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To Be A Part-time Grip Fanatic On The Quest...

Bill Piche

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To Be a Part-Time Grip Fanatic on the Quest for Strong Hands

The one thing that I learnt when I moved to London in England from my university town of Bristol was that I needed to exercise! Like most capital cities, London never sleeps and the relentless toil of work and socialising quickly made me realise that I had to do something and fast to stop the rot.

By ‘rot’ I mean the physically and mentally draining and harmful effects that living in a smog-filled, alcohol obsessed, workaholic capital city can bring on. But what was the solution? I had always been a physically active and game young man and had dabbled in bodybuilding and gymnastics while growing up and always enjoyed any kind of challenge whether it was diving off the highest cliff or climbing a tall tree. These were the things that reminded me of what my body is capable off and I always relished the fact that I could muster the skill to try them. As I look around at the kids of today, no matter what country they’re from, I see a shift in this way of thinking, where Playstations and TV take up the majority of our nation’s youth’s brain space. This is not to discount all the youths, there are many who enjoy physical pursuits, it is just to highlight how I think I came to be a young adult who wanted more from the body I’d been blessed with.

During this article I may well reference Bruce Lee quite a bit as he has, like to so many others, been a constant source of inspiration to me, hence the quote that I feel sums up my way of thinking:

“Ever since I was a child I have had this instinctive urge for expansion and growth. To me, the function and duty of a quality human being is the sincere and honest development of one's potential”.

- Bruce Lee.

I have worked for the last 5 years making all manners of TV programmes for the BBC. As one of the only industries without a union the media game is indeed one where exploitation of young workers was rife and hence the title/point to this article. All exercise and leisure time that I have is always of a ‘part-time’ nature where work has always had to come first. From filming away from home for months at a time and the normal long working hours I found that any kind of regime to my exercise was extremely hard to maintain. I needed something that could ‘go’ with me, that wouldn’t take too long and that would allow me to vent all the stresses of the day…….The answer turned out to be……..Grip!

As a member of the Gripboard I see people who have the ability to dedicate a great deal more time to the pursuit of strong hands. All power to them, although I did, at times, feel emerald with envy at the lack of consistency I, in turn, could apply to our chosen sport. I have since realised that perhaps it is not so much about how much ‘time’ someone has to realise their goals as rather how ‘dedicated’ are you to your chosen sport?

My birthday present from my older brother when I was first up in London was Bruce Lee’s biography: The Art of Expressing the Human Body. This highlighted to me in fantastic detail his approach to exercise and wellbeing. He seemed to know it all and lived by example. The one thing that caught my eye from this reading was a quote from Bob Wall:

“Bruce had the biggest forearms proportionate to anybody's body that I've ever seen. I mean, his forearms were huge. He had incredibly powerful wrists and fingers, his arms were just extraordinary".

After reading this I looked at some of the pictures of him and yes Bob was right his forearms were massive and as close to ‘Popeye’ as any man that lived. It was at that moment that I decided where my goals were to lie and I went on a mission to find out as much as I could about lower arm strength and development. I started a regime, whenever I could, of following Bruce Lee’s training styles. These consisted of wrist curls, wrist rollering, leverage work and many other variations on lower arm exercises. This was great and allowed me to put at least 2.5” on my forearms but I felt there had to be more! I then started a job that meant I was on the Internet a lot…….Enter the Gripboard.

After the first day of being a member I ordered the Coc#1, got it, couldn’t shut it and over-trained on it! Sounds familiar I am sure. Whenever I got a spare five minutes I would look into the varying training methods being used and within a month or so the #1 went down. Since that first close and the discovery that not all grip strength was just the crush I started to look into the other areas of grip that I could train. My main problem was the money aspect.

A lot of the equipment seemed to be in the U.S. and my ability to get it physically and financially was hampered and so I became my fathers son and started to make, scavenge and create all the equipment I could. I was always brought up with the belief that material objects do not need to be ‘brand new’ and expensive to be functional and useful. I have over the years gathered a grip arsenal that makes me proud. One, because of how I’ve got it and two, how ‘organic’ the process of acquirement has been. Example:

A few years ago while back in Bristol visiting my parents I noticed the obvious, but forgotten to me, fact that my father had an anvil resting quietly in the corner of the garden. I immediately saw its potential as a training device and proceeded to try to pull it by the horn…..no chance. All of the men in the family had a go but to no avail. I suggested to my father that by lending me the anvil I could train with it up in London and conquer it! My father, like me, is a hoarder and refused to give it up! He did, however, offer me the bet that if I got to the point of being able to hoist it with one hand then it could be mine.

After a further year or so of training on all-over hand-strength I was back at the ranch and remembered the old anvil. A dab of chalk and an on-looking father could mean only one thing to me and with a firm grip on that horn, up that beastie came! Much to my father’s on-going dismay the anvil is now with me and very much in use.

Now, as a ‘Part-Timer’, I suddenly found that I could train, in a short period of time, to total failure. Whether in a Travel Lodge or briefly home for the night I could maintain a semblance of routine to my exercise regime. Grippers came with me everywhere; my anvil had to stay at home. Either way I had something that I could do no matter what my time constraints were and it made me feel good as well. To do grip training I did not need a gym and I did not have to worry about such things as gym fees as well. All I needed was right there in my garage and was mine to use and abuse whenever I had the time.

As holidays/time-off came I would have the ability to concentrate more and this gave my whole job satisfaction a boost as well. I knew that I had other goals in my life that weren’t work related and they were all mine. Some of my friends and colleagues didn’t understand it, who cares? I thought, I have strong hands and they haven’t and for me it really was that simple.

It took me a long time to shut the beast that is the CoC #2 but I got there and will go further as well. I have found that dedication to your chosen sport is the key, not how much time you have to achieve these things in. If it takes me another 2 years to get the #3 then so be it because I know that the journey there will be full of trials and learning. My point? Well it’s about the fact that progress within your chosen field, whether work or sports, will always be governed by outside factors. If one can maintain the discipline of keeping motivated no matter how difficult it sometimes gets then you are on your way to being a winner…..and to shutting that damn #3! Perseverance and patients are good qualities to have when one is a grip ‘part-timer’.

I’ll finish on another Bruce quote that I remember whenever I get those feelings of doubt.

“If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else. It will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them”.

The Late Great Bruce Lee.

By Diggory Orr-Ewing

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