Grip training used to be the territory of only strongmen and the Sorin family, but no more! To really excel at the Olympic lifts or even as an athlete a strong grip is a vital part of the equation. I am no grip expert, but have learned a ton from a guy that I asked to help us on this issue.
Today I asked Adam T. Glass (of Industrial Strength Grip and The Movement Minneapolis) to give us some awesome tips on how to improve your grip for the Olympic lifts. Adam is an amazing grip athlete and a seriously strong dude (Check out his youtube channel), but here is proof that we can learn some stuff from Adam. This is an amazing 550 lb deadlift on a 3 inch diameter bar.
Could you benefit if you had zero doubt about your grip on the bar during a max clean? Could you benefit from having greater wrist stability while locking out a heavy jerk? Would you care to resolve nagging elbow and forearm pains, or avoid them altogether?
If you replied yes to any of these questions, then grip training might be a useful addition to your workout routine.
When I say “grip training,” I am using a blanket term for a very diverse method of strengthening the entire lower arms from elbow to fingertip. It can be as simple as the straightforward addition of a few movements to what you’re already doing.
I am, however, going to suggest a completely different method for strengthening your grip for pulls then what you may have seen before. Many people dole out advice such as “Don’t use straps in training” or “Practice without a hook grip.” Both of these are good pieces of advice for pure novices, but they fail to address the most common problems affecting many weightlifters.
Weightlifting is a sport with very specific training movements and goals. There is no mystery about what motions weightlifters perform and — more importantly — do not perform in a given month. Surprisingly, the sport of weightlifting does not train the majority of the potential motions of the hand. If we add in a small degree of specific training to these often-ignored motions of the hand, we will see a far greater improvement in total hand and forearm strength.
In this case, the exercises I will be teaching you will have a very direct carryover to your explosive pulls.
You are, of course, familiar with the overhand grip and the hook grip, but how often are you training your pinch grips? Monkey grip? Your vertical hand/deviated position pulls? Training these non-specific will have a very direct effect on the most important movements you train – your explosive pulls.
The hand motion with the most payoff for you is going to be pinch gripping. This is lifting objects using the forceps power of the thumb in conjunction with the fingers. In barbell sports this motion is completely ignored. A weak thumb holds back the entire hand, and conversely, a small amount of pinching will translate to greater total hand strength.
The simplest starting point of all is a repetition deadlift or deadlift + farmers walk with a thick pair of iron plates or bumpers. A pair of iron 25s together will challenge most individuals. Simply stand the plates up on the ground back to back, then pinch them together with both thumbs closest to the body, fingers facing out. Once you can pick them up, try taking them for a walk.
There is value to trying out all different sizes of weights, even those which are easy for you to lift. You can even stack many plates together, such as three or four 10-pound plates. The intention here is to train that particular thumb position, and the combination pinching thinner and thicker plates together will be rewarding. Of the two choices the repetition deadlift is, in my opinion, the better of the two. As you get adjusted, begin to train ripping those plates off the floor more quickly without losing your grip. This will greatly strengthen the thumb and connective tissues of the hands.
Monkey grip training — also known as a thumbless grip training — is second. The thumb is tucked next to the index finger, forming a “flipper” with your hand. Lifting in this motion will greatly strengthen the wrist and fingers, and balance out the hook gripping you are doing in your typical practice. One of the simplest ways to train this is by simply folding up a hand towel and wrapping it around a heavy dumbbell. From there, get into a bent-over row position, and lift the dumbbell up with your flipper three to five inches off the floor. I do a series of rapid lifts then switch sides. The purpose here is not to train the upper back, shoulders, or arms, but to address that specific motion of the hand. I will admit: This is not the most flashy exercise ever — surely no one will have a monkey grip lift Facebook profile picture — but it is incredibly valuable.
Rack Position Opposition
The final exercise sounds more complicated than it is, but I’ll walk you through it. What I would like you to try is a pronated reverse pinch curl with the arm externally rotated. This is a movement that complements a particular motion you have done a lot of: racking a bar on your chest. You will not need much resistance at all — a 10-pound plate (seriously) will be fine. Pinch the end of the plate with your fingers on one side, thumb on the other. Your palm will be facing down. Rotate your arm so that your hand is in line with your body, not out in front of you. Now you will curl plate up, ending with your knuckles facing the outside of your shoulder. Return to the start position along the path.
I cannot impress upon you how many people I have helped get out of wrist, elbow and shoulder pain with this one simple movement. It is a vector we almost never train, and for some, even a few reps will make their body feel considerably better.
I am not trying to turn you into a grip specialist; rather, these key grip movements will make you a better weightlifter. Examining your training practice for things you aren’t doing can often lead to greater progress than more specific practice of the same things you’re already doing. These three simple exercises will provide you with a starting point. If it helps you out, drop me a line and tell me about it.Adam T. Glass is a world-class grip athlete and heads training at The Movement Minneapolis. He keeps a blog and training log at http://www.adamtglass.com/ and recently released a comprehensive grip training DVD titled Industrial Strength Grip.