Thumb training is very important for a well rounded grip. Thumb training can be broken up into at least four different types: Dynamic, Static, and Extensor, and Multi-Planar.
The focus of this article will be Dynamic thumb training with the Titan’s Telegraph Key, or TTK, manufactured by IronMind Enterprises, but very quickly, I will touch on the other divisions as well.
STATIC THUMB TRAINING
Static Thumb Training is where the athlete pinches something and the thumb, for the most part, does not move over a Range of Motion. This is the way that probably 90% of pinch work is executed, I’d venture to guess. Examples are Plate Pinches and Block Weight Lifts. Here is a video of Plate Pinches and Block Weight Lifts:
EXTENSOR THUMB TRAINING
Extensor Thumb Training is where the muscles on the back of the thumb are the primary muscle group being worked. Rubber band training is a very simple example of the thumb extensors being worked. Here is a video demonstration:
MULTI-PLANAR THUMB TRAINING
I find that Multi-Planar Thumb Training is an excellent way to keep all of the muscles in the thumb healthy and strong. I accomplish this with a bucket of sand. Essentially all I do is stick my thumb into the sand bucket and stir the sand around until the muscles powering the thumb are flushed with blood. Once you feel the pump through your thumb, you can also do some deep tissue massage to work out any kinks. Believe me, if you have any imbalances or adhesions in the muscles in the thumb, you will find out where they are with this exercise. Unfortunately, not a lot of grip strength trainees know about this technique that can help them out so much. Here’s a clip:
DYNAMIC THUMB TRAINING
Dynamic Thumb Training is where the thumb moves over a distance. One of the implements that I have been using for Dynamic Thumb work is the Titan Telegraph Key, or TTK. There are other implements on the market that are very similar that you can pick up that have other names, but they all work on the same principle: the fingers and thumb oppose on another, positioned on two separate plates; resistance is placed at the end of a lever arm; and thumb strength is used to move the resistance.
Normal ROM TTK
The most basic movement employed with the TTK is full range of motion repetitions.
Extended ROM TTK
These are great to start with, but I get bored of them some times and I like to throw in some variety. One way to mix things up a bit is to make the Range of Motion longer by adding something underneath the finger-side handle. A catalog is a perfect choice for this. This makes the hand work through a longer range of motion the muscles are not used to. The first time I did this, I was sore for several days from the new stimulus. This technique has worked great for me in my quest for lifting heavier and wider block weights.
Abbreviated ROM TTK
Another way to add variety to your TTK training is with an Abbreviated ROM. I find this movement very important for gripper work. When you set a gripper it is very important to push the thumb forward and create a strong base for setting the gripper. This ROM will build your thumb pad and make it a solid foundation for big gripper closes.
Holds for Time
A variation within a variation is holds at any ROM, maintained for time.
Video Demonstration: Inverted Repetitions
You can vary the angle of force applied to the TTK by your thumb by inverting your grip on the device. This will make the fingers the prime movers of the lift, and will give you a different, yet pleasing feel, in your thumb.
Finally, one other variation that is very easy to apply to the TTK is negatives. All you need to do is load up the resistance on the TTK with extra weight. You will then force the thumb plate down with your off hand and try to hold the two plates closed. You can add as much resistance as you want. You can go for long, excruciating negatives that tear your hand open slowly, or you can go for forceful negatives where you do all you can to try to cease the momentum of the plates as they open. Just be careful going too heavy in this one. You don’t want to rip your thumb out of the socket!
As you can see, there are plenty of ways to use the TTK to keep from getting in a rut with your dynamic thumb training. Mix things up in your training, including a variety of Static, Dynamic, Extensor, and Multi-Planar movements in your thumb training and people will start saying you have a green thumb – not because you are skilled in the garden, but because you always take the prize money at the grip contest!