John Brookfield's Grip Tips
By John Brookfield
Author of Mastery of Hand Strength, Revised Edition, Training with
Cables for Strength, The Grip Master’s Manual, and Real-World Conditioning
In this month’s Grip Tip, we will look a very special exercise that you can do with a simple hand gripper. It is important to understand that there are many ways to use a hand gripper other than simply holding it in a comfortable position and squeezing it closed over and over again. This has been the normal way to train with a gripper; however, it greatly limits one’s ability to develop hand strength that can transfer into sports or real life. By doing drills like the one in this Grip Tip, you will breathe new life back into your training while developing newfound usable strength.
To start this exercise you will need only a hand gripper. The strength of the gripper really does not matter; however, I would suggest using one that you can close 20+ times. If you don’t have a gripper that fits into this category, simply squeeze the gripper you have the best you can. The main thing that is important is that you exert pressure at the right time; if you can’t fully close the gripper, you will still get results.
Once you have your chosen gripper, grasp it in one hand. If you have large hands and can close the gripper without getting it positioned or slightly starting it, be sure to keep the gripper completely open. If you have small hands and need to set or position the gripper to close it, go ahead, but don't defeat the purpose of this exercise: you always want to maintain a complete range of motion.
To start, hold the gripper in your hand with your palm facing inward and with the gripper being held slightly above your shoulder as if you were going to swing a hammer downward to strike a nail. Once you are in this position, drive your hand downward as if you were going to drive a nail with a hammer. You will want to stop slightly before you get to your thigh. As you drive your hand downward, do so quickly and with force. While driving downward forcibly, squeeze the gripper closed quickly with power. Without hesitation, quickly bring your arm back to the position over your shoulder as if you were going to strike the nail again. Once in this position, drive downward again, closing the gripper with force as it stops before reaching your thigh. Quickly go back to the starting position and repeat the drill without hesitation, closing the gripper each time in the downward swing.
Continue this drill for as long as you can maintain your strength and power. Once you tire, simply move to the opposite side and repeat the drill as many times as possible while maintaining your strength and power. As you improve on this drill, I suggest you strive to move faster and faster as you drive your arm downward and then back to the starting position.
Editor's note: John Brookfield’s books Mastery of Hand Strength, Revised Edition, The Grip Master’s Manual, Training with Cables for Strength, and Real-World Conditioning combine John’s limitless creativity with his friendly, downhome manner. John’s articles are also regularly featured in MILO: A Journal for Serious Strength Athletes.
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