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
Tricks with Sticks
In this month's Grip Tip, we will look at a very different type of exercise that will not only give you great results, but may also be very frustrating because of its difficulty. It is a drill where leverage is pretty much out the window. There are several ways to perform this exercise, and we will look at a simple way to start without too steep a learning curve. As far as equipment goes, there are several possible set-ups. To start, I would suggest using a small 5-lb. barbell plate or regular-size brick. The only other item you will need is a pair of sticks or steel rods. You can use two different types of sticks or rods, but the easiest is to use two sticks that are about 2 feet in length. The thickness of the sticks can vary with this drill.
Once you have your weight and your two sticks, you are ready to go. Set the plate or brick lengthwise on the ground so that it is standing up. Grasp the weight with the sticks at its center, with the sticks pushing against the sides of the weight. You may want to choke up on the sticks so that your hands are close to the weight while exerting inward pressure on the sticks to hold the weight securely. Lift the weight off the floor by pressing on the weight with the sticks. Once the weight is off the floor, hold it in place, trying to keep it from slipping out and falling. You can also lever the sticks upward while holding the weight securely in this grasp. You will quickly discover that this drill is not as easy as you would think!
John Brookfield demonstrates the stick lift exercise using a barbell plate; notice how he has choked-up on the sticks to lessen the difficulty of the exercise while levering the sticks up and down. IronMind® | Photo courtesy of John Brookfield.
Here John uses a brick instead of a barbell plate. Notice the increased difficulty of the exercise by the placement of the sticks on the brick: the brick will want to wobble and slip free of the sticks; therefore, you will need to exert more pressure to keep it in place. IronMind® | Photo courtesy of John Brookfield.
You can now place the weight back on the floor and lift it again and again for reps; or you can continue to lever it up and down with the sticks. This drill builds lower-arm strength in a different way as it forces you to keep exerting inward pressure on the weight with the sticks. As you improve, you can use a heavier weight; however, I would first suggest increasing the intensity by moving your hands farther away from the weight and up the shaft of the sticks. It won't take much of an adjustment in your hand position to make a substantial increase in the difficulty of the exercise.
Once you get used to this drill you can try turning your hands in different directions, which will add to the challenge by changing the leverage factor. You will find this exercise will work the muscles of the lower arms in a unique manner, different from almost any other training. Don't get frustrated with the initial difficulty of this exercise because the results will come if you stick with it.
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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