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Wade Gillingham Interview - Grip Stuff!

Bill Piche

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Let's just say I have some connections and I am sure Wade would not mind. :)

Wade Gillingham on Grip:

1) When you first started using the grippers, what

routine did you use?

The first time I touched the grippers was #2 in 1996.  I closed it for

3 reps or so with my right and a one with my left.  The first time I

tried #3 was in 1997 - my dad had purchased the #2 & #3.  I didn't buy the

grippers until 1998 so I didn't train on them until then.

2)  How long before closing the #2 with both hands (approx).

answered above

3) How much can you pinch grip?  I know you've done 45's.

Any higher?

I have never really trained my pinch grip.  I've been able to pinch

grip two 45's since I was 18 years old.  The most i've ever done is 110 -

two 45's and two 10's chained to it.  I know that Maddy has done around 130

so I just wanted to see what I could do one night.  This is the only time

i've ever tried more than two 45's or a YORK 100.

I can pinch grip the hub of a YORK 45 pretty easy now and i've done 70

with the IronMind hub.

4) Do you still do RT on Monday, Grippers

on Wed, and some pinching on Friday?

Yes, though my grip work is secondary to my powerlifting and strongman

training.  At least every other week I will work out with a large

handle "rolling thunder" that we made.  The handle diameter is right around 3

inches.  Usually I will hook this up to a low cable row and hold for


My brother Brad started doing holds with the end of a power bar to

help his deadlift strength.  Doing this really agrevates my back, so I came

up with this as an alternative.  The most that has ever been lifted with

this handle is 175 pounds by myself and my brothers Karl and Brad.  We have

all done between 240 and 250 on the real Rolling Thunder so that tells you

how hard this thick handle is.  I usually do either a 10 or 30 second hold

- 1 or 2 sets.

I have been training my grippers once a week hard for the since fall of

1998.  Prior to that I just closed whatever anyone had around me at the

time because I didn't own them.  I purchased the grippers in the summer

of 1998.  In the late fall of 1998 I closed our #3 gripper by hooking my

left index finger through the hole in the spring and using my finger to keep

the gripper from twisting in my hand.  Since that time I have had the

feaver to close #3 legit.  I knew then that I had plenty of crushing power to

close it but I had to get the technique down to keep the gripper from

twisting in my big hand.  Between that time and the time that I closed #3 legit

(9/29/99),  I did high reps with #1 and #2 and force reps or reps

holding the spring with #3.  The best i've done is 27 with #2 right and 20 with

my left.  I would finish these workouts off with a set of 40 or 50 with


At this time I could close #3 for 5 reps holding the spring so I just

kept training this way thinking that I would get it some day.  Then one day

I just grabbed the #3 and closed it - twice in the same workout.  Looking

 back now, I know I would have closed #3 a lot soon had I used the

program I am currently on - thanks to you and Kevin Fulton.  The high reps were

fatiguing my grip too much and closing the #3 by holding the top was

not helping my find the right groove.  Just like in lifting, you have to

use the proper form or you won't get stronger - I wasn't using the proper


I do some pinching about every other friday.  Ususally I just grab the

45's and do a couple reps with them.  Sometimes, if I can get someone to

challenge me, I will do the hub.  Me and Brad have done this a couple

times and it helps motivate me.  Right now I am not seriously training pinch

gripping because most of my pinch grip comes from my thumb.  The

weakness I need to work on is my finger strength.

5)  HOw much can you

do on the Rolling Thunder?

250 right and 240 left.  This is very strict - held with my shoulders

all the way back like a deadlift lockout.  I've broken 260 from the floor.

We made our thick handle rolling thunder in the fall of 1998.  I had never

touched a real rolling thunder before that.  My brothers were telling

me about this rolling thunder device that Scott Safe had at his business

and how nobody could lift 200 pounds with it, so I got interested.  Every

time they would go over there they would bump the record up - 200, 210, 215,

etc..  This friendly competition was getting me interested.  We bought

a real rolling thunder for my dad for christmas in 1998.  The first time

I touched the real one I did 225 because of my workouts with the large

handle.  (See June 1999 MILO article).

6) How did you end of lifting the Blob?  Just when

visiting Safe and for the fun of it (no intention

before going there?).

Scott had all of his grip toys setup in 1998 when he redid his store.

Karl told me about the blob and told my there was no way I could do it.  At

that point I knew I could because I now had the motivation to do it.  I

didn't get over to Scott's until July of 1999, so I hadn't touched the blob

until the day that I picked it up.  It's tough to do.  I had to feel it in my

hand for awhile before I could figure out how to pinch it.  If you just

try to crush it, it will pop out of your hand.  After getting it up with my

right, the first time I touched it left I picked it right up because I

knew how to squeeze it.  The blob is fun because it is a novelty - a measure

that many have tried so you know where you are at when you pick it up.

Kinda like the inch dumbell.  Incidently, Karl, myself, and Odd Haugen

picked up Chris Mavromatis's inch dumbell replica when we were working

out with Chris's mavrocks this summer during USAPL nationals.

7) How much do you use for the Farmers walk?  When and

how often?

Depends on if i'm training for a contest or not.  Ususally I don't

train farmers walk any more than every other week.  The most i've done is 300

in each hand for 50 yards.  Since I started training this for strongman in

the summer of 1998, my grip has gone up a lot!  Watching Mark Phillippi and

Odd Haugen do 260 at the hawaii beauty and the beast in 1998 (on tv) is

really what got me interested in strongman.  I knew I had a good enough grip

to be competitive in this event, so I figured I would start training and see

where it would take me.  I found out real fast that grip is only a

small part of farmers walk - this is an event that will make you a man!  I

started with 300 pounds total (150 in each hand) and I felt totally

spent after about 100' the first time.  Now i'm doing that in both hands and

in much better shape at the end, so i've progressed a lot in this event.

8) When you weren't consistent on closing the #3, how

were you using the grippers (I don't remember if you

told me exactly how).

High reps with 1&2...try to close #3 at the end of the workout.  I was

struggling without a program, doing stupid things!  A person can't just

grab #3 every chance they get and try to close it.  That's like walking

up to your max in the deadlift and trying to pick it up 3 or 4 times a


After a lot of knuckle pain, and frustration I know better now!  My

advice is warm up and stick to the plan or you will never get anywhere with

the grippers.

9) Are you now looking at going for the #4?

Yes.  I've set my sights on #4.  I'm not going to buy one for awhile.

I know what I have to do with #3 before I can even start training forced

reps effectively with #4.  I believe that anyone with a naturally good grip

can close #3 with some training.  #4 is a totally different story.  A lot

of people who have closed #3 say that they will close #4 soon.  Mr. Kinney

is the only one that has backed that up.  I hope that in a year i'm in a

position that I can really start training with the #4 without it

totally kicking my ass.  I will close it some day.  My dad has one and has been

training it for about 9 months.  He has closed it against his leg and

held it shut (touching) for a couple seconds.  He will close it legit soon.

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Guest StrongerthanArne

Very interesting reading. Many thanks for posting it. I will myself order a Rolling Thunder soon. For supporting grip I am doing one arm deadlifts with a regular powerlifting bar, but would probably benefit more with a thick bar handle. Nevertheless, unlike the grippers it is obviously easier to measure your progress in a lift such as the one arm deadlift (regular grip and bar in front of body). Thanks to my friend Arne, we can increase the load by as little as 0.5 kg, after he bought Eleiko's smallest competition plates. The one arme deadlift is an event where I am NOT StrongerthanArne ( more like ArneisstrongerthanMikael). David Horne told me that anything above 120 is good, so we all feel like wimps.

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