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
1 + 1 = 2
I call this very special Grip Tip 1 + 1 = 2. It brings in the old standby known as the traditional dumbbell, which, yes, can also help develop grip strength. We are going to use our dumbbells in a way that none of you has probably ever thought of before.
While many exercises with dumbbells will work for this tip, curls and one-arm rows will probably work best. Let’s say, for example, that you use 50-pound dumbbells to do biceps curls. We are going to use 50 pounds as always, but this time we will use two 25-pound dumbbells together. Place one dumbbell over the top of the other, in an X-like position, so that they overlap diagonally. Some dumbbells will be more user-friendly than others, but you will find that any type will work if you adjust the placement a little bit.
Once you have the two 25-pound dumbbells together, totaling the 50 pounds, grasp the two dumbbells with one hand and lift them. As they hang at arm’s length, you will have to grip very tightly onto the handles to control them. Now curl them up and down the way you normally would. You will notice very quickly that you are playing in a very different arena. You must hang onto the dumbbells any way you can to maintain control throughout the movement. Be sure to perform the exercises with each hand to develop them equally.
Hammer curls are also a very good movement for our 1 + 1 = 2 exercises. You will really have to grip the two dumbbells tightly in your hand to maintain control at all times. These exercises will feel very awkward at first, but continue to do them and you will make great gains. These two-dumbbell movements will pack size on your forearms as well as build strength in your hands, not to mention the regular muscle groups you will be working with each exercise. As always, you will have to adjust the weight to find what works best for you.
In addition to curling and rowing motions, the clean and press is a good exercise because of the pulling movement and, of course, the momentum of the weight when it returns from arm’s length overhead. Be careful when you press the weight overhead. Always maintain a tight grip on and complete control of the dumbbells with any of these movements.
You will also find that the 1 + 1 = 2 technique brings the thumb heavily into play. After using your dumbbells for a while, you will notice that in 1 + 1 = 2 exercises, the 2 stands for doubling your lower arm strength.
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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