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
The Weight Drop
Here is a simple yet effective exercise that can be done by anyone at his own level. Used by some of the old-time strongmen, it develops hand and finger strength for hanging onto heavy weights. There are many variations and, in fact, it can be used to develop crushing strength or pinching strength. You can use a dumbbell, a kettlebell, a weight plate, or even a barbell. Any type of handle can be used—as always, the thicker the handle, the harder the exercise becomes.
To start, deadlift your weight of choice so the weight is between your legs. With the weight in this position, let go and catch it with the other hand. Once this is comfortable, start to lift the weight higher and then drop it and catch it with the other hand before it hits the ground. The higher the weight is when you let go, the more stress is placed on the grip. Be sure to keep good body alignment with this exercise. You can use lighter plates or weights with this exercise and actually toss the weight slightly into the air and catch it. You can also choose to use a heavy dumbbell or kettlebell and simply let go of it and catch it with the other hand.
Another variation, which can be a little more challenging, is the use of a barbell. Straddle the barbell and then lift it with one hand with the deadlift technique. Once you’re in the deadlift position straddling the weight, simply pull up slightly and let go of the barbell and catch it with the other hand. As you may have guessed, balancing the barbell may be a little tricky. This is where the hand and wrist strength come in. You will have to use your lower-arm strength to catch and balance the weight at the same time. This will be a very fun and challenging exercise once you get a feel for it.
These exercises are of a ballistic nature and will put a quick, explosive torque on your hands when using heavy weights, so be sure to keep a close watch of your calluses and skin tears. Start light and then move to heavier weights. The Weight Drop will give you a whole new concept of training your hands.
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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