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Grip Goals And Assistance Exercises

Bill Piche

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Like all lifting and indeed any endeavor in life worth doing it's worth taking some time to plan what you want to achieve, how you are going to achieve it and approximately how long it will take to do so. Constant practice and regular increases in weight are obviously necessary but you can do a few other things to enhance your success. First, consider what it is you want to do. Personally, I like to choose rather obscure things or something that maybe only a few have ever tried. I like this for it's uniqueness and also because it will really make me think about how I should train instead of just following the already tried and tested route of others. Timing when you are going to reach your goal is a little more difficult. For a long-term project, I would normally take 3-4 months to achieve what I've set out to do. This would allow for a break in period which allows for getting the feel of the exercise, conditioning the hands, wrists or fingers to the exercise and hopefully avoiding injury by going too heavy too soon. As an example the weaver stick, although a small poundage lift, it is absolutely brutal on the wrist and requires a stage of 'getting used' to the exercise. Similarly with finger deadlifts where tendons are easily injured or One Hand lifts where skin is often lost because of lack of hand conditioning. Certain lifts like the One Hand Vertical Bar lift also need tremendous technique and pain threshold requirements and time can only acquire these assets.

What you actually choose to accomplish is obviously very personal. For myself, as I have said I try not to follow the norm but it is easy to get caught up in what's in vogue at the time, hence my getting certified by Ironmind. In the past, I would try to go after lifts that were similar to what the old timers were doing. This for me was a good incentive as their grips were on the whole superior to today's strength athletes, even those with tremendous all round strength. The way I approach a feat usually begins by finding out as much about the lift as possible and then building a routine around it. This is where assistance exercises come into the equation. Not all feats or goals will have assistance movements but those that do will help you get the best results. The best of all many assistance movements have yet to be invented so you may come up with completely new exercises. Here are a few ideas for assistance movements:

• Perform Partial Range movements. Do weaver sticks with a shorter weaver thus allowing more weight or try doing curls with a pinch block to help your Plate Curls.

• Pinch Lifting objects with your weakest width of grip which could be thinner or wider or both. Also for pinch lifting snatching and cleaning weights is really good.

• Try doing regular exercises with the object you are trying to perform a certain feat on. Try doing curls, deadlifts, presses etc. with a 21/2" dumbbell if your goal is to lift the Inch Dumbbell. The more you handle the object or something similar the more chance you'll have of lifting it.

• Try making the exercise more difficult. Don't use chalk or grease up the object. When I was training for the Blue Stones of Old Dailly (which is largely a test of grip strength) I did Bear Hug Deadlifts but used gardening gloves to make the lift more difficult and simulate the smoothness of the stones.

• No warming up. Be careful with this one but it is useful for feats that don't allow warm ups like pinch chins, lifting heavy rocks or the Inch Dumbbell.

The whole point here is to think about your lifting and what is required for success. Grip training is such a specialized area that to get good you really need to experiment as much is still to be learned. Gripping too is nice in that training one area like supporting strength, will have an effect on another area like crushing strength. Although being specific is often necessary, crossover training is also to our advantage and makes for enjoyable and varied training.

To summarize, set yourself goals that are achievable to you and if you can, try to find something obscure that only a few people have done for that added incentive. Set an approximate time scale so that you don't train for a feat too long or indeed too little. And finally choose exercises to assist you in your task perhaps inventing new ones after you have dissected the individual areas needed for improvement.

In short: Train Hard, Grip Hard and Think Hard!

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