A Blockweight or ‘Blob‘ as it is commonly known, is a single cut head from a dumbbell. A Blob can come in any size, weight or shape depending on which style of dumbbell it has been cut from. The most common are ‘hex‘ head and the aspirin-shaped cast heads. The original ‘Blob‘ and the idea for a training tool, belongs to Richard Sorin and it is this shape, cut from an old 100lb York cast dumbell, which is used in the GNC Grip Gauntlet.
Training with Blobs can build tremendous total hand and grip strength, with particular emphasis on the often underdeveloped thumb and ‘pinch grip‘. The idea is simple: Pick the Blob off the floor with one hand.
For my own training, which forms the basis of this article, I use heads from York Legacy Dumbbells, although nearly all of the methods can be applied with most other shapes. These are cast iron and have one fairly flat side and a flared side. I have 5 of these ranging from 12.5kg up to 22.5kg in 2.5kg increments, and before getting them had never touched, or even seen a Blob.
To begin with I trained a brief session almost every day, with a combination of single lifts, timed holds and passing it from hand to hand, or around my body. This daily training soon proved excessive so I eased off to 2 or 3 sessions per week. During this time I was doing little or no gripper work, with is my other main grip interest.
It felt most natural for me to place my 4 fingers on the flared side of the Blob and my thumb on the flat side. I soon realised this was in fact the ‘easy‘ way of lifting them and it was more difficult and thus productive, to attempt all the lifts with my thumb on the flared side. Obviously at first it meant backing down to the smaller weights and building the strength back up and then my goal was always lifting the next weight up in this manner.
Note: Your Pinch strength is ultimately determined by your thumb strength.
I always warm up before Blob training by soaking my hands in hot water for a few minutes followed by loosening and rotating my wrists & fingers. Pinch gripping is far more difficult with cold hands.
Try pinching a really heavy Blob with ‘both hands‘ for timed holds. Try to add a second or 2 each workout.
If you combine Hand Grippers and Blockweights in the same session, always aim to do the Grippers first. You should find that some crushing done first will have far less effect on your pinch strength than Blockweights will have on your crushing strength should you do them first.
I currently train grip 2-3 times per week and alternate Blobs and Grippers each session. Sometimes a max gripper attempt is a good warmup for your Blobs. I find mixing up the exercises each session more productive than just doing, say, high volume singles. A sesion could include some max singles, 2 sets of passing from hand to hand and 3 timed holds with both hands on a reallly heavy blob.
These are merely suggestions, based on my own limited experience. As a complete novice I progressed from pinching a 12.5kg Legacy Blob in October 2008 to lifting a 22.5kg Legacy Blob (albeit with my thumb on the flat side) on January 1st 2009. For some further reading on Blockweights, please see Eric’s article ‘The way I trained to close the Ironmind #3 Gripper‘, and the section in John Brookfield‘s excellent book ‘Mastery of Hand Strength‘ or any of the articles on www.straighttothebar.com.