Monday, March 28, 2011

Getting a Grip

As soon as a phone book get dropped off at my doorstep (who even uses those anymore?), it goes straight into the recycling bin. It never occurs to me to tear it in half first. Same goes for our old frying pans -- I never think to bend and squish ‘em up them with my bare hands before tossing them.

The reason, of course, is that I can’t. I can offer a firm handshake, and I don’t have baby-hands like Kristen Wiig's Junice, but I don’t exactly have an arm wrestler’s grip, either.

Frankly, I never really thought to develop it. But a strong grip makes it easier to lift heavier. My lack of hand strength will eventually limit my overall ability to optimally perform everything from deadlifts to kettlebell swings to pull-ups. And that just won’t do.

More after the jump...

So I’m now on a quest to improve the strength of my hands and wrists. I already have a Captains of Crush hand-gripper to work on my crush grip. You know, so I can squish the bejeezus out of stuff, and possibly make diamonds out of coal.

Or vanquish my arch-enemies with a bone-crushing handshake.

But after checking out a bunch of grip strength websites (like this one and this one and this one), it looks like I also need to develop on my pinch grip, support grip, wrist flexion and extension, and opening grip. (Who knew hand strength was so complicated?)

The pinch grip emphasizes finger (and thumb) strength. It involves grabbing something with your fingers on one side and your thumb on the other. Think about using your fingers to lift a brick from the top, or grabbing a bumper plate by its top edge. Your palm generally doesn’t touch the object, and as a result, this tends to be a weaker grip. So I’m going to try to start working on my pinch grip by squeezing a couple of weight plates together using a pincer-like crab-claw grip -- or maybe holding dumbbells vertically with my fingertips.

The support grip, on the other hand, involves holding something braced against the palm -- usually by a handle -- for long periods of time. Farmer’s Walks, for example, train the support grip by improving muscular endurance. So I’ll practice those -- using kettlebells. (Tim also recommended doing kettlebell swings while wearing thick gloves or oven mitts, so I might give that a shot as well.)

For wrist flexion and extension practice, I think I’ll start with plate wrist curls and progress from there.

And to work on my opening grip, I’m picking up some Expand-Your-Hand Bands. I figure I’ll be able to train this particular grip at the office without looking like a freak. (Plus, they're cheap.)

Yes, I know there are a million other grip strength exercises out there, from thick-bar and block-weight training to fingertip push-ups and towel deadlifts. But let’s keep things in perspective, folks: I’m an office drone who CrossFits three times a week -- not a professional strongman. Baby steps.