While the best physical attributes for grip and fighting sports are speed, flexibility, and agility, strength should not be overlooked. With so much on your plate, strength training tends to fall by the wayside in most fighting programs; That’s right. Athletes with brute force as their best attribute are easily outmatched by faster or more precise technicians. However, when strength is improved in any athlete, overall performance is also improved. When properly programmed and executed, sports-specific strength training for wrestling will produce athletes who are bigger, faster, and stronger on any field. Grip training, for example, applies directly to many aspects of wrestling and is easy to schedule into an already busy schedule.
Interestingly, grip training has an interesting side effect; In addition to giving you an iron handshake, it will strengthen your entire body. As the strength of your hands improves, the strength of the rest of your body will also increase a bit. For a fighter, stronger hands and wrists will allow full control of his opponent when he grabs him. When fighting with the hands in the standing position, the fighter’s grips are challenged by grabbing his opponent’s wrist or grabbing the back of his head for full control or a loud snap. Defensively, if your grip is better than your opponent’s, you can take his hands off his wrists when he tries to pull you down after you’ve escaped from the bottom position. If your hands are strong enough, your opponent will never slip away once you’ve established a grip; likewise, he will never be able to hold his grip on you, as your stronger hands can break his.
Fortunately, improving your grip strength is easy and can be done with very little specialized equipment. However, you will never get significant strength gains in your hands with the generic pliers that can be purchased from the ‘sports section’ of Kmart; grip training is a bit more complicated than that. There are several different types of grip training, all related to different functions of the hand. For example, pinch, squeeze / squish, and grasp actions should be trained differently to achieve a more complete and functional grip. The combat sports of wrestling and grappling use a variety of different grip functions, so all aspects must be addressed when developing your training program for the best success.
To break your opponent’s grip on your arm, you need to be able to force your thumb or fingers between your opponent’s hand and arm to open his grip. This action requires a combination of crushing and pinching hand strength. To improve this, put an emphasis on training focusing on the pinch grip for the thumb and fingers. Great exercises to use include mat holds and timed plate holds. These are done by holding two 5-10 lb. weightlifting plates pinched together between thumb and fingers for 30 seconds to 1 minute or longer if possible. Do 3 sets and try to increase the time or weight each time you do this. Another great way to train your pinch grip (which benefits your fingers more than your thumb) is to break through phone books. When breaking down the phone books, start small and work your way up to thicker books; Work on tearing out the binding of the book first, then tear off the rest of the pages.
Crushing grip strength is noticeable in a firm handshake and is developed by squeezing things with your hands. The super strong crushing grip force is important for the fighters so that they can dominate the match by controlling the wrists / arms of their opponents. It is also the easiest to train. Initially, you can significantly increase the strength of your crushing grip simply by concentrating on squeezing your opponent’s arm and weightlifting bars more tightly as you train. This is the most functional way to train crushing grip strength; however, you can get even greater improvements by using manual tweezers for additional training. The best manual grippers are called “Crush Captains” as they are rated for strength athletes; they can be purchased from a company called Ironmind.com. They come in various strengths so you can advance to the strongest model and record your progress as you go. Once you can close a Captains of Crush gripper ten times, you need to start training with the next level gripper. Although slightly more expensive than generic tweezers, Captains of Crush are virtually indestructible and will remain strong throughout their career; they are a good investment as they will definitely improve your grip strength.
In many cases, wrestling and mma grappling often require controlling your opponent’s wrist or martial arts gi for an extended period. Grip training to improve hand strength over an extended period will have a direct impact on a fighter’s performance very quickly and should be added to every program. This is trained by holding weightlifting bars, preferably the thickness of a human limb (any size bar will do, but the thicker the better) for longer and longer periods of time. The grip of a fighter must be conditioned for a sustained force lasting more than 6 minutes in case the fight goes into overtime. An excellent tool for training a wrestler’s grip is the towel. Use the towel as a replacement for certain handles in the weight room; use a towel for pull-ups, on a side pull machine, and when training your arms as much as possible. A towel can also be used as a grip for tricep extensions and can be wrapped around a dumbbell or kettlebell to do hammer pushups.
You can also use a towel itself for grip training if you don’t have access to the weight room. With an oversized beach towel, fold it (long) and simply twist it up and down, paying particular attention to tightening your grip as tightly as possible with each turn of the wrist. You can also improve your crush grip and wrist strength with a water-soaked towel. Dip a towel in a bucket of water, hold the wet towel vertically with both hands placed side by side. Next, get all the water out of the towel by turning it downward as you go; Keep doing this until the towel is completely dry. If you do this correctly, just a few sets of this will strain your hands and totally flood your forearms with blood. Another great wrestler training tool for wrestler’s grip is the rope. Rope climbing, rope chin-ups, and training with battle ropes are great for producing a strong, sustained iron grip. For best results, use string that is 1 1/2 “to 2” thick (best being 2 “thick).
While improving grip strength will be of great help to wrestlers and wrestlers, developing greater wrist strength should also be prioritized. Having super strong wrists makes it almost impossible for your opponent to break your grip or run away once you have grabbed. Wrist strength can be developed using a wrist roller; These are easily made with a thick piece of PVC pipe and a rope tied to a weight. This exercise is done by winding the rope while turning the pvc pipe up and down. You can also develop great wrist strength by holding one end of a pole or bar with light weight at the other end. Simply lifting the weight for numerous repetitions with radial and ulnar deviation works great for developing wrist tendon strength. A large skillet or cast iron skillet is also an excellent tool for this exercise.
When you schedule grip training into your program, be careful not to overdo it. Remember that a lot of gripping work is already being done during your regular practices. You should never start your wrestling practice or weightlifting session with grip training, as this can ruin the rest of your work that day and easily lead to overtraining. Grip training should only be done at the end of a workout. Add just 1-2 exercises for 2-4 sets per piece and only on days that allow it. In other words, if your wrestling practice session focused on hand wrestling that day and everyone’s grip is tired by the end, make the decision to do less or no supplemental grip training that day. In that sense, training your grip will only be effective if done on a regular basis, so pushing it as often as possible is worth it.
When incorporating additional grip training into your program, rotate different exercises to produce the best overall strength. Effective grip training is easy to incorporate into a fighter’s schedule. Add a few sets of battle ropes at the end of practice one day a week. Another day draw water from a towel until your hands are exhausted. For the third day, practice the pinch grip by doing 3 sets of plate grabs for 1 minute each. After three weeks of this, switch to different exercises. It’s also smart to tailor your grip training to an athlete’s specific needs if you can figure this out. If your fighter has trouble breaking another’s grip because he has weak fingers, supplement his training exercises with similar plate grips and telephone guides to improve his grip and thumb strength. However, most athletes will respond with very little extra grip training and simply adding something to their program often produces surprising results.