Straight to the Bar

All Things Strength


Straight to the Grip Contest: Pt II
Filed In : Articles

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.

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.

Over to you. Drop us a line on Twitter ( @scottbird ), or add a comment below.



NB : if you love talking about strength-training as much as I do, you might also like to check out the weekly newsletter (there's also a daily version available). A regular dose of fitness-focussed discussions, absolutely free.



  1. 70 of the Best : 7 Years of Straight to the Bar | Straight to the Bar - […] to the Grip Contest (part II, III, IV, V and VI) - 'Napalm' Jedd Johnson (Diesel Crew) Getting ready…

Leave a Reply

What's This?

Straight to the Bar is the online home of fitness enthusiast Scott Bird, and looks at the many training approaches, essential techniques, uncommon exercises and superb equipment to help you become as strong as humanly possible. In short, this site is the home of all things strength.

images of strength

'Napalm' Jedd Johnson.
Want to see (and learn) more Feats of Strength like this? Dive in.

Just Joined Us? Try These.

There are some incredible writers on the team here. To give you an idea, check these out :

If you enjoyed these, check out the complete ‘Best Of Straight to the Bar‘ list. Fantastic.

setting up a home gym?

If you’re getting ready to put together a solid Home Gym (fantastic thing), here’s how.

For more, swing by the full guide. Absolutely free.

And of course, you’ll find everything you need over in the SttB Strength Store. Massive range.

Ever Tried Kettlebells?

If you’ve seen people using them but never taken the plunge yourself, here are the ones I use personally. You can also pick up a book/DVD/course if you want to learn how to put them to work.

Ready To Learn Even More?

I love learning new skills, and the many seminars & workshops available are a great way to do that. If you’re looking for a specific type of workshop nearby, check out the ones on Dragon Door. Great mix of kettlebell and calisthenics-based offerings.

The Precision Nutrition Certification Program

The Precision Nutrition Certification Program

The Precision Nutrition Certification Program.

If you’re a fitness professional and love the Precision Nutrition approach, check out their certification offering. To say it’s comprehensive is an understatement.

Wherever You Are, We Are.

In addition to the main site, you can share your strength-training passion with a like-minded community on :

Wherever you like to hang out, get your regular dose of strength. Straight to the Bar.

'Napalm' Jedd 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, check out his superb ebooks and DVDs. One of our favourites - The 'CRUSH' DVD - takes an incredibly thorough look at the world of Gripper Training. Fantastic. You'll also find him on Facebook and Twitter, and of course the Diesel Crew site. Swing by.
Drawing of Scott Andrew Bird performing a deadlift. Artwork by Vince Palko.