After working on my grip strength in just a few months, I was able to do 10 single-arm snatches with a 32kg (70 pound) kettlebell, a nearly 50% improvement.
My muscularity has also improved as I am able to lift more weight and my confidence has increased because I feel much stronger.
How the heck did I get my grip and body so much stronger so fast?
This dramatic strength increase I experienced is in large part a result of using Captains-of-Crush Grippers multiple times per day, every day.
While this dedication to grip strength may seem like overkill to you, if you want to increase your overall strength fast – whether you want to lift more weight off the ground, or get to 10 pull-ups – using Captains-of-Crush grippers may get you to your goal faster.
Research shows that grip strength is a marker of overall body strength and that lack of grip strength is a predictor of poor health.1 Research also shows grip strength decreases with age, with one study showing women’s grip strength decreasing at a faster rate, and men have twice the grip strength as women.2
According to Pavel Tsatsouline, one of the world’s foremost strength experts, increasing grip strength is one of the easiest and fastest ways to become stronger.3 The other way: building core strength.
You may be wondering how grip strength builds full body strength? Powerlifters and other strength athletes have observed that increasing grip strength leads to greater muscle activation in general. For example, if you try pressing a dumbbell over your head with a loose grip, it’s much more difficult than if you squeeze the handle very hard. The harder you can squeeze the handle, the more muscle fibers that activate in your shoulder, which in turn can help you lift more weight.
To wrap up this discussion on the importance of grip strength, I’ll leave you with some words of wisdom I learned from my friend Jason Kapnick who is a successful powerlifter:
1) You are only as strong as your hands
2) If you can’t hold it, you can’t lift it
In 1993, Ironmind developed an aircraft-grade aluminum gripper called Captains-of-Crush for serious strength athletes and strongmen as an alternative to the cheap plastic variety common at the time.
Since then, the Captains-of-Crush have developed a cult-like following among the hard-core strength crowd of burly men and women. Over time, strength athletes from sports ranging from martial arts to football have been using these grippers to get stronger faster.
Ironmind now has 11 different gripper options, but the core grippers are the #1, #2, #3, and #4, which range from 140 pounds of pressure to close to 365 pounds of pressure. Only 5 people in the world are documented to have closed the #4. Currently, 5 of the options are “tweeners” to help you bridge the gap from one gripper to another, like the No. 1.5 to help you go from the #1 to #2.
In the video above, I said that Ironmind recommends a practice gripper and a goal gripper, but they actually recommend three grippers for you to train with:
1) Warm-Up Gripper – This helps warm up your hands before you increase tension when closing something harder.
2) Working Gripper – This is a gripper you can close around 5 to 10 times. This will help you build strength.
3) Challenger (Goal) Gripper – This is a gripper you are trying to close.
Most men should purchase the Trainer, which is 100 pounds of pressure as the working gripper. Even if you can’t close it, it will eventually become your working gripper, or even warm-up gripper, then move on to the #1, which is the goal gripper of 140 pounds of pressure. If you have above average strength and can deadlift above 350+ pounds, start with the #1 and buy the #2 as your goal gripper, which requires 195 pounds of pressure to close. If you want to get a warm up gripper, you can get the Sport.
Women can start out with the Guide at 60 pounds of pressure, then move on to the Sport at 80 pounds of pressure. Keep in mind these grippers are tough on your hands so if you have soft hands and want to keep them that way, these are definitely not for you.
CoC Grippers are also fun to bring to the office to see who can close them. You may be surprised how few guys can close the Captains-of-Crush #1 on the first try. Finally, they make for a unique and cool gift. I bought 10 of them as gifts last year.
|CAPTAINS OF CRUSH MODEL||POUNDS OF PRESSURE TO CLOSE|
There is literally a book written about how to close the grippers but here are a few tips that may be helpful for you:
How you set up the gripper in your hand has a big impact on how much pressure you can apply to close it. You want the handle to be roughly in the middle of your palm (some people recommend at the top of your palm), and your pinky at the very bottom of the opposite handle. The photo below shows my pinky in the correct placement, but the bottom handle should be higher up on the palm, almost bisecting it. Then you use the other hand to help close it slightly to help wrap your fingers around the handle.
I recommend doing 1 set of 5 reps each hand, alternating. But you can think about it like 10 sets of 1 rep. Repeat for a total of 2 to 3 sessions per day. The more you practice closing the gripper each day, the faster your grip strength will increase. I carry a #1 and #2 in my briefcase, so it’s always on me. If I need a little break from my computer, I may stand up and do some closes with the gripper. In my first week of constant grip work, I increased my grip strength by at least 20%.
The last inch of closing the goal gripper can be very challenging. You can use your opposite hand, or leg to help you close the gripper, then resist the gripper as it forces your hand open, which can increase hand strength. But use the negatives strategy sparingly as it is very intense.
If you are working on your grip a lot, I recommend stretching your hands and wrists after each session. This helps prevent your muscles from becoming too tight and may aid in recovery.
Before you max out on a gripper, you want to be sure you warm up your hands. You can use a warm up gripper, or try doing grip work after your workout, which is an easy solution. I find my grip is a good 10% stronger after a lifting session when my hands and body are nice and warm.
Keep in mind that you will be training your wrist and hand flexors, which are the muscles that close your hand. Doing a few exercises to help work your extensors can help keep everything balanced. Some people fit a rubber band around their fingers, then open their fingers up. I like to make one hand into a fist, then put the other hand over it, then resist opening up my hand. It’s just like the rubber hand strategy without using a rubber band.
You may notice your dominant hand is quite a bit stronger than your non-dominant hand. Research has shown on average there is roughly a 10% difference in strength between the dominant and non-dominant hand.4
Yes they will, initially. The handles are knurled, which means there is a small diamond shaped pattern embedded in the aluminum handles, which feels like metal sandpaper. If you want soft hands, then these grippers are definitely not for you!
One of the benefits of using the grippers is that they toughen up your hands, which can prevent blisters when kettlebell, or barbell training without gloves.
Captains-of-Crush Grippers are not the only way to improve your grip strength, but they may be the fastest. BuiltLean contributor Steve Bergeron wrote an article about 8 Exercises For a Stronger Grip. To increase grip strength without training your grip directly, I would avoid using weight straps to help you hold weight, consider adding some kettlebell training and swings into your regimen if you don’t use them now, along with pull-ups and deadlifts if you are not doing them.
I hope you enjoyed this overview. If you have any questions, thoughts, or any experiences to share with the grippers, leave a comment below!