn’t come up with it first).  I noticed that when I trained my grip, everything involved my elbow being bent.  I also noticed that most everything that I needed a great grip for involved my elbow being locked out (throwing, deadlifting, cleaning, etc.).  So, I spend a lot of time working my grip keeping my elbow locked out.  This usually involves hanging from a bar and squeezing the bar for reps (hanging from a bar has the added benefit of tractioning your back).  It also means that whatever grip exercise I’m doing, I try and get myself in that “lockout” position and if possible, with my arm being stretched to get used to gripping as hard as possible with my arm straight and under tension.

So, those are my grip tips.   I hope you have gained some knowledge that will help you “get a grip” on your next contest!

Clubbells

by Jarrod Fobes

Karena Fobes demonstrating the use of Clubbells and the exercise Curls with Extensions.

My grip got a lot stronger from training my shoulders. Last year after multiple back injuries, a couple of rotator cuff tears, and even tearing the cartilage between my ribs (twice!) I was becoming very interested in exploring different ways to train. That’s when I discovered clubbells.

For those that don’t know, clubbells originated in India and have been in use for thousands of years. They enjoyed tremendous popularity in the west during the Victorian era, but fell out of favor with the advent of modern weightlifting. In recent years, renowned coaches such as Scott Sonnon and Louie Simmons have done much to bring club swinging back into physical training. They are steadily growing in popularity with martial artists and other oddballs.

Being the thrifty sort, my clubs are made out of PVC filled with cement mix. I put together a simple circuit of shoulder exercises consisting of front circles, windmills, and curls with extension and got to work on building up my shoulders.

The particular exercises are best learned via video or in person, but a brief description is as follows. All exercises begin with the clubs hanging at your sides.

FRONT CIRCLES: Draw circles in the air in front of you with the clubs. Your right hand will move clockwise from your perspective, and your left will move counter-clockwise.

WINDMILLS: You are still describing circles, but the angle has changed. Your right hand will start lifting in front of your left hip. As it rises, it will move back to the right side and fall behind you. The motions should be similar to doing a backstroke.

CURLS WITH EXTENSIONS: This exercise is as much to give your shoulders a slight rest as it is to work the rest of your arms. Perform an explosive curl that ends with your elbows pointed up and the clubs lying against your back, points down. From here extend your arms and fully tighten your triceps. Lower your clubs to the starting position. If you want, you can also combine this exercise with a squat to warm up your legs as well.

I did this circuit about every other day, doing the circuit for two rounds at first. After successfully completing two consecutive circuits for two workouts in a row, I would add another round, eventually working up to six rounds. When you can consistently perform six rounds of this circuit, it’s time to build heavier clubs.

The first thing I noticed was a dull ache in my hands and forearms, even before my shoulders began to fatigue. The clubs were just plain hard to hold on to, so I decided to come up with a little forearm circuit as well to conclude my clubbell sessions with. This consists of front wrist lifts, rear wrist lifts, and finger crawls.

FRONT WRIST LIFTS: Keep your arms as straight as possible, and lift the clubs to at least parallel to the floor using only your wrists.

REAR WRIST LIFTS: These are the same as front wrist lifts, except you hold the clubs in a reverse grip. Your wrist has a greater range of motion working this way, so try to whack yourself in the triceps with the clubs on each rep. Make sure your arm is straight though this will isolate your forearms more.

FINGER CRAWLS: You know how when you get really fatigued even the most simple task can seem difficult? Welcome to finger crawls. Let the clubs hang at your sides, and walk your fingers up the club until you reach the tip. Keep the club perpendicular to the floor until you reach the tip, then let the club flip over and crawl back to the handle. Repeat this circuit until one of the exercises fails. Most likely, it will be the finger crawl that you bonk out on.

After about six weeks on these two circuits, I had added noticeable mass to each of my hands. Even better, I went from being able to do 15 consecutive reps on my Captain of Crush trainer gripper, to 26 consecutive reps. My grip is as strong as it’s ever been, and what’s better is that my shoulders have never been stronger or more stable. No USAWA lifts incorporate clubbells, but consider adding them to your routine to bump your hand strength up to the next level.

A Subtle Way to Train Your Grip

by Mark Haydock

Mark Haydock demonstrates a three-finger bar grip.

From my early days of training I have always applied this approach to the way I grip and load the bar, as you read on I am sure you will agree it is a subtle way to train your grip.

There are two sections to this approach, the first is simply the way the bar is gripped, the second part is loading the bar.

Gripping the bar

The idea behind this approach to grip work is to train your grip all the time, even when it is not a grip session! I will use the deadlift as the example exercise, however, the same approach can be applied to most floor pulls, lat pulldowns/rows, shrugs, etc.

Most of the grip work is actually done with your warm up and lighter poundages. The first set of deadlifts may be with an empty bar, simply grip the the bar with your index finger, the second set use index and fore fingers, next set is three fingers, next set is all four fingers – with an open hand, the bar is almost resting on your finger tips, you may be able to maintain this grip for a couple more warm up sets, depending how strong your grip is. Once you hit a poundage that you cannot hold just adjust to your normal hook or reverse grip. Over time try to tweak your warm up poundages a little, as you would with your heavy singles or 1 rep max.

Using a finger tip grip to load plates adds grip training to every workout.

Loading the bar

The subtle element here is to only use I hand to pick up the weight plates when you are loading the bar for your training. Use your right hand when loading the right side of the bar and your left hand when loading the left side of the bar. Rather than use a deadlift loading lever to lift the bar use your fee hand to lift the end of the bar, grip the bar just inside the collar. Depending how good your grip is you can use a 1, 2, 3, or 4 fingers to grip the bar, the same applies to loading the weight plate.

The one handed approach to loading the weight plate also includes carrying the weight from the storage tree to the bar! Don’t cheat by using two hands or rolling the plate. With the lighter plates, 1.25kg,2.5kg, 5kg try using 1 finger and 1 thumb, as you use heavier weights, 10kg, 15kg, 20kg, 25kg and even 50kg you may need to use 2 or 3 fingers and a thumb. If you are loading a 25kg plate and you simply can’t carry it one handed try a two handed pinch grip, it all helps!

The key thing to remember with this approach is that it is a long term project, massive grip strength doesn’t come over night. However, once you have a good grip it stays with you for the long run.

As a final testimony to my grip technique I can honestly say I have never missed a deadlift or clean due to poor grip, touch wood I have never had any real problems with my grip!

My Pinch Grip Training

by Scott Schmidt

Greetings, Fellow Strongmen!

Scott Schmidt shows his AMAZING Pinch Grip - with a 2 Hand Pinch Grip of 180 pounds and a 1 Hand Pinch Grip of 115 pounds.

After a recent performance at the Historic Ambridge Bar Bell Club Challenge, I was asked to submit an article describing my training techniques for the Pinch Grip Lift.

It is my pleasure to share these methods with anyone who is looking to improve their grip oriented lifting events. I will offer the recommended exercises I have used to improve my gripping strength. I have not “specialized” only in working on my grip. I do my grip exercises in between the heavy lift workouts of squats, pulls, overhead supports etc. I focus on grip movements in order to insure I do not have a weak link while doing the pulling in the Olympic Style quick lifts.

That said, among the best grip training exercises are the results you gain from doing the snatch grip dead lift. Since it is an awkward position, it forces your grip to respond. You know your limit easily when the bar doesn’t finish to the top of the thighs. You also are activating other groups of pulling muscles while doing the snatch grip dead lift. This is a bonus because to pick up modest weight for hand strength only will not enable you to progress as fast. And, since the “grip only” muscles can be used up quickly, i.e. hands, fingers, and forearms, by doing an exercise which involves other muscles, you are not as likely to over train your “grip only” muscles.

In addition to doing 3 sets of 3 reps in the snatch grip dead lift 80% of max single, which of course can produce strength gains in many areas, here are some other exercises I do to improve my results when targeting a record in a “grip only” lift:

Lift Sets Reps % of Max
2 Inch Vertical Bar Deadlift 3 3 75
2 Hand Pinch Grip 4 2 80
1 Hand Pinch Grip 6 1 90
Bent Over Row 5 5 60

In summary, these 5 exercises have been very useful to me in order to achieve grip lift record results. Another movement you can do to help you set targets for improvement is to lift something awkward with one hand at a time. For instance, I get Spring Water delivered to my front door in 5 gallon jugs. I then have to take them to my gym area. To test myself, I have used the full bottles to see how long I can hold them from the neck. Or, how long I can walk with one in each hand. Just an idea to have fun improving your grip and break up the “iron only” exercises.

Hope this article helps you get rid of any “bottle cap twist-off” issues.

My Extreme Wrist Roller

by Al Myers

Al Myers finishing a set with 200 pounds on his Extreme Wrist Roller.

I am going to start off this week of stories on grip training by describing one of MY favorite grip exercises!   Don’t worry – I am NOT one of the winning stories as technically I’m not eligible since I’m the one running the contest!  I just want to share an exercise that is the backbone of my grip training.

The Wrist Roller has been around for years.  Everyone has one and everyone has done this exercise at some point in their training history.  Fifty years ago wrist rollers were practically the only grip exercise trained, and where included as part of “packages” in weightlifting equipment sales.  York Barbell would sell equipment packages (back in the 50’s) like this – a 220# set of weights with a bar, a neck harness, a pair of Iron Boots, and a WRIST ROLLER.  It was an important training implement back then, and still is – it’s just most lifters have forgot about it.  I have used several wrist rollers through the years – from a rope on a dowel rod to now what I call My Extreme Wrist Roller.   I am not a grip specialist, but I really enjoy the training exercises for grip.  I do a little grip training every week.  I don’t specialize on any specific type of grip strength – I try to do a little of everything.  Some areas of grip strength I’m stronger at than other areas.  I have a good squeeze grip, an average round bar grip, and not the best pinch grip.  It is interesting how different lifters will have different areas of  grip strengths.

The one thing I really enjoy about the Wrist Roller is that it works not just the grip, but the forearm muscles as well.  Too many grip exercises are, what I call, “hand dependent”.  This means the “lifting capacity” of these grip exercises are more about the size of the hand or the contact area of the fingers.  Bigger hands and longer fingers – more surface adhesion.  Growing bigger hands is not exactly something you can do.  You are pretty much stuck with what you have.  That is why I like forearm training better.  You can ALWAYS increase the size of your forearm muscles or strength of your forearm muscles.  How many “hand dependent” grip exercises do you train that feel easy up to your max, and then you add 5 pounds, and it becomes impossible?  I can think of several – exercises like the Rolling Thunder and any Pinch Grip exercise.   These type of exercises go for me like this – easy, easy, easy, impossible.   And trying a little harder doesn’t help!!  It is still impossible.    The Wrist Roller is not like that.   You can push yourself as hard as you would like.  Sometimes I think I will NEVER get the loaded vertical bar to touch the bottom of the Wrist Roller (which I consider the finish of an attempt), but I keep after it till my forearms are SCREAMING WITH PAIN!  You can accomplish any lift with a Wrist Roller if you want to try hard enough!  That’s my kind of lift.

After a few sets with this Extreme Wrist Roller, your forearm will be PUMPED!

I like to do progressive loads with my Extreme Wrist Roller.  I will usually start with a couple 45’s and then add weight as I add sets.  I try to do 4-5 sets total in about 15 minutes.  As I said, I’m not a grip specialist and usually do my grip training at the end of a regular workout.   I only “train grip” with the time I have left over.   But I’ll tell ya – 15 minutes on my Extreme Wrist Roller and you will know it!  Your forearms will be “blood engorged” and cramping from the exertion.  At times I can hardly close my hands when I’m done.   I made this Extreme Wrist Roller several years ago.  I was getting tired of those silly “rope on a stick” wrist rollers because I felt my shoulders were limiting me in how much I could wrist roll, because of the way you had to hold your arms out in front of you during the exercise.  With my Extreme Wrist Roller, the wrist roller is supported by the cage and it takes all of the shoulders out of it, and places all of the stress of the exercise where you want it – on your forearms.  The roller has a two inch knurled handle.  Your grip will not fail before your forearm muscles give out.   A side benefit is that the knurled handle will shave off all of your hand calluses by the time you are finished.  After you get the VB to the top – the exercise is not over.  You then need to lower it under control.  Sometimes this seems like the hardest part.

Now I hope you won’t forget about wrist roller training.

Writing Contest Results

by Al Myers

The writing contest results  for the “best stories on grip training”  will begin to be announced tomorrow.  The judge has determined the winners, and has given me the results.  This judge even went a little farther than I  expected, and RANKED the winning 7 stories.  Only one small change – this judge convinced me to give 7 winners instead of 6 so I will have a story for each day of the week next week.  That sounded like a good idea, and what’s another winner, so I took the advice and now there will be 7 winners.  I want to thank everyone who sent in stories for this competition, and apologize to those who didn’t get selected as winners.  If it was up to me EVERYONE would win (that is why I put this difficult task of selection onto someone else) but that’s just not possible.  All of the submitted stories were great in their own way.  I may do a contest like this again in the future so I hope if you were not selected this time you will try again in a later competition.  I was overwhelmed by the number of entrants into this competition, and I know everyone will really enjoy the stories that will appear over the next 7 days in the USAWA Daily News.  Lots of great information on grip training!  As I said earlier, the winners will be announced one each day starting tomorrow.   Tomorrows story will be the 7th place story, and each day a higher ranked story will be ran, ending with the number 1 story next Sunday.  But the good news is – the ranking really doesn’t matter because EVERYONE who’s story is ran will receive the same prize -  a custom made 3.5″ dumbbell handle by me for the official lift the Dumbell Walk!

Another Daily News Story Competition

by Al Myers

After the story I did on the Dumbbell Walk the other day I got to thinking how “unavailable” this special dumbbell handle is.  It is a shame that a great all-round lift like the Dumbbell Walk is not performed more often just due to the fact that most lifters don’t have the implement.  We are fortunate in the Dino Gym to have the equipment to do ALL the all-round lifts in the USAWA Rulebook, and sometimes I take that for granted.

So it’s time for another writing competition!!! I received such a good response from the last one (on training tips or the use of a special training implement) that I’m going to do another one.  This time the GRAND PRIZE will be a Dumbbell Walk Handle.  But to make this competition even more interesting, I’m going to expand it.  I am going to award SIX WINNERS, each receiving a Dumbbell Walk Handle.  This way the odds are much better you will be a winner (because we all know how difficult it is to compete in writing contests with such notable writers as John McKean and Thom Van Vleck.  That’s like taking on Steve Schmidt in a Teeth Lifting Competition!).

Since this unique gripping tool is at stake, this writing contest will be over a training program or exercise that you use to train your grip.  Nearly everyone does some type of grip training in their training programs, so I think nearly everyone will have something that applies.  I want this to be about a grip training idea or technique that really has helped your grip strength.   The more original the better.

I plan to run these stories over a course of one week in the USAWA Daily News.  The first day I plan to write a story about one of my secret grip exercises that has really helped my hand strength.   But not to worry, I am not eligible.  You will know if you are one of the winners when you see your story printed.  That will build the suspense!!  I have secured a judge for these stories that is impartial.  This person is not very familiar with any of you, so “favoritism” will not be a factor.

It is VERY IMPORTANT to follow the rules of the competition for this one, because if you don’t your story may be rejected by the judge. Please send your story to me at amyers@usawa.com .  I will send you an email response indicating that I received your story submission.

Now I expect after this the Dumbbell Walk will  become a HOTLY contested USAWA lift next year.  Hopefully, several new USAWA records will fall next year in the Dumbbell Walk!!

RULES FOR COMPETITION:

1.  Stories are to be between 500-1000 words.

2.  A picture demonstrating the exercise must be included.

3.  The DEADLINE for submission is March 16th, by midnight.

4.  Stories must be grip training related and original.

The Rolling Thunder

by Al Myers

USAWA Grip Star, Matt Graham, lifting 275 pounds on the Rolling Thunder in training this past weekend. (photo by Bob Burtzloff)

One of the popular “grip toys” introduced by Randy Strossen and IronMind Enterprises is the Rolling Thunder.  This grip device is different from anything else.  I have never read about any type of  gripping device similar to this used by Old-Time Strongmen.  It is indeed a novel, unique idea!!  Thanks to Randy and his promotion of it – the Rolling Thunder is now well-known within the “grip circle” and lifters in general.  IronMind sells it for a modest $59.95 plus shipping, as advertised on the IronMind Website.  For a price like that, buy the original and don’t waste your time trying to make your own or buying a knock-off.  Afterall, don’t you want a original Rolling Thunder!

The Rolling Thunder consists of a rotating  sleeved handle  with 2.375″ diameter PVC, over a fixed handle shaft.  It attaches to a loaded vertical bar.  It is a one-hand lift that tests the grip like none other!  When you lift using the Rolling Thunder, the handle feels like it wants to “roll” out of your hand allowing the weight to crash to the floor making a sound like thunder, and thus the name Rolling Thunder .   It has been on the market since 1993.  Randy initially promoted it by asking this simple question, “Will anyone EVER lift 300 pounds on the Rolling Thunder?”. It took several years, but finally the grip phenom/professional Strongman from England Mark Felix, broke this magic barrier.  Felix currently holds the World Record at 301 pounds, set January 18th, 2008.  The Rolling Thunder has gained such popularity that contests are ran that focus on it only. The Gillingham brothers have helped popularize it by having it as part of their GNC Grip Gauntlet, which they run in their booth at the Arnold every year.

The Rolling Thunder is not a USAWA event, but is often pulled out after meets for impromptu competitions.  Last spring after the USAWA Dino Gym Grip Contest this was the case.  Andy Durniat amazed everyone when he broke the Dino Gym record with a lift of 230 pounds!  He did this AFTER the grip competition!!!

I consider anyone who can lift over 200 pounds on the Rolling Thunder as National Class, and those over 250 pounds World Class.  The Rolling Thunder can be very humbling – often it seems “easy” moving up in weight, only to reach a point when you add another 5 pounds it becomes impossible!!  If you don’t have a Rolling Thunder, go to IronMind Enterprises and order yours today.  It will be an investment that you won’t ever regret.

My Nautilus Leverage Grip Machine

by Al Myers

The Dino Gym's Nautilus Leverage Grip Machine.

The other day I was inspecting  all the equipment in the Dino Gym for any possible use damage (which there wasn’t) and it dawned on me that I have made all of the equipment in the gym, except one piece.  This piece is very unique – and it is the  Nautilus Leverage Grip Machine.  Dino Gym member Scott Tully donated it to the gym several years ago. It had been in  long-term storage at a local college for many years, and was “found” when the college was cleaning out and discarding old items from the college’s old weight-room.  It is still is great shape and now gets lots of use by the Dino Gym members.  Before Scott brought this grip machine in, I had never seen one before – even though in my younger training days I spent time training in Nautilus Facilities.  In the 80’s Nautilus was VERY popular and most towns had a Nautilus Gym.  I always imagined that this grip machine probably never was a big seller, as Nautilus main sales pitch at the time seemed to be aimed at the businessman who wanted to get in a full body workout in 30 minutes.  Most fitness lifters are not too concerned about having a strong grip.

This Nautilus Gripper focuses on the development of the  forearm muscles.  As you squeeze using both hands, the leverage arm rises.  Plates can be added to the end of the leverage arm to increase the difficulty. It also helps with the grip strength that you develop from training grippers, as the squeezing motion is very similar.  I always wondered how old this Nautilus Gripper was, as it appears to be an “original”.  Recently I posed this question on the IronHistory Forum.  Robert Francis gave me the answer I was looking for. (THANKS ROBERT! )  He explained this leverage grip machine was first manufactured by a Nautilus plant in Mexia, Texas in 1985.  It was one of the original Leverage Nautilus Machines.  It filled a line of other Nautilus Leverage Machines that included items like the Leg Press Machine and the Pullover Nautilus Machine.  Robert went on to explain that these Leverage Machines were the seed product of Hammer Strength, the company that formed after Arthur Jones sold off this line in 1986 to Travis Ward.

I feel very fortunate to have this unique piece of Nautilus equipment in my gym.  It is in a gym that appreciates it’s worth – and has members who will use it for its intended purpose to build a strong grip.  If anyone else has equipment in their gyms that they would like to see “highlighted” here in the USAWA Daily News, please send me a story and pictures.  Lifters ALWAYS like to hear how other lifters train, and learn about equipment that builds strength.

Matt Graham – The USAWA’s Grip Sensation

by Al Myers

Matt Graham pinch gripping Two York 45's in one hand and lifting the Inch Dumbbell with the other.

Roger Davis inquired last week on the USAWA Discussion Forum about the Deadlift – Fulton Bar, Ciavattone Grip.  There has been some differences in “the name” of this lift between the USAWA and the IAWA(UK).  This has lead to some records that have been put in the IAWA Record List that probably shouldn’t be there. I am not going to go into detail here regarding that discussion (check out the USAWA Discussion Forum if you are interested in this).  But the discussion lead to the phenomenal lifting of Matt Graham, of Liberal, Kansas, and his great 540# Deadlift on the Fulton Bar, done with a overhand grip at the 2001 SuperGrip Challenge, hosted by Kevin Fulton.  This is a remarkable lift, and possibly could be the highest of All-Time done in this fashion.  Matt hasn’t competed recently in any USAWA meet, but I would like to take today to highlight some of his amazing grip feats.  Several of his grip lifts done in the USAWA are the tops in the USAWA Record List.  I had the opportunity to train with Matt a few times, and he competed in my Dino Gym Challenge several times.  Matt is trained by an USAWA lifting legend, and a great grip master himself, Bob Burtzloff.  I have witnessed Matt doing several grip feats that just left me shaking my head in disbelief!!  I have seen him “snatch” the 50# Blob with one hand, close the #3 COC gripper three times in a row, and pinch grip two 45# plates and lift them high enough to place them on top of a tall barrel.

Matt is built to be a great grip lifter.  He is 6′7″ and weighed around 325# at one time (now he’s a little lighter).   He has very long fingers, and an even larger thumb in proportion. His fingers are long enough that he can Hook Grip a 2″ bar!  Not many people can do that!  Several of his grip feats are well-documented.  He competed several years at Kevin Fulton’s SuperGrip Challenge in Litchfield, Nebraska and won many of them – and he was judged by a couple of very qualified officials – Kevin Fulton and Bill Clark.  Matt is indeed the “real deal” when it comes to grip power!!

Matt Graham’s USAWA Grip Records

600# – Deadlift – 3″ Bar
455# – Deadlift – Fulton Bar, Ciavattone Grip
540# – Deadlift – Fulton Bar, Overhand Grip (with Hook)
225# – Deadlift – No Thumb, Left Arm
344# – Deadlift – Two “Inch” Dumbbells
200# – Pinch Grip

Still not convinced that Matt is the USAWA’s Grip Sensation?
Then check out this video evidence.


YouTube Video – Matt doing a 600# Deadlift with 3″ bar.

YouTube Video – Matt doing a 540# Deadlift – Fulton Bar, Overhand Grip using a Hook Grip.

YouTube Video – Matt deadlifting two Inch Dumbbells at the same time.

YouTube Video – Matt taking the Inch Dumbbell overhead with only one hand using a knee kick, outside on a windy day.

YouTube Video – Matt doing a 192#  One Arm Clean and Jerk with the Fulton Bar.

Maybe I can convince Matt to make a “comeback” at this year’s USAWA’s Grip Challenge, hosted by Ben Edwards in February?