Grip strength for the standard gym-goer is pitiful at best. God bless 'em for trying to do a few wrist and hammer curls at the end of a workout, but they don't seem to understand that in order to build true grip strength, TRUE grip work is necessary.
There are many facets of grip training and an abundance of tools if you're interested, but for the intentions of this article, I'll be focusing on the kettlebell as the tool of choice.
You'll discover how to use your kettlebell to build more than just tremendous overall strength and endurance, you'll learn how to build an iron grip; imagine getting a job as a mechanic and never needing a wrench. Get the idea?
Solid grip strength goes beyond your hands, it involves your forearms and arms as well. The kettlebell will help build your grip strength and endurance better than most. Here are a few methods you can try kick ass, grip-tastic workout.
High Rep Ballistics
With each of the ballistic exercises (swing, clean, snatch) the kettlebell moves freely within the hand. Because you don't want your skin torn off, you must open and close your hand quickly to get the kettlebell into the positions needed. This constant motion makes for one hell of a grip workout.
For an added (and sadistic) workout, try soaping up your hands before doing your swings. This workout is brutal on the hands and will build ligaments and muscle fibers like the cables of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Make sure to use the soaped up version of swings as a finisher as you won't be able to do much after. Minus the soap, alternate between heavy and lighter weights for your swings, cleans, and snatches to get an all around grip and forearm workout.
The Pistol Grip is a favorite when it comes to hand strength and balance. Very simply, turn the kettlebell upside down and start doing what you love with your trusty kettlebell (cleans, snatches, presses, etc). Use one or two hands to vary the difficulty.
Also known as "Bottom's Up," the Pistol Grip allows you to perform almost any exercise and make it just that much harder. Clean, Squats, Presses, Windmills, Snatches, etc. are all turned into a grip-ripping workout.
When starting out with the Pistol Grip, try a lighter weight than you're used to in order to get the feel of it. Use your other hand as a guide/guard for protection (you'll thank me when you have all your teeth intact at the end of the workout).
Various Handle Grips
A great way to build forearm and grip strength with your lighter kettlebells (the ones you thought you outgrew), is by adding in some curls (Gasp!). I know. It's almost taboo to mention curls in the underground/unconventional training scene, but these curls are a vicious cousin of their gym-going counter parts.
By grabbing the kettlebell in different positions (kettlebell out, kettlebell up, kettlebell in) you vary the difficulty of the exercise and the amount of stress on the hands and forearms. Performing curls with the kettlebell in different positions will stimulate forearm/wrist development, bicep development, and help you build quite the grip.
Another curl you can try is the Pinch Grip Curl. Grab a light kettlebell by the ball and try a few sets of curls. The more open your hand is, the greater the strength and muscle gains. That's why Fat Bars are so effective. The weight won't be nearly as heavy as a Fat Bar, but try some alternating hammer curls with a Pinch Grip for a great workout nonetheless.
Try adding these into your workouts for a few sets or finish your workouts with a nice dose of a high rep set and your forearms will be screaming for mercy!
This is one of the best known grip/trap/whole-damn-body workouts. I say "workout" instead of "exercise" because Farmer Walks will make you feel like you just completed an entire workout after each set.
Make sure you perform Farmer Walks in a place where dropping the kettlebells is acceptable, because at some point you'll hit a wall and you'll have to drop them like they're hot. Play around with different weights and yards/timed sets.
Sample Grip Workout
Here's a sample grip/forearm workout you can perform at the end of your normal workout routine (or by itself if you grip is really lacking):
A: Snatches - 3 min
Perform as many as you can. Keep track & keep it even between hands.
B: Side-Handle Kettlebell Curls - 2 x 15
30-45 seconds rest between sets.
C: Alternating Pinch Grip Curl - 2 x 15
30-45 seconds rest between sets.
D: Farmer Walks - 2 x 100yd
Rest as much as needed between sets.
E: Soaped Up Swings - 4 x 30 sec
Lessen the rest time each workout until it is one set of 2 minutes.
When it comes to grip strength training, it is just like anything else, consistency is key. Try multiple methods and see what works for you. The important thing is not to think of grip training as an after thought. You must train same with the intensity and purpose that you train all other areas of your body.
Progression is just as vital with grip training as anything else. Don't burn yourself out, and in no time everyone will be asking you to open up jars, crush coconuts, and perform Vulcan death grips. So go ahead, grab your kettlebell, grip it and rip it!
|This article was featured in the August 2010 Issue of the My Mad Methods Magazine. "Build An Iron Grip With Kettlebells!" was written by Mark de Grasse. You can purchase this issue by Clicking Here.|
Mark de Grasse is the founder and owner of My Mad Methods, an organization (online community & published magazine) dedicated to unconventional training methods like kettlebells, sandbags, battle ropes, macebells and more. Mark has been a demonstrator in several workout DVDs (including Lauren Brooks' latest DVD, Ultimate Body Sculpt Volume 3), co-founded the MBody Strength Kettlebell Gym, helped found the JL Fit Kettlebell & Movement Gym, and currently travels around the country attending certifications, interviewing trainers and other professionals, and learning as much as possible about unconventional training.
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