A great guest article by my good friend and mentor, Mr. Chris Kershaw.
Grip is very very movement specific.
I’ve got you now haven’t I?
“Commence the thrilling article Chris. Wow us with your exciting wit and intellect! I just want to read on so much!!!” I’m glad.
What this specific thing means is that you need to hold onto stuff in pretty much exactly the same way you would do in competition for the grip to improve in that position. So if your grip sucks during a mixed grip deadlift and you have a powerlifting competition in the next few months you better start holding onto heavy barbells in a mixed grip to make it better. If you don’t have a specific sport to build a grip for then you have free reign to build up your grip for as many challenging exercises as possible.
Mostly I talk about grip from a powerlifting perspective because you know, I’m a powerlifter (not sure if I’ve mentioned this before?) which means I don’t want my clients to let go of a heavy bar on competition day. Recently though, I’ve had the opportunity to venture into the realms of strongman (or woman in this case) training where a strong grip is required in many different events. Someone with a strong grip almost always has more muscle than someone with a weak grip. It is how you transfer the force and strength you’ve built to the rest of the world. Grip training builds muscle. Grip training builds better athletes.
Grip training can be as simple as holding onto a heavy barbell for 10 seconds after each set of deadlifts. Often this works wonders as the guys over at reactivetrainingsystems.com have talked about before.1
Now, just as I describe planks and anti-rotation exercises as “excellent BUT TOO BORING FOR LIFE” after the first four weeks of doing them, the same can be said for just holding onto a heavy barbell at the end of each set for maybe 10 seconds. Yes it works great, but if you or a client is that bored of an exercise that they skip it then it’s not going to do them or you any good. No matter how many times “just get it done” is spouted about. It was for this reason that I came up with GRIP CLUSTERS. More on this in a little bit.
Cluster sets came to my attention through one of my favourite programs of all time; Eric Cressey’s Maximum Strength Training and the work of Tony Gentilcore who introduced me to the superset of 2 bench press cluster into farmers walk superset or SUPERCLUSTERFUCK OF DOOM.
http://articles.reactivetrainingsystems.com/2015/12/28/hold-damn-grip/ 1 2
A cluster set, which is often used for people training to be more powerful, involves doing normal sets of 1-3 reps numerous times with 10-30 seconds between each minutes. So a (4×2)15-30 second rest cluster set would look something like this:
100kg x2 reps wait 15-30 seconds
100kg x 2 reps wait 15-30 seconds
100kg x 2 reps wait 15-30 seconds
100kg x 2 reps
Die on the floor after the completion of the set.
Yes, this is one set. It’s a great way to introduce variety into your strength training and I guarantee that if used properly on various exercises they will make you stronger and more powerful.
A standard cluster set for deadlifts definitely improves grip. But I wanted to take it a bit further. Grip Clusters Take it from me these are awful. For a powerlifter or Olympic Lifter you could use a competition deadlift or snatch grip deadlift if you are a real nutter. A grip cluster means that instead of resting between the mini-sets; you instead have to hold onto the barbell or other implement of brutality for normally 10 seconds before starting the next mini-set. So using the example from before it would be:
100kg x2 reps hold for 10 seconds
100kg x 2 reps hold for 10 seconds
100kg x 2 reps hold for 10 seconds 100kg x 2 reps
Allow your forearms to explode.
But Chris! Not everyone is a powerlifter! What? How dare they!? I mean, er…
How To Use Grip Clusters For General Muscle And Strength Training
I have a few favourites that I (abuse inflict, destroy) regularly give to clients; they all hurt but do wonders for the grip, they build muscle and I dare say your heart rate will be pushing 460bpm by the end of each set. The sentence above may or not be an exaggeration; the only way for you to find out is to try them out. 😉
Narrow Lat Pulldown Grip Cluster
I love narrow lat pulldowns. They provide an excellent stretch for the shoulders of those that are pain free when the arms are above head, I believe they are safer than wide pulldowns and chins and are excellent for learning how to keep the ribs in position during exercises such as overhead presses and deadlifts (technically they train you to resist thoracic hyperextension.) My favourite rep range with these is again (4×2 reps)10-20 second hold.
Single-Arm Suspension Trainer Row
One of the simplest exercises in the world. You imagine you are maintaining a plank position through the torso while grabbing the handle of a suspension trainer. Grab the handle, keep the strap tight at all times, and perform the amount of rows you are supposed to! My favourite rep range to use with this exercise is: (3x3r)10 second hang hold. Make it more difficult by walking your feet further forward, make it easier by walking the feet backwards! This one is fairly disgusting, i normally give it to people for 4 weeks before moving on to weighted implements.
Farmers Walk Grip Cluster
In Primal, I’m fairly well known for my ‘squat and carry heavy shit’ programs. This falls into the ‘carry heavy shit’ side of things. Grab some heavy ass weights. Some dumbbells for example. Walk 3 metres, hold for 10 seconds, repeat 4 times. Written down, I note this as (4x3m) 10 second hold. This will be revolting. With any of these examples 3-5 rounds is usually more than enough to well and truly fuck you up good and proper. In the best possible way of course.
By Chris Kershaw