John Brookfield's Grip Tips
By John Brookfield
Author of Mastery of Hand Strength, Training with
Cables for Strength, The Grip Master’s Manual, and Real-World Conditioning
Brick Bent Over Rows
Here is a jewel of a movement that will develop functional strength in the entire upper body. When I say "upper body," I mean it. Not only are your chest and back worked, but also your arms, wrists and fingers.
Start by placing a row of bricks on the ground in front of you. The bricks need to be pushed tightly together as in the photo. The type of bricks and the weight of the bricks don't really matter. I will let you decide what kind and how many to use. Once you have experimented and found the right amount, bend over, and with your hands on the ends of the row, squeeze the bricks inward while lifting them off the ground. Pull or row them upward and touch your upper body with the bricks while you remain bent over. Lower them back towards the ground and start the rowing movement again. I prefer to keep the bricks from touching the ground throughout the entire set. This way the constant inward squeezing is continuous, giving you a greater workout. This exercise will give your chest a tremendous workout in a way you have probably never experienced before. I like to do about eight or ten repetitions with this rowing movement. I also go pretty slowly throughout the movement. Remember that you must use constant inward pressure to keep the bricks from falling.
This exercise can also be used as a feat of strength or even as a challenge lift if you wish to.
You will quickly notice that the longer the row of bricks, the harder the lift becomes, mainly because with the longer rows, your arms are wider apart and away from your body.
If you want to use this exercise to develop pure strength, continue by adding more bricks onto the top of the bricks on the bottom row. The more bricks that are placed on top, the harder the lift becomes. Also, if the extra bricks are placed in the center of the row, it will require more strength, as the bricks in the center on top are trying to push the center of the bottom row to the ground. Remember, it is not the weight of the bricks, but the force which must be exerted inward that makes this brick lift demanding.
This lift is superb for those who are stone lifters, because it develops great crushing strength in the upper body. It will enable the stone lifter to bear hug heavy stones tightly against his body.
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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