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The Crush Quest by Steve Weiner

Bill Piche

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Thanks to Steve for allowing re-publication of this gem. :)


The Crush Quest
By Steve Weiner

    I say it over to myself in my head every day. "I will mash that number 
three, a Captain of Crush, I will be."  It's a little motivational saying that 
I coined that helps me visualize a goal that I have set for myself, and with 
continued perseverance, will soon reach.  What can make a man chant this 
little mantra to himself every day he lives and breathes?  It's Ironmind's 
Captain of Crush #3 gripper.  For those of you who have ever used Ironmind's 
COC grippers, you know how easy it is to become obsessed with closing a 
certain level of gripper, be it the trainer (100 pounds of pressure required 
to completely close the handles), the #1 (140 pounds), the #2 (195 pounds), 
the #3 (280 pounds), or the #4 (365 pounds).  This obsession has turned me 
into a man who is determined to succeed at closing the COC #3 under 
authenticated conditions, which would make me a certified "Captain of Crush."  
As of the writing of this article (2/22/00), about 25 men in the entire world 
have succeeded in completely closing the COC #3 under authenticated 
conditions, and only one has succeeded in closing the #4.  
    My story begins about two years ago as I was flipping through the May, 
1998 issue of IRONMAN magazine, and stumbled upon an article called "Dinosaur 
Training" by Brooks D. Kubik.  For sometime, I was curious as to what dinosaur 
training actually was, since I had frequently seen ads for a book of the same 
name in previous issues of IRONMAN.  The cover of the book struck me as odd, 
because it shows a man pressing a barrel over his head.  I eagerly read the 
article, as I would now get an answer to my question.  I liked what I read in 
the article, as it was very different from anything else I'd ever read.  I 
then placed my order for the book, and can honestly say it was some of the 
best money I have ever spent in my life.  I read the entire book in a matter 
of days, and found it to be fascinating, but the parts of the book that 
fascinated me the most were the chapters on grip training.  I had done some 
wrist curls in my lifetime, along with timed hangs from a chinning bar, and 
squeezing a typical sporting goods store handgripper, but did I ever think 
about putting alot of energy into training my grip?  In a word, no.  Never 
before had I heard of pinch gripping, Titan's Telegraph Key, or Eagle Loops.  
I felt like I was unearthing buried treasure-it really captured my attention.  
What really captured my attention, however, was the section about the Captain 
of Crush grippers.  The name alone captures one's attention, along with the 
fact that so few people seemed to succeed at completely closing the more 
difficult levels of these grippers.  I sensed a challenge, and wanted to try 
my hand at closing one of these grippers.  How hard could they really be?  
Again, my curiosity got the best of me, so I called Iron Island gym.  I 
figured if any gym on earth would have these grippers, Iron Island would.  I 
was in luck!  They had the #1 and the #3.  I took the ride over to Iron Island 
for a training session.  I went through my training session, then went over to 
the front desk to borrow the COC's for some grip work.  To my surprise, I was 
able to mash the #1 for many reps.  I was very excited when I was able to mash 
the #1, because I remembered that Brooks said it defied the efforts of most 
strong men who tried to close it. Just for the hell of it, I tried the #3, and 
squeezed the handles to within about 3/4" of each other.  I deduced that I 
should order the #1, and the #2 from Ironmind.  
    While waiting for my grippers to arrive, I started doing grip training 
twice a week, utilizing thick bar holds for time and plate pinch gripping.  
The day finally came in May, 1998, when my grippers arrived.  I could not wait 
to use them in my training that very evening, as a had my grip training 
scheduled as a part of that evening's workout.  When the time arrived to use 
them, I excitedly tore open the box from Ironmind, and found my two newest 
additions to my equipment collection.  They looked so innocent in their little 
plastic bags.  It's only when you take them out of their bags and try to 
squeeze them shut do you see them for what they really are.  They are menacing 
little monsters that taunt you when you get the handles to within a fraction 
of an inch of each other.  I took the #1 out of its bag, and warmed up with a 
handful of reps.  Then I took the #2 out of its bag, and gave it a mighty 
squeeze.  I could not believe my eyes.  The handles were actually touching!  
Here was a gripper that Brooks said a man with a strong grip would have 
trouble closing, and I was holding it closed!  It took a maximum effort to get 
those handles to touch for that one successful rep, but I was sure pumped up 
about it.  After that workout, it took me another two weeks to shut the #2 
again.  The feeling of successfully closing the handles together on the #2  
was so awesome to me, that I attempted to shut the #2 every day for the next 
few days after first closing it.  I learned quickly that with the COC 
grippers, squeezing them often was quickly leading me into a state of 
overtraining.  I took a break for a few days, and made the decision to perform 
two workouts per week with the grippers consisting of five sets per session.  
My first set would be a warm-up of 10 reps with the #1, sets 2-4 would be 
maximum reps with the #2, and the last set would be maximum reps with #1.  As 
with any new exercise the gains were fast (remember the feeling of adding 10 
pounds to your bench press every month when you first started lifting, 
thinking you would be at 500 in no time?).  By the end of June, I was able to 
perform six consecutive repetitions with my right hand on the COC #2.  By the 
end of August, I was up to 11 consecutive reps, and decided to order the #3 
gripper and John Brookfield's "MASTERY OF HAND STRENGTH," which is a must read 
for all grip training enthusiasts.  Up to this point I had kept to the same 
training routine with my grippers, and made great progress.
    In the middle of September, the #3 arrived a day before my next 
scheduled gripper session.  At my next workout, I gave the #3 a try, and got 
the handle to within approximately 3/8" of touching each other, which was 
about half the distance from when I first tried it four months prior.  This 
was very encouraging, but very humbling at the same time, too.  At this point, 
I decided to employ some different techniques in my training, since I was 
seeking to improve my "one rep max," and not my endurance.  I had to find a 
way to make the COC #2 harder, because for me, like for most people, high reps 
with medium resistance doesn't improve strength nearly as well as low reps 
with heavy resistance.  One of the techniques I employed was strapholds, which 
are described in detail in an article by John Brookfield in the June, 1996 
(Volume 4, Number 2) issue of MILO called "Handgrippers: Closing The Gap."  My 
brief description does no justice to the article, but it is as follows;  use a 
gripper that you can fully close, take a thin piece of leather and punch a 
hole in it, loop some wire through the hole, and attach the other end of the 
wire to a barbell plate, close the gripper on the piece of leather, lift the 
weight off the ground, hold for a few seconds.  This is basically a static 
hold with the grippers that is harder to perform than a normal static hold, 
because while you are holding the ends of the grippers together, you are 
trying not to drop the added resistance.  In essence, you are using the 
grippers as you would a pair of pliers to deadlift a weight.  Some pair of 
pliers, huh?  I used this exercise with some success, and was eventually able 
to pick up 17.5 pounds (not including the weight of a standard plate loading 
pin) using my COC #2 as a "pliers" by November of 1998.
    My performance on the COC #3 improved to where on a good day, I was 
able to get the handles between 3/16" and 5/16" away from a complete close.  
For the next two months, my progress stalled.  At this point, I ordered the 
"Get A Grip" video by Joe Kinney, for inspiration and more importantly, 
information.  Joe Kinney is one determined fellow who by blood, sweat, and 
tears built himself a fearsome grip to become the only man in the world to 
conquer the #4 gripper.  In the video, he closes the #4 gripper (which is 
worth the price of the tape alone), and shows his entire collection of 
home-made grip equipment, including his "secret weapon."  This man is one 
resourceful individual.  His "secret weapon" is an ingenious plate-loading 
machine that is designed to allow the user to do negative only squeezes at the 
exact angle of a COC gripper.  However, this is not what makes the machine 
special.  What makes the "secret weapon" special is the fact that it is 
designed to close about 1/2" tighter than the COC grippers.  The user can go 
"beyond the range," as Joe puts it, of the gripper handles when they are in 
the completely closed position.  I was so impressed by this machine, that I 
immediately purchased one from Mr. Kinney.  It is worth every penny, but if 
you are into nicely chromed machines, it's not for you, but neither is the 
rest of this magazine!  For the next few months, I concentrated on doing 
negative only singles on the "secret weapon"  twice a week, with attempts on 
the #3 mixed in.  My grip felt stronger, and my hands felt tougher, as they 
were no longer getting sore, but I still could not crash through the 3/16" 
barrier, although I was reaching this point more frequently than before.  
    At this point, I wanted more information, so I decided to contact 
people who were on the official Captains of Crush list.  Over the next few 
months, I was fortunate to have spoken with Joe Kinney, Richard Sorin, John 
Brookfield, Charlie Lysak, and Kevin Fulton.  All were very nice, very 
informative, and very helpful.  They are very interesting men from various 
walks of life, who have their own viewpoints, opinions, and training methods.  
Well, that made me think.  I decided that I needed to perform trial and error 
sessions to find what worked best for me, just as they had done to find what 
worked best for them.  I decided that I would design a routine, and use it for 
4-6 weeks.  If I did not progress on the COC #3 within that time frame, it 
would be time to try another routine.  I tried doing grip work once per week, 
twice per week, even three times per week, and still no progress on the #3.  
Along the way, however, I did develop a stronger plate pinch grip, 2" bar 
deadlift, block lift, and reverse curl.  So even though my progress on the #3 
gripper had gone nowhere, the side effects were not too bad!  
    On I went, stuck in a rut for months on the #3.  It was now November 
of 1999, and almost a year since I had made perceptible progress on the COC 
#3.  I then decided to do something drastic.  I applied Joe Kinney's "secret 
weapon" design to my COC #2 grippers. I shaved down the insides of the handles 
on my COC #2 about 1/8" on each side giving me a 1/4" greater range of motion 
than normal.  This would make the gripper harder to close than an unaltered 
COC #2, because as the handles get closer together, the resistance of the 
spring grows higher.  I used my altered COC #2  twice a week for a few weeks 
for 10-15 sets of sets of singles closed as explosively as possible.  This 
seemed to work as I was consistently hitting the 3/16" gap on the COC #3 
whenever I attempted to close it.  I viewed this as progress, and had the 
feeling that I would soon break through my plateau.  I then designed a two 
times per week routine that encompassed the "secret weapon," the altered COC 
#2 gripper, and the Ivanko Super Gripper  
    The first workout of the week would consist of 5-7 sets of single rep 
set negatives on the "secret weapon," with an emphasis on keeping the handles 
pinned shut in the closed position.  This would take full advantage of the 
added range of movement, which is what the machine is designed for.  As soon 
as the handles would come apart by about an inch, I would drop the weight.  I 
would do this as not to expend energy on the range of motion that I was 
already strongest.  Again, the intention of this machine is to help the 
trainee intensely work on that last fraction of an inch of movement.  The 
second workout of the week would be with my altered COC #2 gripper for 
multiple sets of singles, along with my unaltered COC #2 for multiple sets of 
low rep sets (not to failure), and sets of single reps on the Ivanko Super 
Gripper.  All sets on the spring loaded gripper devices were done with an 
emphasis on explosiveness.  I needed to really MASH those handles together!  
The Ivanko Super Gripper is a device which I have not yet mentioned.  It is a 
spring loaded gripping device that is different in design than the COC 
grippers, and doesn't close in quite the same "groove" as a COC gripper. But 
it does have one feature that may help you close the gap on a COC gripper you 
can't quite close-small increments of resistance increases.  You can do 
progressively harder singles on this device more easily than on a COC gripper, 
because it allows small percentage increments of increased resistance versus 
the 30%-40% jumps in required closing pressure between the various levels of 
COC grippers.  However, I would recommend you use this device only as a 
supplement and not a substitute to your COC training if your specific goal is 
to close a particular level of COC gripper.  There is nothing that can 
substitute for the unique resistance of the COC's spring, so you have to 
practice on these grippers if you expect to improve on them.  They are a very 
motion specific training tool.  
    I ordered the Ivanko Super Gripper from a company called 
Weightlifter's Warehouse.  On their website, I also noticed that they sold 
their own version of handgrippers called "Beef Builder" grippers.  Curiosity 
reared its head again, so I gave them a call in the beginning of this year, 
and ordered their "Master" level gripper with the hope that the resistance 
level would be above my altered COC #2 gripper, but very close to the COC #3 
gripper.  I received the grippers on January 22nd, and first used them on 
January 29th.  I was able to barely shut them once after a good warm-up, and 
then did a bunch of single rep forced closes after my one successful close.  
The Beef Builder felt like a COC #2.75, if there was such a gripper.  I was 
very excited, because I really had a hunch that I finally found the last piece 
of the puzzle to enable me to close the COC #3.  Six days later on February 
4th, I was able to perform seven successful singles with the Beef Builder.  A 
week later, during my next gripper workout, I planned to give the COC #3 a 
try, to solidify my hunch about the progress that I believed I was making. 
Well, my hunch was right.  On February 11th, after a thorough warm-up, I felt 
ready to attack the #3.  I chalked up, set the #3 in my right hand, and 
squeezed as if my life depended on it.  The handles closed quickly, as the 
gripper felt like putty in my hand.  The handles kept going, then abruptly 
stopped.  I was about 1/16" away from completely closing the handles, but as 
hard as I tried could move them no more.  
    After I gathered my thoughts, I realized that I just progressed 1/8" 
over my previous best performance.  I was psyched up about this, and more 
determined than I ever was.  Progress is a good feeling, and above all, a 
great motivator!  I was now fully convinced that the #3 would be mine within a 
matter of weeks.  My last gripper workout before sending this article to 
Brooks was on February 18th.  I went through the same warm-up ritual, chalked 
up, and grabbed the #3.  I was very determined, and felt as if nothing was 
going to stop me from closing it!  I got down to business, and got the handles 
to less than 1/20" away from each other.  I know this, because a US penny is 
1/20" thick, and I could not fit it between the handles with my left hand when 
I tried.  I came about as close to shutting the handles of the #3 as I could 
without them actually touching.  The handles were a hair apart.  However 
slight, it was more progress.  
    The frustrating thing about being that close is the gripper seems to 
taunt you, as I mentioned earlier in the article.  I was able to hold this 
"almost closed" position of less than 1/20"  for five solid seconds making the 
tiny gap between the handles seem like a mile.  Coming even closer on 
consecutive weeks makes me fully confident that it's not a matter of if I will 
close the #3, but when.  You need this level of confidence along with your 
determination to succeed, or else you'll never go anywhere in your training, 
or your life, for that matter.  When I finally close the #3, I'll have the 
satisfaction of knowing that I will have successfully reached a goal, and that 
I will be one of only a few people IN THE WHOLE WORLD to accomplish something 
that is very unique.  I hope all you Dinosaurs succeed in reaching and 
surpassing all your goals.  I'll keep you posted as to when I actually close 
the #3, but for now.......I will mash that number three, a Captain of Crush, I 
will be.................

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