Grip Training for Athletes

The benefits of grip training have already been touted on this site, so I'll try not to repeat too much! Instead, this article will focus on the application of grip training to athlete training programs. For the most part, athletes need to be able to close their hands quickly and with great strength. Think of a basketball player trying to snatch a rebound out of the air and controlling it while other players slash at it. Or, think of a defensive football player reaching out to grab the jersey of a running back. In both cases, the ability to close one's hands with great strength can save your team points and give you a better chance at victory. Sounds good, right? But how does it differ from regular grip training?

Coupled with the ability to close the hands quickly and powerfully, athletes must also be able to adjust to different pressures while squeezing. Take the above examples. The basketball player needs to be able to hold a basketball while players hit it from all sides. Also the football player must be able to hold onto the jersey as the running back twists and drives for extra yards. Before you even look at the example exercises, take a minute to think about how strong hands can help your game. Take that information into account when you manipulate these exercises to benefit your athletic endeavors. These exercises are generally in order from easiest to most difficult.

Exercise 1 - Thick Grip Climbers - The athlete must hang from a pull-up bar, release one hand and put it on a thick grip. Repeat with the other hand and then climb back to the original hand position without touching the ground. An advanced variation of thick grip climbers is to perform the exercise from a half chin-up. The exercise can be done for time or for reps. The athlete in the video does a good job with the speed of the exercise but has to work on keeping his body under control while changing grips.

*Note: If you do not have thick grips, be creative with a solution such as taping a hand towel around the bar.

Exercise 2 - Rippers - Essentially like tug of war, but with varying tempos. Have an athlete take a good base and hold an object such as a towel or thick rope. Have a partner pull on the rope in different directions and at different intensities. A variation is to have both athletes go at once and essentially try to pull the rope or towel out of the other person's hands. Also for lacrosse athletes, baseball players, and interior linemen we use a shovel handle to represent the stick, bat, or hand fighting. Typically rippers are done for a short period of time.

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Exercise 3 - Sled Figure 8's with a thick rope or towel

Sled drag with towel
Sled drag with towel
When sled pulling, our athletes typically hold a tow strap and run. To incorporate a greater deal of grip work, we switch the tow strap out for a thick rope or just put a hand towel through the strap. The towel helps open the hand up more and is a closer simulation to grapping someone's jersey while making a tackle. I use the rope to train athletes that use a stick during their sport. Instead of training in a straight line, the athlete then runs figure 8's around cones. The figure 8's alternate which hand is strained to a greater extent. This is a dynamic exercise and should be down with weight that is 50-60% of your max pulling ability. The speed is essential to get the weight to "swing" around the corners and create the grip strain.

Exercise 4 - Hanging Rollers - Like the climbers, this exercise requires letting go and re-gripping under stress. However, hanging rollers require more steady pressure than the climbers. Stick a wrist roller over a pull-up bar and attach a weight to the end of the rope. Now for the fun, hang from the wrist roller and try to roll the weight all the way up. Advanced variations include using a thick wrist roller 2 to 3 inches.

Joe Hashey

Joe Hashey is a CSCS through the NSCA, owner of Synergy Athletics and author of the superb Bull Strength manual. Take advantage of the Synergy Athletics Free Newsletter by signing up at the website. All subscribers get instructions on how make a 3 inch independently revolving thick bar, a free athlete training report, and an insight into Bull Strength!

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