Straight to the Bar

All Things Strength


Kettlebell Training for Grip Strength

Trainers, coaches and athletes have asked how they can use their kettlebells to increase their Grip strength. The truth is, kettlebells can be used with the express purpose of building Grip strength. We showed many ways to make this work in our Advanced Kettlebell Techniques eBook series. With this article I will show how easy it is to turn just about any kettlebell you have into a piece of Grip enhancing weaponry.

Before we get into this exercise, I first want to explain that it is important to remember that Grip strength is not just about picking things up and holding them there. Grip’s more than lifting the Blob or the Inch Dumbbell. There’s more to it than closing heavy grippers. Grip strength is even much more than just bending nails.

Grip strength involves all of the musculature from the elbow down. This includes all of the muscles in the forearm, everything that crosses the wrist, everything that controls the thumb, everything that rotates the forearm and all of the muscles that open and close the hand.

When it comes to developing well rounded Grip strength, you must train all of the functions of the hands and the forearms in the right balance. This means including enough extensor work to balance all of the crushing, pinching and supporting you do. It means including work of the elbow flexors with the hand pronated in order to prevent the development of epicondylitis, tendon inflammation, and other forms of overuse injury. And it means you must train your wrists in a variety of angles.

When thinking of wrist training, attacking from many different angles is important. Remember, a great deal of muscles that pinch, crush, and support cross the wrist. As a result, continuity of the wrist musculature and bones is necessary in order to properly transfer strength across that joint.

With all this in mind, I am going to show you a very intense kettlebell exercise you can use to strengthen both your wrists and your elbow flexors to establish this continuity we speak of and to promote healthy conditioning of the elbow flexors.

In this demonstration, we used a 60-lb kettlebell and a purple JumpStretch band.


Beginning Position

As you can see, the band is harnessed down by stepping on it, while the other is choked to the handle of the kettlebell.

Next, you must grab the kettlebell by the horn and perform a curl with it.


Ending Position

This movement is hard enough under normal conditions without a band, because the bell begins to tip and waver dynamically as you curl upwards. The difficulty climbs when the band is attached because the resistance increases as the bell is lifted further from the ground.

To bring back an old Joe Weider term, you really get the feeling of a Peak Contraction in the Brachioradialis with this exercise. You feel the tension from the origin of the muscle, through the belly and down into its insertion. This is where the therapeuatic benefit of this lift comes in. When you attack this muscle directly, you make it more resilient. After several bouts of painful inflammation in my forearms, I have included kettlebell curls and other hammer position and reverse curls in my routine regularly over the last couple of years. And since then I have had almost no problems with pain in these muscles.

The wrists are fortified with this exercise because the dynamic resistance of the kettlebell tries to force the hand into deviation. Leverage exercises like this and the many that have been featured on Straight to the Bar by writers such as Adam Glass, Ryan Pitts and Scott Bird, are excellent for creating the wrist stability you need to truly excel in Grip.

You can make this exercise even more difficult by spreading your feet further apart to tighten the band. You could put on additional bands, or even add JumpStretch bands of higher difficulty.

Best of luck in your training. I think you are going to like this one!
Jedd Johnson

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'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.
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