Athletes involved in grappling sports are a special breed. I'm talking about the wrestlers, judo players, jiu jitsu players, MMA fighters, etc. To compete at a high level these athletes need a special blend of strength, endurance, mobility, balance, and a just touch of insanity. Additionally, an impressive trait that almost all good grapplers tend to have is ridiculous grip strength. I competed in the Copa Nova Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Fall Championships over the weekend, and after my matches my forearms were on FIRE! A big part of the game is getting a good grip on your opponent while keeping their grips off of you, so it's important to have some hands that you can rely on.
However the benefits of a stronger grip isn't limited to the grapplers. Working on grip strength can improve shoulder health, increase performance in other sports, and make activities of daily living easier. And we all know big forearms are cool.
So how do you build the vice-like grip of a grappling champion? The solution is simple, go wrestle somebody everyday.
I'm just kidding (for most of us). But here are some tips to really challenge your grip within your lifting program.
Using towels for many of your pulling exercises will make you grip harder than normal. If you relax your grip even for a moment it could slip out of your fingers. Towels can be used for pull-ups, chin-ups, cable/band rows, inverted rows, face pulls, and shrugs.
Bottoms Up KBs
I haven't tried any bottoms up kettlebell work until recently, and it was definitely more challenging than I thought. Even with what I thought was moderate weight it was difficult to control. The bottoms up position can be used for pressing variations but also for weighted carries. Try some weighted carries with a KB in a bottoms-up rack or overhead position. If you've never tried it before your forearms might be in for a surprise.
Heavy Farmer's Walks
Load up the implements and talk a stroll. With these don't worry about using a towel or finding another way to make it specifically harder for your grip. The weight alone should do the trick. Chalk up your hands if you need to, but don't use straps (duh).
Picking up heavy things is one of the best ways to build up your grip. When using a barbell, try to go double overhand as long as you can when working up in weight.
Use these tips to feel better, open the tightest of pickle jars, and build a crushing handshake you can be proud of!