Straight to the Grip Contest: Pt II

The grippers themselves.

Thank you all for your interest in this series. Again, the idea behind this series is to give you information that will help you get ready for the next Grip Strength Contest in your area. Since Grippers are usually the first event in a Grip Contest, I am starting off with information on Grippers with this segment.

When I started, I didn't completely understand why Grippers were appearing first in every contest I was reading about, but now it makes sense. Grip contest events often require multiple trips to the platform and multiple attempts per trip, so your hands get tired out fast and the skin gets sensitive quickly. Because of this, it gets more and more difficult to close a top level Gripper. As you get deeper into the contest, your Max Gripper potential can get drained.

Those who follow the day-to-day happenings in the Grip world know who is closing big Grippers like the #3 IronMind Captains of Crush, Beef Builder Elite, Super Elite and the #4 C.O.C. When these types of Grippers get smashed at the contest, it looks a lot better on the score sheet. If Grippers get shifted backwards to a later spot in the contest, you can bet on most of the athletes' performances dropping. Promoters like to be able to show off the score card with monster Grippers getting closed and the fans enjoy reading about it. Plus, when you consider how far athletes must travel to get to the contest and the financial investment they make in registering for the contest, as well as paying for food travel and hotel stay, they want to go to the contest and murder that big Gripper they have been working on. All of these factors add up to Grippers being the first event, usually.

I only know of one promoter that consistently sets the contest order up so that Grippers are not first, and that is Dave Memont from Total Performance Sports. You might remember from the last installment that I just made a trip up that way last weekend. Luckily, he placed Grippers second in the order this year, but two years ago, at the 2005 Grip Assault contest, Grippers were LAST and not a single competitor, including myself, was able to close a #3 Gripper. We were all too wasted from the rest of the prior events! I anticipated him doing it again this year, so I shifted Grippers last in each workout that I trained them. I did this in an effort to develop the endurance to still have high performance in the grippers at the end of the contest, even after several efforts on the Hub, Rolling Thunder, Vertical Bar, and Thick Bar lifts. This year, with Grippers being second, my hands felt great going into the event, and I closed the #3 no problem.

Besides the order of events, the biggest factor in how difficult it will be to excel in the Gripper event is the kind of set that is being used in the contest. A set is the technique used in partially closing the Gripper with two hands in order to optimally position the Gripper in the gripping hand in preparation for the close.
SettingThere are several types of sets that are used in Grip Strength Contests. I will cover each one so that you will become familiar with all of them. Let's start off at the beginning with the Original IronMind Set.

Original IronMind Set

Since IronMind is the manufacturer of the most famous hand strength grippers on the market, all contests used to employ the original IronMind Set. For certification on IronMind's #3 and #4 Captains of Crush Grippers, you used to be able to set the gripper with your off hand up until the point where the handles were one inch apart.

Old IronMind Set
Old IronMind Set.
The witness had to be able to clearly see the last inch of Range of Motion (R.O.M.) and the contact of the handles for the athlete to qualify as officially closing the gripper.

The beauty of this technique was that it took hand size out of the picture for the certification process. Since you were permitted to set the Gripper, it didn't matter if your hands were 7 inches, or 9 inches, because everybody could get their fingers into a good position on the gripper handles. Essentially, everyone had an equal shot at certifying on the #3 and the #4 as long as they were willing to put the work in. With the beginning of the R.O.M. taken out of the equation, the toughest part of the Gripper R.O.M., the close, was still there for everyone to conquer.

This setting method was the easy choice for Grip contests. After all, IronMind was the gold standard in Gripper product quality, so why not use their setting technique in contests? My first Grip Contest was the Battle for Grip Supremacy, promoted by Rick Walker in Punxsutawney, PA. There, Grippers were held first, and the athlete could set to parallel and squeeze. If there was a tie, and two or more athletes closed the same Gripper, then they had to go back and do a tie-breaker by performing a timed hold with that gripper. I remember I closed a very tough, wide-spread, single-stamped #3 Gripper along with Rob F. Vigeant. On the next turn, we both missed the Beef Builder Elite, so we were tied. The Gripper attempts lasted 2 minutes, so we were both so wasted from double digit attempts at getting that Elite closed. Thankfully, Rick let us split the points.

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Eventually, the Gripboard started its own certification system, the Gripboard Mash Monster Elite, which spawned the Mash Monster set. In the next installment of Straight to the Grip Contest, we'll see how the advent of the Mash Monster eventually led to the demise of the Original IronMind Set.

Again, I welcome any comments, questions, or suggestions in regards to this series. Please feel free to email me at Also, please check out for more articles and products related to Grip Strength.

Jedd 'Napalm' Johnson

Jedd 'Napalm' Johnson is a name synonymous with grip strength, and he has been training, sharing and competing with these skills for many, many years.

To acquire some serious grip strength yourself, head over to The Grip Authority and check out his superb ebooks and DVDs.

One of our favourites - Fixing Elbow Pain - takes a very thorough look at banishing elbow injuries completely. If you've ever experienced something like Tennis Elbow or Golfer's Elbow, you'll understand just how incredible that is. Fantastic.

Jedd blogs over at The Diesel Crew, and can also be found on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Swing by.

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