Five Exercises To Build Grip Strength for Jiu Jitsu

Forearms not pulling their weight? Here's how to fix that.

Royce Gracie Demonstrating. Photo by superwebdeveloper.
The first time I competed in a jiu jitsu tournament, I managed to get a collar choke sunk in and held onto it for dear life. Although I won my first match due to an advantage point I received from the unsuccessful submission attempt, my forearms were pretty much shot for quite a while. Don't let this happen to you!

First Things First

Before we get into some approaches to building grip strength for jiu
jitsu, I wanted to go over a couple of things. First of all, part of
grip burnout in a jiu jitsu tournament has to do with the lovely
cocktail of fear, adrenaline and technique that isn't exactly
thoughtful. To avoid burning out your grip before you even have a
chance to get started, you might consider not grabbing the gi from the
get-go but working some other type of takedown. Feel free to ignore
this advice if it's not your style (or if you're a judo player), but
if you're a wrestler grabbing the gi from the beginning does little other
than burn your grip and hurt your takedown attempt. You can also have
a light grip or use a no-gi approach where you grip the actual arm
(for example) rather than the gi to avoid killing your forearms before
you even have the chance to get started. Just something to think about
and possibly discuss with your coach and team.

Secondly, make sure you don't go nuts with the grip training. It is
very easy to overtrain, so make sure to either incorporate it as a
small part of your overall strength and conditioning program or, if
you're using a more intense approach, to take two weeks off every
month or so in order to prevent overtraining or injury.

Having said that, here's some approaches to strengthen the grip for jiu jjtsu.

1. Use the gi, son.

Throw a gi over your pullup bar and do some pullups grabbing onto
that. If you're still doing jumping pullups or body rows, use a gi for
those instead. If you didn't bring your gi to the gym, you can use a
towel in a pinch.

2. Fat bars.

Wrap a towel around your bar to make it nice and fat, and kill your
forearms by doing your pull-ups on that. You can also use a fat bar
for your barbell lunges, or fatten up your dumbbells for your one-arm

3. Another reason to deadlift

One simple way to work your grip strength is by lifting heavy things.
Take the lifting gloves off, use some chalk if necessary and work your

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4. Pull, pull, pull!

There are a lot more pulling variations than pull-ups and chinups. Try
to add a new pulling variation into your repertoire. If you're already
incorporating cable rows, high pulls, body rows and rope pulls into
your workout, you can skip this step.

5. Hold that note

After you finish the above strength practices, try ending with
strength endurance. This could be a flex hang for time on your fat bar
or using the gi or towel you threw over the pullup bar, or it could be
a farmer's walk with the fat dumbbells you've been using. Just keep
working on it and try to improve your time.

Your turn

What do you do to improve your grip strength? What have you had great
results with?
What hasn't worked as well as you wanted? Share your
thoughts in the forums.

Yael Grauer

Yael Grauer is a freelance writer and BJJ practitioner living in the Midwest. She writes regularly for the Performance Menu and MMA HQ.

You'll also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Google+.

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