Strong Grip, Strong Wrestler
As wrestlers, the ability to control your opponents’ wrists with a strong and powerful grip is an incredible wrestling advantage. In fact, in my experience it is very rare to meet someone with a STRONG grip who’s not a badass. The problem is, outside of pullups and rope climbs, most wrestlers do not train their grip at all! And if they do, they are probably doing it improperly (hint: wrist curls aren’t the answer). In this post, we’ll go in depth about the types of exercises you should do to develop a devastating grip.
Why grip train?
A strong grip is important in just about every sport, however I can’t think of any athlete it benefits more than a wrestler. In fact, renowned strength coach Charles Poliquin states that two graduate studies research theses have shown that the strongest grip will “predict the outcome of both the judo and wresting world championships!(1)” Wrist control, gut wrenches, body locks, and pulling in single legs are some of the many movements heavily involving the grip. Former OU wrestler Dan Hodge had a legendary grip that bruised, injured, and scared many of his opponents. A strong grip WILL increase your chances at reaching the top of the podium.
Dan Hodge is STILL an animal!
Types of Grip Strength
1. Supporting Grip. The most basic level of grip strength. You must accomplish a certain baseline here before you move on to other grip exercises. The following exercises fall under this category: Deadlifts, Pullups, Rows, Rope Climbs, Bar Hangs etc. Any type of exercise that uses the grip to support a movement.
2. Crushing Grip. This type primarily works the 4 fingers. Things like squeezing grip balls, closing captains of crush grippers, and false grip training (thumb on the same side as the fingers) on fat bars or fat gripz.
3. Pinch Grip. The Pinch Grip translates very highly to wrestling, especially wrist control because it involves the thumb. Things like the 2 hand pinch lift, Various Fat-Gripz exercises, Various Grenade Ball exercises, and DB pinch lifts.
It is very important to be well rounded and incorporate all of the exercises to develop a strong grip.
While I would like to think everyone has the obvious exercises for grip down, I will go over some real quickly before getting into the “fun” ones:
-Pullups (and variations): Neutral Grip, Overhand, Underhand, One-Arm, or with a towel or gi wrapped around the bar.
-Rows: Dumbbells, Barbells, Pendlay, or Inverted.
-Deadlifts: Specifically snatch grip DL’s.
-Farmer’s Walks: Grab a heavy dumbbell in each hand, hold on for dear life, and walk! Note: Make sure your chest stays tall and your lower back does not round when picking up or walking with the weight.
Captains of Crush Grippers:
This is a classic exercise used to strengthen the crushing grip. It is very simple: With one hand, your goal is to “close” the gripper by touching both sides together. Very simple, but tough. This is very demanding on the grip, so we usually recommend low sets and reps on heavy grippers.
If you are starting out, don’t do too much, too fast as you risk injuring your hands. Start slowly and build to 3-5 sets of 6 performed 3-5 times a week. If you can close a 100lb gripper, consider your grip slightly above average, a 150lb gripper is a strong grip, and anything 200lbs+ is going to make your opponents fear shaking your hand.
Fat Gripz are one of my favorite tools for grip development. They fit on any standard barbell, dumbbell, or pullup bar and once put on you can do just about any exercise you do normally with them on. The top three exercises I use them for are:
Simply put the fat grips on heavy dumbbells or a trap bar, pick up the weight, and walk! We like to do 2-4 sets of 40-60 yards each. Tip: To get the most out of this exercise, and with all Fat Gripz exercises, make sure you use your thumbs to pinch the grip as opposed to “cupping” all 5 fingers underneath.
-Curls (Barbell, Swiss Bar, and Dumbbell)
I am generally not a fan of bicep curls as I feel other exercises give more “bang for the buck” when it comes to biceps (Deadlifts, Heavy Rows, Pullups, etc.) but I do think curls with the Fat Gripz are a great exercise. We shoot for 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps.
-Pullups (Neutral and Overhand)
If you cannot do at least 8 Bodyweight Pullups, you should not be doing Fat Gripz Pullups! I mix these up, sometimes we will do sets and reps, sometimes a total number (i.e. 20 reps in however many sets it takes), or 3-5 sets of AMRAP (As Many Reps As Possible).
Try doing some curls with these bad boys on the bar
Plate Pinches are also a great exercise. They are simply pinching the fattest part of a weight plate and lifting it up or catching it. Here are a few types we do.
-Two Hand Pinch Lift:
Pinch a plate (or plates) with both hands, and deadlift to full lockout. Simple right? Wait til you try these. We like to do 3 sets of 3-10 reps (depending on grip strength).
These are tough. ONLY do these if you have rubber bumper plates. Grab with one hand, and proceed to toss plate 180 degree and catch it with the same hand. Shoot for 3 sets of 12 reps each arm. NOTE: Stand in an athletic stance to 1) Keep your toes out of the way, and 2) Be ready to move if you drop the weight.
While these are just a few of the many grip training options, they will definitely get you well on your way to a strong grip! Please use the comment box below to ask any questions!