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
Turn the Dial
In this Grip Tip, we will look at a great way to work your fingers and thumbs. Even though this movement focuses on the fingers and thumbs, you will also get a good workout in your forearms. This exercise will force you to grip with your fingertips and twist at the same time. I am sure that many of you have tried lifting a barbell plate by the hub and found that it can be very challenging; it also works your fingers and thumbs in a unique way. With this drill you will not be lifting the barbell plate; instead, you will be turning it. There are quite a few ways to train in this manner, and we will look at a simple method to get started.
You will need a barbell plate that has a small hub in the center. The hub does not need to be very high; in fact, most plates have a hub with enough height to do this exercise. Traditional Olympic barbell plates will work fine—and you can actually use a hub much shorter than the ones found on the Olympic barbell plates. It is important to understand that the shorter the hub on the plate, the harder the exercise will be. Also, this exercise can be done with one hand or two hands. If you only have heavy plates, such as 100-lb., you may wish to train both hands at once. The surface on which the plate is lying will also make a huge difference in how difficult the exercise will be.
Once you have chosen your barbell plate you are ready to go. Take the plate and lay it flat on the floor, the ground outside, or a work table or bench. Grasp the hub of the plate and begin turning or twisting it, making the entire plate turn. You can turn the plate either clockwise or counterclockwise to start: go one direction for a while and then turn the plate in the opposite direction.
You will have to play with the exercise a bit to find the right amount of resistance, and there are many ways to adjust the resistance of the plate. For example, you can add a smaller barbell plate or two on top of the plate you are using, or you can change the surface you are working on. If you have the plate on the ground outside where the surface is not smooth you will exert more effort; if you are working on a smooth surface like your garage floor, the exercise will be easier. You may even need to use both hands to turn the plate depending on the size of the plate, the size of the hub, and the surface of the floor or ground.
John Brookfield works on the Turn the Dial exercise using two barbell plates. By working on the smooth surface of a garage floor the exercise is easier. IronMind® | Photo courtesy of John Brookfield.
Focus on keeping the plate going as you twist and turn the plate without stopping. You will find that this exercise really works your thumb and fingertips in a new and different way. You will also find that the turning motion will work each of your fingers and thumb equally and develop the entire area of the hand.
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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