Get A Grip
By: D Norfolk elementalkickboxing, kickboxingleeds, improvegrip
A phrase that all of us have used or hopefully not have been told to do at some point during our lives a simple short form of words that tells you to stop doing what you are doing, gather some self-control and fast. However, there seems to be more to this than just a momentary lack of faculties. There seems to be some implicitness in its phrasing, breaking it down, ‘get’ referencing something you should do, ‘a’ self-explanatory, ‘grip’ a tight and firm hold upon something. And it is this that interests me for this blog.
Recently, well I say recent, before the third, yes, I know the third lockdown. I was undergoing some Personal Training (PT) with the club and getting back into the rigours of weight training1 which I thoroughly recommend. As part of this, some dead lifting2 which I had not engaged in for a number of years. I found the weight aspect of this not really staggering, something I quiet enjoy as the plates started to grow and my form started to improve. However, there was one place that I was having a struggle with, not the strength in my back, core or legs, but that of my grip in one hand struggling.
So, I decided to investigate and improve what was going on.
So, grip, starter question for you all and an easy one for any of you who know about human anatomy3. How strong are your fingers? (Waits for everyone to answer)
So, have you got your answer, so let’s see how we did? Those of you that said pretty strong or ok, you are wrong, any of you who said “This is a trick question” you are correct. Let me explain, it is not your fingers that are strong, there are small amounts of muscles in the hands, that allow things like flexing fingers. They provide the fine motor control that allows you to do many things such as typing, like I am doing now. But the main body of what we call grip is housed in your forearms. In fact, all extrinsic muscle are found in the belly of your forearm. A quick diagram below demonstrates this.
Figure 1.0: Overview of high-level forearm muscle.
You probably don’t think about these muscles much, as you just use them on a day-to-day basis without much thought to how strong or weak they are. But this was something I wanted to look into and how exactly this affected what I did.
So, I started with a base line of how grip is graded, the tables below gives you an idea of how it works, it also allows you to understand your own grip.
Table 1.0: Male grip strength- https://www.topendsports.com/t...
Table 2.0: Female grip strength
Now that’s a nice piece of information but what use is it to me, I hear you say.
So, grip is incredibly important for a strong body and to do a multitude of tasks, below I have given some of the benefits, based on both normal day activities and in our martial arts training.
- Handshake: a controversial one in these pandemic/post pandemic times, but the ability to muster a good handshake can be instrumental in your relations with business associates.
- Jars: Opening jars, bottles and pots is an everyday need, if you find yourself reaching for a tea towel or going in search of a burly friend to pry open your pickle jar, this may be a sign to improve.
- Dealing With Urchins: Dealing with children and being able to martial miniature people may require you to firmly move said individual along, grabbing hold of a child tightly is always the best bet.
- Animals: Maybe coming above or in line with the above, anyone who has ever walked a strong dog, even of a medium size will know how important having a firm grip on a collar or lead can be.
- Increasing Vitality: Now it cannot be directly connection of course, how could it. But a study in 2011-20124 in the US linked a number of strength factors to pre-longed life
- General Heart Health: More over a further US study5 drew links between weakening grip strength and cardiovascular incident.
- Holidays: carrying unexpected heavy bags can always be a ruiner, why not be ready for it.
- Support: holding rails to climb stairs and to steady you when there are no other means is always important, leading to less accidents.
- Dexterity: increasing the strength in your forearms will also lead to increased dexterity and flexibility, which is useful if you are doing anything that needs you to do any complicated tasks.
- Reduction In Potential For Arthritis/Carpal Tunnel: Again linked to dexterity, a concentrated regime of training grip helps ward off arthritis and things like carpal tunnel, in a study reference from 20186
- Shovelling (Snow): One that rung the bells during the wintertime, being able to grip and manipulate a shovel is key in being able to do activities like clearing a path in the snow, or in basic gardening.
- You’re only as strong as your grip: a lot of weight training is based around the ability to lift and hold weights, the key part of this is grip, both to train properly and prevent injury. Plus, you cannot improve or enhance your chest or arm strength without grip.
- Grappling: if you are practising any grappling based martial arts, your grip on an opponent is key. That doesn’t just go for Judo7 or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu8 (BJJ), Karate9 has holds and throws that you will need to get a good grasp of your opponent.
- Submissions: being able to grab your opponent in a submission hold and perform a suitable blood or air choke relies entirely on how tightly you can grab an opponent and control them until you achieve the desired result.
- Defending Against Weapons: Strong forearms are key for being able to block attacks yes but even more so in a knife or weapons scenario, making the muscle harder and thicker, it won’t block the knife entirely but will make it harder to reach more dangerous areas of your circulatory system10, when blocked correctly.
- Increased body push and pull movements: increased strength as spoken of in grappling make movements such as pushing and pulling people/objects much easier when you have a strong grip.
- Better Shoulder Stability: Helps to support the main mechanisms of your arm and reduce rotator cuff injuries by sharing the load put on the arm.
- Increased Range Of Motion: Allowing the fighter to be more mobile for punching and for avoiding submissions. Better Punching: Hitting someone with your fist, relies on the force you are putting out to be equally absorbed by the shock wave that stems back from your knuckles, things that include elbows, biceps11, triceps12, shoulders and of course forearms, with strengthening of the wrist also being key.
Now after having picked out the most useful ones for yourself out of the above table, I know what you are saying, you are saying how can I avail myself of this wonderful ability. Whether you just want to improve your grip for your own need, or to improve your workout or you may indeed want to try and be the new Danny Hodge13 (Former professional wrestler14, famed for crushing apples with one hand and pulling pairs of pliers in two).
Below, I have detailed some of the exercises that can be used here, I have tried to split these into sections where your will need equipment or be able to do these with everyday household objects.
No Equipment: Exercise that can be done without specific gym or fitness equipment using items from around the house.
- The Pinch: Grab two books the same between thumb, index and middle finger, squeeze and apply pressure for 30seconds, then relax thirty seconds. Try for three repetitions. For me I would try extending the number of reps or seconds to garner further benefits.
Benefit: This as the exercise is improving the pinch, which can be used for opening containers, holding rails, when typing or in a martial arts sense grabbing someone wrist who may be attacking you.
Ideal Equipment: Two thick hardback books
- Farmers Walk/Hold: A comfortable bag that you can hold in a hold hand grip with something weighting in it. Hold in place, not engaging the other parts of your arm, for thirty seconds, tightly. Then rest. Repeat for the repetitions at least three times. For me this is one that can be done in a chair whilst watching TV, I have managed to grow the hold to ninety seconds over three reps, you will feel this in your forearms.
Benefit: This improves general grip strength which you will notice after couple of week
Ideal Equipment: Bag of shopping, sports bag holding books.
- The Crush: Take a sheet or several sheets of newspaper scrunch into a ball, crush the ball and hold your grip for thirty seconds, for a number of repetitions. This can be alternated with pulsing your grip on the paper, alternatively you can use a small rubber ball.
Benefit: This is a cheap and effective way to improve general grip strength, with the ball you can carry it in your bag, pocket and use this on the go. Note the ball should be hard rubber and give a little when you crush, not collapse completely.
Ideal Equipment: Newspaper/ Rubber ball
- Wrist Rotation: Take a heavy pan with a handle, holding the pan like a hammer (See Diagram 2.0), rotate the pan slowly anticlockwise forty-five degrees (Right handed), then return to hammer position. Alternate this with rotating the pan clockwise forty-five degrees. Start at ten repetitions a set for three sets and work your way up from there.
Benefit: In addition to increasing your grip strength, this is working on your wrist strength, useful for hold and controlling objects and keeping a straight wrist when punching.
Ideal Equipment: Broom
Figure 2.0: Explanation of Hammer and ice-pick grip
- Wrist Flex: Holding the very end of a broom handle an ice-pick grip (See Diagram 2.0), lift the broom head off the floor with your arm by you side. This can be repeated with the broom being held in a hammer grip (See Diagram 2.0), in front of you. Again, ten repetitions per set, 3 sets.
Benefit: again, here we are strengthening the wrist flexors.
Ideal Equipment: Broom
- Towel twist: Take a hand or tea towel, in both hands, begin to twist the towel with both hands in opposite directions, as if trying to wrong out water from the towel. Once you can get the towel not tighter, hold it at its tightest and hold for thirty seconds. Repeat ten times in both directions.
Benefit: This gives the whole forearm a workout, plus once your grip is built up significantly you could try the next exercise.
Ideal Equipment: Tea towel/ hand towel
- Towel suspension (Advanced): Taking the towel you have been using (make sure it is strong enough) and using a suitable anchor point (tree branch, solid bar), loop the towel over and suspend yourself using your grip for thirty seconds, as before repeating this exercise and increase the time as you progress.
Benefit: you are now working the grip you have increased and worked to incorporating your shoulders in and entire bodyweight exercise.
Ideal Equipment: Tea towel/ hand towel + Tree/secure bar
Equipment: Exercises that can be completed using a specific piece of equipment that you may have access to or can be bought cheaply, without making your house look like the inside of a gymnasium. Where these merge with the above exercises, I will explain the equipment substitute.
- The Pinch
Equipment Substitute: Barbell plates, kettlebell
- Farmers Walk/Hold
Equipment Substitute: Dumb bell, Kettlebell
- Wrist Rotation
Equipment Substitute: Dumb bell, Kettlebell, barbell pole
- Wrist Flex
Equipment Substitute: Dumb bell, Kettlebell, barbell pole
- Wrist Flex 2: Using a barbell/kettlebell, lay your forearm flat (Palm up and palm down are different muscle groups) over a surface, this can be your own knee. So that your hand is over the edge, allow the weight to lower to the floor, then raise it only using your forearm muscles ensuring you are not engaging your shoulder bicep or triceps.
Benefit: This is important for working the front and back muscles of your forearm.
- Towel suspension (Advanced)
Equipment Substitute: Chin Up Bar.
This should give you a broad range of exercises to suit any of your needs, these exercises literally take less than twenty minutes to do and can be done whilst completing another activity in most circumstances. I have done these whilst sat at my home desk.
For best results, you need to do these at least twice a week to make best results. It doesn’t hurt if you can, to do them once a day.
So, have a go at these and let me know how you find them, see if you can find any others that make things easier.