Saturday, 28 July 2012

Change your grip, change your life... (1)

OK, so the heading was a bit dramatic. Actually NO! Change your grip – Improve your grip – Improve your lifts – make gains faster and get stronger, better, faster! Genuinely, “change your grip, change your life.”

In some circles, mainly in the strength and conditioning and strongman world, “Grip” is a topic discussed and specifically practiced on a regular basis. Fat bars, fat gripz, towel training, plate pinch, the list goes on.

Yet in other, more mainstream circles, it’s an issue rarely factored into training.

The truth of the matter is, “Grip is key”!!! It impacts so many of your lifts and key exercises and a poor grip can seriously limit your progress. With that in mind, here are two variations for each body part to add into your workouts. When it comes to grip, variety is key – mix it up and test your grip under all forms of strains; often the trickier and more unnatural the better.

Back is one if the easiest areas to work and vary your grip. Most exercises revolve around pull work so try to think outside of the box, use different attachments and handles and test your grip. Here are two that you can try.

Lat Pull Rope
Drop the regular lat pull down bar or neutral grip, throw on the rope attachment, pull straight and try to flare out to the side at the bottom of the movement aiming to get the karabiner attachment clip as close to your neck as possible. Using a rope for any “pull” exercise will test your grip and also allow a varied motion rather than pulling along a fixed line.

VIDEO: (Exercise 7 in this video, 1 min 8 secs in)

Seated row – Single rope
Again, reach for the rope. Either perform in a similar way to the above exercise; or, try single handed with the same rope – a much bigger test of core strength and you may even uncover an unbalanced grip where one hand gives up sooner than the other.

VIDEO: (This... but with a rope attachment)

A little trickier to add a grip element to “push” exercises; but you might be surprised what a bit of thickness on a bar will do to your grip. Here are two grip variations for your chest.

Bench Fat Bar
Benching with a fat bar is surprisingly different and more challenging. If your gym doesn’t have a thick bar (you won’t be alone), create your own. Using Fat Gripz or even wrapping the bar in cloth or small towel will make the bar firm enough to hold but much thicker.

Cable Fly – No Attachment
If you’re going to try cable flys as part of your chest work, why not take off all attachments and hold the cable an inch or so away from the end? This will mean that you have to grip tightly throughout the motion on a very small area – tougher than you’d think.

There are a few options with adding a grip element to shoulder work. Obviously, for the bigger, more crucial core work such as military presses you might want to focus on strength instead, but for more of the “accessory” work and “bodybuilding” exercises there’s plenty of options.

Lat Raises using just plates
This is a simple grip and one that won’t heavily compromise weights being used. Simply hold a plate with your index finger through the centre hole and the rest of your fingers and thumb gripping the edge of the plate as best you can.

Upright Row – Pinch Grip
An alternative grip (which you can use for the lat raises too) is a pinch grip. Simply holding an object pinched between your thumb and fingers. Try it for upright row pinching a plate, or worse/better still two plates with the smooth sides faced outwards and perform the exercise slowly and controlled to reduce the chance of dropping the plates. Like this...

Out and Out Grip...
If you really want to focus on improving your grip strength, you can train it on its own. It's bes to do this at the end of a session for two reasons. a) Your grip will already be slightly fatigued so this will add to the dfficulty. B) Performing grip exercises earlier in a session will ruin your grip for other exercises later in the same session. Here's a few to try.

Plate Pinch Grip
The above pinch grip can be practiced as a standalone skill/exercise. Try holding two plates as described above, when your grip completely goes, put them down and change hands; as soon as that hand gives up, swap back. Keep this going until neither hand can grip anymore. If the plates you have aren’t suitable, try it with a dumbbell held long ways up with your fingers spread around the edge.

Farmers Walk
One of the oldest test of grip strength and still a staple of most strongman competitions is the “farmers walk”. Put simply, it’s walking along holding something heavy at arms length by your side. You can do it with anything! The thicker the grip, heavier the weights, more awkward the shape and more swinging involved the harder your task. Take short, rhythmic steps and try to maintain a tight and upright posture – gets the heart going to – not as easy as you might think!

Check this guy (excuse the outfit!) VIDEO:

To summarise...
Grip is KEY! It can be the make or break of a gym session. The reason you do or don’t make a final lift, and the reason that your results plateaux in some areas. Now you might not want a forearm that looks like you have a leg hanging out of your t-shirt sleeve, but a strong grip is something you most definitely DO want. Add some variety – it’ll change your life!

For LOADS of information on grip work, look at the work of Diesel Strength (@dieselstrength) and Joe De Franco -(@DeFrancosGym) his gym tour (VIDEO ) will show you just how much he loves grip work. Nothing in there is standard thickness!

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