Gripping is an art of it self.
All grappling with uniform sports start from a fight for superior grip. In order to win a grip fight, a grappler should possess good chained grips sequence, eye- hand coordination and unbreakable hand grip.
In this article, I would like to give a few tips of how to develop physically strong grip.
First of all, we have to look at the grip training as a whole:
– Exercising all the hand parts (phalanges, palm, wrist, forearm).
– Increasing maximum endurance for time period.
– Adjustment for the specific sport.
As every complex workout, the grip training should be designed in a way, which will develop the strenght of the whole hand. That means we should be looking for ways to improve the grip, starting with the phalanges. Most of the people actually use not more than 3-4 fingers to grip, usually leaving out the index finger and the pinky. In my experience, I have found the best tool to develop my fingers grip to be the pull up board, which gives you the opportunity to work with various finger combinations, making sure you are not leaving a weak spot.
After a while, the training might include the next step, which requires a bit more stenght- single hand cleans, with a disc, switching hands at eye level. Good point about using discs is the weight progression- you could always use a heavier disc. Once we are able to include disc cleans in the program, we can go harder and try to hold 2 discs together, using only the tip of the fingers. This exercise develops static strenght and should be done for time period.
The palm strenght could be developed through wide variation of exercises, but my suggestion is to use ones, close to the specific of the sport. Esentually, the competitor will be gripping gi or kurtka, so rope climbing and gi pull ups would be amongst the most useful ones. After the static strenght levels are accomplished, we could include dynamic exercises, such as gripping the gi/ kurtka colar of a partner, who gradually apply resistance, trying to break the grip, using not only pulling, but also twisting motions.
As a compliment of the grip work, one could use heavy compound lifts, such as deadlift or farmers walk with thick bars.
Finally, a competitor should focus on the specifics of the grip work, necessary for his sport. In the sport of BJJ, we can see prolonged periods of static grips, used on the ground, which will challenge the muscle tollerance to lactic acid, hence the work should be endurance oriented. Additional exercises, like narrow grip pull ups, with pause in the top position, while bending the wrists, armwrestling with a partner or a cable machine, biceps curls with pronated or narrow grip, carrying a partner with bare hands grip around his waist and etc.
In judo and sambo, there is plenty of explosive work, where sometimes lifting opponent’s weight, with the use of hand grip is required. Also, the grip fight it self is quite fast and intense, so its needed to be able to apply strong grip, within fractions of a second. This skill requires a bit more specific type of exercise, such as gripping tennis balls, thrown by the partner, also grip and throw drills with a partner, where the throw is executed within 1 second.
Grip workouts should be included in every conditioning session of an athlete, since the fight always starts with the intention to gain an upper hand in the grip fight. Once we have accomplished the required strenght and conditioning level, we can move to the technical part of chaining different style of grips, which would be discussed in details in one of the future articles.