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
This month I will share with you a very challenging and productive tip on building a stronger grip that will help you with any sport or activity. By the way, this is another one for the back yard.
Many of you may have heard me talk before about lifting and throwing sandbags for height. This is, of course, a great way to simulate the weight for height in the Scottish Highland Games without actually owning a traditional 56-lb. weight. For this Grip Tip, we won't be throwing the weighted sandbag at all, and we will be using more than one sandbag.
The type of sandbag that we will use can be purchased at most local hardware stores. They are simply thin mesh bags that are extremely strong and can be packed with sand or even dirt if you don't have sand. These mesh bags can be purchased fairly inexpensively, and I suggest you buy a half dozen of them.
Sandbags are usually pretty standard in size and can hold up to about 70-75 pounds when packed full of sand or dirt, and for this exercise, you'll want to fill them with about 50 pounds of sand. With the bag holding only about 50 pounds of sand, that will leave enough of the top or the neck of the bag for you to grasp. Start by filling four bags with around 50 pounds of sand each.
Now place two bags side by side, touching each other. Reach down and grasp the tops or the necks of the two bags with only one hand and lift. See how this feels. You will have to grip the bags tightly to hang on. If this feels heavy but doable, go ahead and take the other two 50-pound sandbags and lift them in the same fashion with the other hand. Once you have all four sandbags off the ground, two in each hand, start doing a farmer's walk. Holding on to just the two tops of the bags in each hand should task your grip greatly. If the weight feels too heavy, use less sand in each bag.
Of course, you can just hold the sandbags for time or swing them if you want to. If the two bags are not enough, you may want to use three sandbags, which will be extremely tasking to the hand. You might find it hard to get a good enough grip on the three bags due to the lack of room at the top of the bags. You will have to experiment to find what's right for you. Sometimes just doing one-hand dead lifts with two or three bags is fun and challenging.
This grasping type of grip work will probably feel a little bit different from what most of you are used to - and because it is different, it will yield noticeable gains in lower arm strength. Sandbag lifting will also help develop toughness of the hands that many of you desire. I strongly suggest you work your grip with this specialized kind of movement. You will notice good results when using sandbags in your routine.
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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