GRIP Terminology & Exercises: Crushing / Pinch / Vice & Wrist Strength

Grip Terminology in Exercise

Maximize your Grip Strength and Power

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CRUSHING GRIP Probably the most common grip exercise, this term refers to closing your hands with an implement in them. Ever think about crushing a guy's hand while shaking it? That's your crushing grip. Your ability to close your hands with strength also translates into being able to hold onto a heavy set of dumbbells or a barbell, not to mention growth in your forearms.

Exercises: We've all seen grippers at just about every sporting - goods store, but the Captains of Crush (COC) from lronMind Enterprises probably constitute the best way to train your crushing grip. This heavy-duty set of grippers comes in five different strengths; the #3 equals approximately 280 pounds to close, and only about a dozen men have closed this gripper. Even closing the #2 (195 pounds] puts you in an elite category.

Another crushing grip device, the Hammer Gripper, is a plate-loaded Hammer Strength machine that allows you to train both hands at the same time. You sit on it, grasp two grips and crush them together. As you get stronger, you simply add weight.


Holding an object between your fingers, as in a glass of water, is called pinch gripping. Anybody can appreciate the ease of holding a glass of water, but try this little feat of strength: With your palm down, grasp the very top (where the bottle cap would be) of an empty half-liter beer bottle between your thumb and index finger and hold the bottle parallel to the ground. Sounds easy, but give it a shot.

One aspect that sets pinch gripping apart from other grip exercises is the degree of thumb involvement. In the crushing grip, you really don't use your thumb, yet your thumbs are vital when you lift weights. Neglecting them will translate into less grip strength and less-developed forearms. The pinch grip is also unique in that you must do static [isometric) exercises to train it Though isometrics are typically less productive in terms of strength and size development, we're talking about a different set of circumstances with hands and forearms because holding onto a barbell or dumbbells is isometric, so you need to train that way.

Exercises: Probably the easiest and most impressive way to train your pinch grip is to grasp the tops of two plates (10's or 25's for starters), smooth side facing out, with one hand - your fingers on one side, your thumb on the other - and lift the plates off the ground. Few people can use 35's in this exercise.

Another way is to use a softball and a baseball, an idea I picked up from John Brookfield's book Mastery of Hand Strength. Drill a hole and pound a 7-inch nail through the center of each ball. Bend the bottom end of the nail into a loop and attach a D-ring with rope or chain and weight to it. Then grasp the top part of the ball with your fingers and thumb and raise the weight off the ground. You need to use both balls because of the difference in size to see greater strength and size gains. To train this aspect of your grip dynamically, try the Telegraph Key from IronMind Enterprises. This plate-loaded device allows you to pinch your thumb and fingers together through the full range of motion.


Let's say you grab a pair of 100's out of the rack to do some dumbbell bench presses, then turn around and realize you'll have to walk halfway across the gym to a free bench. Can you hold onto the weights long enough to get there? If you trained your vise grip, you could.

Exercises: Walking around holding a pair of heavy dumbbells is actually a contested exercise called the Farmer's Walk. Typically, you'll see this at strongman shows and at the conclusion of the Highland Games. At my gym the heavy end of the dumbbell rack is toward the back. So I grab the heaviest weights and walk them straight out the back door into the parking lot and back. I got a lot of stares at first, but considering how much stronger my grip got who cares?

Try this Brookfield special if you can't do this in your gym: Go home and fill a bucket about halfway with sand, stones or nails. Wrap some cloth around the handle and pinch the two ends together with a pair of pliers. Gripping the pliers in one hand, lift the bucket off the ground. You could even double up to simulate the Farmer's Walk. As you get stronger, just add to the contents of the bucket.

A multiple world record-holder in powerlifting and known as the strongest powerlifter ever, Ed Coan likes to do bar holds. He sets a barbell in a power rack at about knee height then grabs the bar in the center with one hand and raises it off the pins, holding it as long as he can. Last I checked, he could do this with 465 pounds.

Alternatively, you could load plates on one side of the bar and grasp the outside of the bar for a max lift and hold. Another training device is a thick bar. IronMind Enterprises makes a 2-inch bar named after the turn- of-the-century strongman Apollon. Use this bar for basically the same exercises you'd do with a regular barbell. Because of its thickness, your forearms will get a pump you won't believe.


Have you ever had a poor liftoff in the bench press and felt your wrists flick? How about during curls - ever feel your wrists weaken and start bending backward? Weak wrists can be a problem in many instances, so strengthening them is an obvious choice.

Exercises: The wrist curl and reverse wrist curl are superb, yet the conventional way to perform them would have you bend your elbows while you rest your forearms either on your thighs or on a bench. But if you faced the long side of the bench and placed your Reverse wrist curl forearms on it with extended elbows, you'd recruit your forearm flexors and extensors to a greater degree.

Remember the wrist roller? This device is probably as old as the first dumbbell. The objective is to roll up the rope with weight attached to it. If you initiate the roll with your palms facing down and your hands going up, you'll hit the forearm extensors; initiating the movement with your hands going down will recruit the flexors more.


Over the last several years, the Captains of Crush have become one of the standards for determining grip strength. Until recently, nobody closed the #4; this gripper is rated at 365 pounds. Joe Kinney from Tennessee became the first man to do so on Jan. 10, 1998. To me, especially since I've been working on the #3 for quite some time, this feat defies description.

Richard Sorin, the first man to close the #3 Captains of Crush, has also pinch gripped two 45's plus a bar through the middle plus additional plates for a total of 123 pounds.

For a powerlifter, deadlifting 700 pounds is quite good, regardless of your bodyweight. But Hermann Goerner from Germany pulled 727 1/2 pounds with one hand in the 1930's.

Bill Kazmeier, of world champion / record powerlifting and world's strongest man fame, has lifted the Thomas Inch dumbbell overhead. It weighs 173 pounds and only three people have ever lifted it off the ground. Why? The grip is three inches thick. Kaz, as he's known in strongman circles, likens his feat of grip strength performed on Oct. 13, 1990, to a 1,000-yard drive in golf.

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