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DISCLAIMER
The material contained in this book is for informational purposes only. The author and anyone
else affiliated with the creation or distribution of this book may NOT be held liable for damages
of any kind whatsoever allegedly caused or resulting from any such claimed reliance. Before
beginning this workout routine, it is recommended that you consult with your physician for
authorization and clearance. It is always recommended to consult with a physician before
beginning any new exercise or nutritional program. If you have any problems with your health,
you should seek clearance from a qualified medical professional. The information contained
herein is not intended to, and never should, substitute for the necessity of seeking the advice of
a qualified medical professional. If at any time you feel pain or discomfort, stop immediately.
This is an advanced training routine, recommended for those with prior training experience.

COPYRIGHT 2014 ROSS ENAMAIT


All efforts have been made to ensure that this manual is free from error or problems. Although
we have worked hard, we do not take responsibility for loss or action to any individual as a
result of the material presented here.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


Reproduction or translation of any part of this work by any means, electronic or mechanical,
including photocopying, beyond that permitted by Copyright Law, without permission of the
author, is unlawful.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION
INDIRECT LIFTING
ODD OBJECTS
ROPES AND TOWELS
PINCH GRIP
THICK GRIP
WRIST TRAINING
FINGER AND CRUSH
PROGRAMMING
EXERCISE LIST

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INTRODUCTION
Life itself is your teacher, and you are in a constant state of
learning. Bruce Lee
To begin this book, I wish to be clear from the onset that I did not create this program
with hopes of you developing the strongest hands, fingers, or wrists in the world. If it
happens, so be it, but it is not my intention. As an athlete, these are not goals of mine.
As a trainer, these are not goals of my athletes. I am not a grip competitor or a
professional strongman. On the contrary, I am a former fighter who now trains fighters
for a living. I say this upfront not to suggest that this book is aimed specifically towards
combat athletes but instead to highlight the true intent of the program.

Workingthecornerinaprofessionalheavyweightfight

The focus of this book is simple. I want you to develop stronger hands, fingers, and
wrists without detracting from the rest of your training. I say this with the assumption
that you are not reading this book on your first day of exercise. Typically, I am not a fan
of assumption, but I have never seen anyone enter the gym on day one whose primary
goal was to develop hand, finger, or wrist strength. Lower arm development is without
question a specialized form of strength training. Those interested in developing lower
arm strength are usually those who recognize its benefits. Unfortunately, many athletes
are confused about how to do so without interfering with their primary goals (ex. sport
training). I will therefore focus on time efficient and effective ways to strengthen the
lower arms.
As for lower arm strength and its relevance to athletics, it is not difficult to make a case
for hand, finger, and wrist strength when discussing almost any sport. Whether you
grab or lift an object or opponent, swing a bat or club, catch or throw a ball, tackle or
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wrestle an adversary, or strike with an open hand or fist, lower arm development will
often play a significant role. Stronger hands, fingers, and wrists will improve
performance with these and many other activities, and also create a more durable
athlete who is less prone to injury.
You will be hard pressed to find any knowledgeable athlete or trainer who argues
against the significance of lower arm development. Unfortunately, recognizing the
significance does not always translate into adequate development. Many athletes and
coaches unintentionally neglect the lower arms or target them with inferior methods. I
say this based on my observation as a trainer and my own experience as a one-time
young and ignorant athlete.

Live and Learn

Myyoungerdaysasafighter

As a young fighter, I knew the hands were important as they played an instrumental
role in my sport. It is impossible to box without them. All fighters know this obvious
fact. Unfortunately, I did not know it was possible to strengthen the lower arms to
enhance performance and reduce the risk of injury. I just assumed that the lower arms
would be developed adequately from the rest of my training.
As a result, I neglected my hands, fingers, and wrists. I did not perform any direct work
for the lower arms. To no surprise, I eventually paid the price for my neglect. First, I
was hampered by wrist sprains and throbbing pain throughout my hands. Nagging
pains eventually led to fractures. I broke the same bone in my right hand three times in
a year. Each time I attempted to return to the ring, I was sidelined by another injury. It
was not long before I was on a first name basis with several doctors at the local hospital.
There was a stretch of time that lasted over a year where I essentially lived in a cast.
Whenever one cast came off, it was only a matter of time before I was back at the
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hospital getting another. Between the broken hands, broken arms, and damaged wrists,
I eventually had to hang up the gloves. I was told that there were no other options.
At the time, it was a hard pill to swallow that I would not be able to fight again.
Looking back however, I truly believe it was a blessing in disguise. When I transitioned
from fighter to trainer, I became determined to do everything in my power to help
others from making the same mistakes. It was at that time when hand, finger, and wrist
training became an obsession of mine. The last thing I wanted was for another athlete to
suffer the same frustrations that I endured for so long out of sheer ignorance and
neglect.
It may sound clich, but if I can help even one athlete avoid a shortened career by
training the lower arms more diligently, I will feel better about having been the
ignorant guinea pig as a youngster. I know firsthand how frustrating hand injuries can
be. I also now know that it is possible to strengthen the hands, fingers, and wrists to
levels that the average person could not fathom. The strength potential that exists
throughout the lower arms is incredible. Many of the grip and wrist displays from past
and present strongmen competitors are literally awe inspiring. Incredible may even be
an understatement.
Unfortunately, despite the potential that exists, the majority of athletes and trainers still
fail to develop the lower arms adequately. I am not the first or last athlete to neglect the
lower arms. Understanding why so many athletes neglect the lower arms can help you
from making the same mistakes.

Misconceptions and Neglect


I. Lack of Time
As a trainer, I understand the demanding schedules of competitive athletes. There is
only so much time in a day. It is not as if athletes budget in extra time just in case
someone informs them that they have been neglecting a particular objective. Trying to
convince an athlete that he needs to add a lower arm routine to what is already a busy
schedule is often a futile effort.
Many athletes do not believe it is possible to add anything to their existing schedule.
They are already maxed out in terms of pushing themselves to the limit. For example, I
have trained professional fighters who run at the crack of dawn, work a full time job
during the day, and return to the boxing gym at night. It is already a long and
physically demanding day where several objectives must be addressed. There is
conditioning, strength training, sparring, bag work, and more. How is an athlete in this
situation going to find time for lower arm development?
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Fortunately, there are several time efficient options that will all but eliminate the lack of
time excuse. For instance, there are several indirect ways to strengthen the lower arms
with variations of movements that you may already perform. You dont need to add
any time to your existing routine to include these variations. Small additions can also be
made that may account for no more than a few minutes at a time. It is quite possible to
develop ample strength throughout the lower arms without eating too much time on
the clock.

II. Lack of Equipment


One of the greatest misconceptions about lower arm development is that only strongmen from previous generations possessed incredible hand strength. This assumption
could not be further from the truth. Yes, there were tremendous displays from legends
such as Hermann Grner, Louis Cyr, Charles Vansittart, and more, but never before has
grip training become such a worldwide industry.
There are now grip competitions held around the world. Grip training has essentially
become its own sport. As a result, several high-end tools have been created specifically
for these athletes and events. Todays grip competitors have access to equipment that
was not available in previous generations. Modern grip specialists possess hand
strength that would be impressive in any era. Unfortunately, many of the tools used to
develop such strength are expensive for the average Joe.
If grip training is not your primary goal, it is not expected that you will invest several
hundred dollars into grip training tools. The unfortunate compromise is that many
athletes either neglect lower arm training entirely or instead purchase inferior products.
Havent we all tried a store bought gripper at one time or another? Chances are it was
incredibly easy to close. Regrettably, that does not mean you have developed any
legitimate lower arm strength. You are going to need more than a store bought gripper
to adequately train the hands, fingers, and wrists.
Fortunately, you wont need to break the bank to do so. Yes, there are several high-end
tools available today, but you can do just fine with a few do-it-yourself alternatives.
Many will not require any construction. You will see countless examples throughout
this manual.

III. Inadequate Development from Conventional Training


Another false assumption regarding lower arm development is that conventional
strength training will adequately develop the hands, fingers, and wrists. As a result,
direct lower arm work is rarely performed. Athletes simply assume that the lower arms
will be taken care of through traditional exercise. I personally made this mistake as a
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youngster. I was not the first or last athlete to be fooled however. If you look back to
previous generations, there are countless tales of lower arm neglect.
Former strongman George Jowett wrote the following in his 1930 booklet, Molding A
Mighty Grip,
Of late years strength athletes have mostly confined themselves to the few standard lifts - the
old feats and exercises are not practiced, or are forgotten. This, and no other reason, explains why
so few strength athletes, no matter how good they are at overhead lifts, have little better than an
ordinary grip
Similar sentiments were expressed by Edward Aston, who became Britains Strongest
Man in 1911. He wrote the following in his classic book, How To Develop A Powerful
Grip,
I have often marveled that weight-lifters, as a rule, do not pay more attention to grip I am
fully convinced that at least another twenty percent could be added to the poundage of some of
the lifts if the lifters grip was more carefully cultivated
One of Astons early competitors, Thomas Inch, shared similar observations. In 1930, he
wrote the following,
It is rather strange how many strong men famous for their feats of strength and record breaking
ability appear to fail when grip comes into play.
Over thirty years after Inch made such comments, others continued to recognize the
same problem. In 1962, track and field coach Chuck Coker wrote the following,
One of the most important aspects of athletic conditioning is often overlooked by most athletes.
This important phase of the well trained athlete is hand strength. There are very few sports that
are played in competition in the United States in which the hands dont play a major factor in
the outcome of the overall performance.
Now, over fifty years later, athletes continue to make the same mistakes. Many
unintentionally neglect the lower arms by assuming they will be adequately developed
without direct attention. Ultimately, if you have not developed the lower arms, you
dont know what you are missing. I could be the poster child for this mistake. I had no
idea what I was missing out on. I did not appreciate the true significance of lower arm
development until after the fact. I also did not realize how deficient I was until I began
working with exercises that truly challenged the lower arms. To my surprise, there was
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a treasure chest of hidden strength potential that had lied dormant for years. Hopefully,
you can learn from my former ignorance and avoid traveling the same road of neglect.

IV. Unrealistic Expectations


Another source of neglect often begins with good intentions. Athletes who make this
mistake are too ambitious. They understand the benefits of lower arm training yet are
frustrated by previous neglect. To make up for lost time, they attempt to perform more
work than they can handle. Consequently, the lower arms become overworked which
ultimately impedes the athletes overall development.
As with the previous example, I also made this mistake. I was frustrated by years of
neglect so I set out to do everything possible to reverse it. I read everything I could
about lower arm development. My research eventually led me to witness several
incredible hand and wrist feats that had been performed by past and present
strongmen. The competitive athlete in me naturally wanted to attempt what I saw.
After failing miserably, I was even more frustrated by my weakness. I began training
the lower arms almost every day of the week. I knew that such high frequency did not
make sense, but my frustration caused me to act irrationally. I was obsessed with fixing
my weak link.
Unfortunately, the high frequency and intensity that I dished out to the lower arms was
more than I could handle. Other parts of my training began to suffer. I was not focusing
as much attention to conventional lifts and my lower arms were becoming overworked.
The early gains that I had initially acquired began to fade. I also started losing strength
in my primary exercises. I was falling apart all because of my ambition.
It was at that time when I was forced to think rationally. It was either make a change or
continue to decline. I had to set my ego aside and accept the significance of patience and
consistency. I soon realized that true lower arm strength is not a product of weeks or
months. There are no shortcuts. Yes, you can make fairly rapid gains early on, but truly
impressive strength is a product of years. This is particularly true if lower arm
development is not one of your primary goals.
In summary, as a non-grip specialist, do not expect to contend with worldwide grip
competitors. Ambition is encouraged but not to the point that you set unrealistic
expectations for yourself. As an athlete, lower arm development only makes sense if it
is helping you. If lower arm training begins to impede overall development, changes
must be made.

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V. Misunderstanding of Lower Arm Strength


Another common source of neglect originates from a misunderstanding of what
constitutes lower arm strength. For example, many correlate forearm size with hand
and wrist strength. The assumption is that if you have developed large forearms you
must possess strong hands and wrists. The reality however is that forearm size often
means very little in regards to true hand and wrist strength. It is quite possible to
develop Popeye forearms yet fail with many low level hand and wrist movements.
Even certain exercise names are deceiving. For instance, wrist curls are actually limited
in terms of developing overall wrist strength. If you wish to develop forearm size
though, wrist curls are one of the better choices.
Similar confusion often exists in regards to hand strength. Many athletes associate hand
training solely with handheld grippers. Lower arm training for these individuals often
consists of nothing but squeezing a gripper. The result is that the athlete is focused
entirely on a single type of grip strength (crush grip).
And while crush grip strength is certainly important, there is much more to hand
development than closing a gripper. For example, the thumbs are often neglected when
training crush grip. As for the significance, think about how useful your hands would
be if you did not have thumbs. Try picking up a variety of items throughout the day
without them. It will not take long to develop a newfound appreciation for the thumbs.
Many anthropologists actually credit the human thumb as a prime reason for the
superiority of our species. Anything that important deserves some direct attention.

Thethumbisresponsibleformuchmorethanthethumbsupsign

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In summary, true lower arm strength involves much more than any single exercise can
provide. Adequate development means strengthening individual fingers, the wrists, the
forearms, and several grip styles (ex. crush grip, pinch grip, support grip, etc.). If you
have only targeted a single objective in the past, you will quickly see how much more
strength potential exists throughout the lower arms.

VI. Reinventing The Rules


A final source of neglect is similar to the previous two in that athletes begin with good
intentions. They are dead set on training the lower arms. Unfortunately, they fail to
develop any significant strength due to inferior methods. For some reason, many feel
the need to rewrite the rules about strength development when targeting the lower
arms. These individuals are notorious for extremely high rep sets with exercises such as
wrist curls and store bought grippers.

Therulesdontchangeforlowerarmtraining

A similar phenomenon is often observed throughout the core. Havent we all seen
someone who regularly performs a few hundred sit-ups or crunches in an attempt to
strengthen the core? Yet, what happens when they attempt a more challenging core
exercise? It is all but guaranteed that they will fail.
The same can be said of the high rep wrist curler or the store bought gripper fanatic
when they attempt more difficult exercises. No matter how many reps you perform
against low level resistance, you are not going to develop true strength that carries over
to extremely challenging feats. To develop considerable strength throughout the lower
arms, you must gradually work against more significant forms of resistance.
In summary, the lower arms can be developed just like any other muscle group. When
strength is the primary goal, there are better progressions than simply performing more
and more reps. This is not to say that strength endurance cannot be developed
throughout the hands and wrists, but as you will soon see, many of the best lower arm
exercises are so challenging that high reps are not an option.
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INDIRECT LIFTING
Men are made stronger on realization that the helping hand they
need is at the end of their own arm. - Sidney J. Phillips

To begin the exercise section, it is only logical to discuss a few movements that many
athletes already perform or at least have experience with in the past. As you will see,
there are often ample opportunities to strengthen the lower arms without direct work.
A few simple modifications may be all that is necessary to improve lower arm strength.
These modifications can be made without interfering with your primary goals. I am
certainly not suggesting that you convert your entire strength training program into a
grip dominant routine.
As mentioned previously, I am not a grip competitor. I have strength training goals
outside of lower arm development. My reason for strengthening the lower arms is to
benefit me elsewhere. Lower arm strength is not the end goal. Instead, it is one of many
goals that will ultimately lead to a stronger and more resilient athlete. And please note
that I am not sharing my experience to suggest that you should train exactly like me. I
share my experience to serve as a reminder and example that lower arm strength can be
enhanced significantly even when it is not the primary goal.

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The Deadlift
Opinions may vary, but few will argue against the deadlift as one of the best exercises
for overall strength development. Lifting a heavy, dead weight from the floor is as true
a test of strength as any. The weight either goes up or it does not. There is no cheating.
If you want to deadlift heavy weights, you must be strong.
Therefore, it comes as no surprise that countless strength athletes include the deadlift as
one of their preferred lifts. Unfortunately, many of these athletes perform the exercise
without any consideration for lower arm development. Instead, they opt for grip
assistance even on sets that do not require it. Consequently, these athletes pass up on
what is essentially a free chance to strengthen the hands. This opportunity does not
require any additional time within the routine.
The opportunity that I am referring to is that of your lighter sets. No one jumps into a
maximal effort deadlift without first warming up with lighter loads. It is during these
warm-up sets that you should lift the bar with a double overhand grip. Also known as a
pronated grip, the double overhand grip is one where the palms are down and the
knuckles are up. Grabbing the bar in this manner will strengthen your support grip as
you simultaneously prepare yourself for the heavier loads to follow. A simplified
definition of support grip is your ability to hold on to something (ex. a barbell or pullup bar).

Adoubleoverhandgripusedonawarmupsetwith405pounds

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Using myself as an example, I typically begin my deadlift sessions with a light set of 225
pounds. I continue with additional warm-up sets using 315 pounds and 405 pounds.
Throughout each of these sets, I use the double overhand grip. All that is used for grip
assistance is chalk. As a result, my support grip naturally improves without detracting
from my strength routine. These warm-up lifts are sets that I need to perform before I
am ready for heavier weights. In other words, I need to perform these sets no matter
what, so why not benefit from the free opportunity to strengthen the hands.
Once I am ready for heavier loads, I switch to a grip that allows me to lift more weight.
The last thing that I want is for my hands to interfere with my ability to lift as much
weight as possible. Therefore, I opt for an alternating grip when performing my heavier
sets. The alternating (or mixed) grip consists of one palm facing forward while the other
faces back. With such a grip, the bar is much less likely to slip from the hands.
Other lifters may prefer to use straps or work with a hook grip. The hook grip involves
holding the bar by gripping the thumb between the barbell and the remaining fingers.
This grip is popular with lifters who wish to avoid the stress that is directed towards
the head of the biceps when using an alternating grip. Personally, I have never had any
problems with the alternating grip hence my reason for using it. Clearly, individual
preference must be considered however. I am not here to suggest how you should
perform your heavier deadlifts. My advice pertains to the warm-up sets that do not
require grip assistance.

585poundsonthewayupwithanalternatinggrip

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As you can see on page 14, my facial expression is entirely different from that of page
13. It is much more difficult to lift the heavier load. As a result, I want to focus
everything I have on the pull and not my hands. Grip strength is the last thing on my
mind when I am attempting a near maximal deadlift. Yet, if I wish to add a lower arm
challenge to the alternating grip, I can simply hold my final lift for several seconds
before returning the bar to the ground. Five or ten seconds of holding your heaviest
deadlift will eventually result in stronger hands.

Additional Considerations
I am far from a powerlifter. In recent years, I have just grown to love the deadlift. I do
not pretend to be an expert on the lift. As a result, I am not here to provide technical
instructions. The specifics of the deadlift go beyond the scope of this book. I simply
encourage you to reap the lower arm benefits that are available during lighter sets.
In addition, the double overhand grip allows me to include more deadlift volume
without burning myself out. I say this as an athlete who is often too competitive for his
own good. When I deadlift, it is difficult for me to walk away from the bar without
challenging myself with a near maximal pull. Unfortunately, doing so on a regular basis
is quite fatiguing. As a result, I used to limit myself to one deadlift session per week.
More frequency would work against me as it is difficult for me to limit my intensity.
What has worked for me more recently however is to include a second deadlift session
during the week where I limit myself to the double overhand grip. For example, I may
pull heavy on Wednesday where my heaviest sets are performed with an alternating
grip. I may then pull again on Saturday where I only use the double overhand grip.
Naturally, I do not pull as much weight during this second session. As a result, I can
recover from it much easier and there is the added benefit of lower arm development.
The result is a win-win situation where my intense temperament is pleased and my
hands are developed as a secondary benefit.

Single Arm Options


Another way to reduce the total load applied to the body is by deadlifting with one
arm. The one arm deadlift was once a popular lift performed by many strength legends.
There were even formal rules for the lift provided by various weight lifting associations.
For instance, the British Amateur Weightlifters Association listed the following in 1948:
The barbell, which at the commencement of the lift may lie either parallel or at right angles to
the lifters front, shall be lifted from the ground to at least the height of the lifters knees. Should
the bar be brought into contact with the legs during the lift it shall not be counted - cause for
disqualification. At the conclusion of the lift the legs shall be straight and braced at the knees, the
heels remaining astride throughout but placed not wider than 15 inches.
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Several of the names referenced earlier were known for their single arm lifting prowess.
Hermann Grner, Louis Cyr, Thomas Inch, and Edward Aston are just a few of many
past strongmen whose single arm lifts would be admired in any era.
As for single arm options, there are several. As stated in the 1948 rulebook, you can
execute the lift with the bar in front of the body or between the legs. Cambered bars are
also commonly used to assist with balance. Thick handle dumbbells are also ideal for
single arm deadlifts. I will discuss thick handles in a later section.
Regardless of your preference, you can expect the hands to be challenged with each
single arm lift. These variations are ideal when seeking an intense challenge that will
not be as taxing to the rest of your body. Such lifts suit my temperament well as I am
able to train with full intensity while minimizing the total poundage that the rest of my
body is forced to handle.
Perhaps my favorite single arm deadlift is that of the suitcase deadlift. This particular
variation is not only taxing to the hands but is also a tremendous core exercise. The
execution of this lift is relatively straightforward. You sit back on the heels and lift the
bar as you would a suitcase. The goal is for the body to rise evenly. You are not
performing a side bend. The opposite is actually true. When lifting the barbell, you are
resisting lateral flexion.

As for sets and reps, I typically opt for low to moderate reps (ex. 3 to 5 per side) for 3 to
5 sets. I often perform this exercise after I have performed heavier deadlifts. It satisfies
my desire for more volume while providing the rest of my body a break from truly
heavy loads. For example, although it may not be evident above, I am working hard to
execute this lift. Yet despite the challenge, my body is not forced to deal with nearly as
much weight as I would use when performing traditional deadlifts.
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Heavy Dumbbells
No single arm discussion would be complete without mentioning dumbbells. As with
the single arm deadlift, many strength legends from the past spent ample time lifting
heavy dumbbells. Eugene Sandow, Arthur Saxon, and Louis Cyr are just a few of many
athletes who were known for their dumbbell lifting prowess.
With any heavy dumbbell lift, hand strength will naturally be challenged. The heavy
snatch seen below is a perfect example of this concept. If the hands are not adequately
developed, it is impossible to hold, snatch, and control the dumbbell.

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Figure 1

Figure 2

Figure 3

Figure 4

UNTAPPED STRENGTH

Unfortunately, many athletes perform dumbbell snatches solely for high repetitions. In
recent years, the snatch has become quite popular as a conditioning exercise. It is
certainly nice to see the exercise more widely recognized, but greater strength benefits
will be realized with heavier loads. A power snatch with a heavy dumbbell is a
tremendous full body movement. In addition to hand strength, heavy snatches will
develop strength, power, coordination, and agility.
As for variations, the power snatch is tough to beat in terms of strength development
with a minimal learning curve. Yet, despite being easy to learn, it is challenging to
snatch serious weight with a dumbbell. I have seen many 500 pound deadlifters unable
to snatch a 150 pounder. As for execution, the hands will be challenged by starting the
set with the dumbbell in the hang position (Figure 1). From here, you will drop down
(Figure 2) before explosively snatching the weight overhead.
When executing the snatch, the hands must grip the dumbbell tightly. Without a secure
grip, it will be difficult to control the weight as you drive upwards with the legs and
thrust the hips forward. The weight will remain close to the body throughout the pull.
As the weight approaches the chest, the legs will be almost fully extended and the hips
forward (Figure 3). From there, you will partially squat beneath the weight to receive it
(Figure 4) before standing to complete the lift.
Next, you can either return to the hang position, or perform continuous reps where you
move from Figure 4, back to Figure 2 without stopping. With heavier loads, it may be
necessary to briefly touch the weight to the ground between reps. As hand strength
increases, your reliance on the floor for a brief rest will diminish. With or without
touching the weight down, strong hands will be required to lift heavy loads overhead.
Low to moderate reps are ideal when performing heavy snatches.

Swings
Whenever discussing the snatch, it is common to discuss the swing. Heavy snatches and
swings go hand in hand. Like the snatch, the swing is a full body exercise that will
develop the hands as a secondary benefit. Swings can be used as a strength movement
with heavier loads or for conditioning with moderate loads. I personally prefer
swinging heavy loads for moderate reps as either part of a strength workout or as a
finisher to a strength routine. With either approach, support grip will be challenged.
For this particular discussion, I have included the swing to highlight the potential of
kettlebells. The kettlebell swing is perhaps the most popular kettlebell exercise of all. It
has quickly become a mainstream movement. Everyone from soccer moms to serious
deadlifters have embraced the swing (for good reason). Heavy swings are a tremendous
posterior chain developer and the thicker handle of the kettlebell provides additional
lower arm benefits.
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As for kettlebells vs. dumbbells, my stance is quite simple. Both tools are effective. An
athletes success is rarely based on the tool, but more importantly, how he uses it.
Therefore, while I may be a fan of heavy dumbbells, I am cognizant of the fact that
heavy kettlebells are beneficial as well. Even though I admittedly do not spend a lot of
time with kettlebells, there are swing variations that I enjoy.

Heavykettlebellswingsalsoprovidesecondarygripstrengthbenefits

I often use kettlebell swings in a way that is similar to how I use a double overhand grip
when performing lighter deadlifts. For instance, I may use a kettlebell for single arm
sets before progressing to heavier two hand swings with a T-handle (as seen below).

HeavyThandleswingsareatremendousfullbodystrengthener

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The T-handle is a homemade device that allows me to perform heavy swings. I must
ease my way up with lighter sets to begin however. I cannot jump right into 200 pound
swings without first warming up with lighter loads. Therefore, before using the Thandle, I may perform a few sets with a kettlebell. As with deadlifts, warm-up sets are
required before proceeding to heavy loads. It only makes sense to perform these sets
with a variation that provides secondary lower arm benefits. The thicker handle of the
kettlebell is ideal in this regard.
Instructions for the T-handle along with several grip-based modifications will be discussed in
more detail in a later chapter. As you will see, there are several grip variations that can be
performed with this inexpensive homemade tool.

Hand to Hand Swings


Another swing variation that I enjoy involves a release and catch in mid-air. You swing
the kettlebell with one hand and release it into the air towards the top of the swing. In
Figure 1, I have just swung the kettlebell with my left hand. The left hand releases the
kettlebell into the air. My right hand then catches the kettlebell before continuing with
another swing and release (Figure 2).

Figure 1

Figure 2

I enjoy this variation as the hands are forced to precisely and repeatedly grip a moving
weight. Unlike many grip exercises, the hands do not simply squeeze and maintain a
static position. On the contrary, the hands grab what is potentially a significant load
that moves freely on its own. The relevance to athletes is obvious as few sports require
you to grab a stationary object or opponent. An athletes grip needs are often dynamic.
If this exercise is new to you, be sure to start with a light weight in an area where it is safe to
drop it. With regular practice, you will progress quickly.
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Overhead Press
In addition to swings and snatches, the
overhead press is another favorite lift of
mine. Pressing heavy weights overhead
is one of the best ways to develop true
strength.
As for options, heavy dumbbells are my
preferred tool for pressing. Yet, unlike
the snatch and swing, pressing heavy
dumbbells offers few indirect benefits to
the lower arms.
Fortunately, we can once again look to
the kettlebell for assistance. The bottoms
up press is an excellent variation that
will force the lower arms to be engaged.
It is impossible to cheat when pressing a kettlebell overhead from the bottoms up
position. You must crush the handle as you press with a straight wrist and vertical
forearm. Therefore, lower arm benefits include crush grip and wrist development. As
for adding this lift to your routine, I am not suggesting that you discard heavier presses.
Instead, it can be useful to include a few sets of low rep bottoms up presses before
continuing with heavier work. Naturally, if bottoms up pressing is new to you
however, you must first become comfortable cleaning the kettlebell in this position. As
is often the case, I suggest starting light and progressing gradually.


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Farmers Walk
No discussion about direct or indirect exercises for the lower arms would be complete
without mentioning the farmers walk. The specifics of the exercise are quite simple.
Grab a pair of heavy weights and begin walking for distance or time. A few sets are
typically all that will be necessary. As a result, this exercise is ideal as a finisher at the
conclusion of a strength workout. It does not take long for the hands to become fatigued
when performing this exercise with considerable loads.

Homemadedumbbellhandlesareidealforheavyfarmerswalks

Hand strength is just one of many benefits of the farmers walk. This exercise is truly a
full body movement. Perform it regularly and expect to strengthen not just the hands,
but also the legs, back, traps, and more.
Unfortunately, despite the obvious benefits of the exercise, it is still one that is rarely
performed by the masses. Many falsely assume that the farmers walk is intended solely
for strongmen as it is often a competitive exercise within their sport. Such athletes
perform this exercise with bars that are created specifically for the event. And while
farmers walk handles are certainly nice, they are also expensive. If you do not wish to
purchase such handles or weld your own, long handle dumbbells will work well for the
non-competitive strongmen.
In the picture above, I am using 24 inch handles that were made from galvanized
iron pipe. I have used this same pair of handles for many years without any problems.
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Bent Over Rows


Another useful exercise that I perform with homemade handles is the bent over row.
Heavy bent over rows are a tremendous strength movement that can provide lower arm
benefits as well. Support grip will be enhanced when rowing any heavy load without
grip assistance. This is particularly true if you do not allow the dumbbell to touch the
ground between reps.
When performing this exercise, I prefer to kneel over the side of a bench, with one arm
and leg to the side. If you do not have a bench, you can support the left arm on the left
leg when pulling with the right arm (and vice versa).

Alwaysperformwarmupsetswithoutstraps

As you can see above, my hands must hold the heavy load throughout the set. I often
perform this exercise for 10 reps or more so the hands are strengthened as a result. In
some ways, the lower arm challenge is similar to the farmers walk. I believe rows are
actually more useful however as you do not just hold the weight, but actively lift it as
well. As mentioned earlier, an athletes grip needs are often dynamic as opposed to
static. For instance, grabbing an object in the real world may not be enough. You may
need to lift it as well. Therefore, it is useful to include dynamic lower arm strengthening
exercises within the routine.
Unfortunately, many athletes miss out on the indirect lower arm benefits of heavy rows
as they use straps for each set. In some ways, straps with heavy rows are similar to
using an alternating grip when deadlifting. The straps allow one to lift more weight
without being limited by the hands. Lifting more weight is certainly a plus, but using
straps for sets that do not require them is pointless. Not only do you miss out on the
lower arm benefits, you also develop dependency on the straps.
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Yet, while this book is focused on lower arm development, I am actually not against the
use of straps. There is no denying that straps can be useful for certain exercises. I simply
recommend against using them when performing lighter sets. Straps should only be
used when absolutely necessary.

IusestrapsformyheaviestsetswhenperformingKrocrows

In the images above, I can be seen performing heavier rows with straps. Without straps,
I would not be able to perform nearly as many reps with such a load. Therefore, I start
by performing a few sets without straps. The lighter sets are used to both strengthen the
hands and prepare me for the more significant loads to follow. I then use straps for
heavier Kroc rows (named after Matt Kroczaleski).
The Kroc row is not nearly as strict as a traditional row. It is somewhat of a cheat
exercise where you intentionally use more weight than you can row under control. And
while some are opposed to the cheating nature of the movement, I have found Kroc
rows to be quite useful for upper body development. For instance, heavy Kroc rows
have actually provided positive carry over for me when performing both heavy chinups and one-arm chin-ups.
In summary, regardless of whether you perform strict rows or Kroc rows, I encourage
you to only use straps for the sets that require them. You will therefore reap the best of
both worlds. You will be able to move heavier loads with straps while continuing to
develop strong hands without them.

Summary
To summarize this section, it is not expected that all readers will perform each of the
lifts from this chapter. That is not my goal. I am not looking to restructure your entire
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routine. My hope is for you to recognize the lower arm possibilities that exist with
many conventional exercises.
In addition, you may already perform certain movements from this chapter. For
example, the deadlift is obviously a popular lift. By simply altering your hand position
during warm-up sets, you have an incredible lower arm developer at your disposal.
And if you dont appreciate the significance of bettering your ability to pick up or hold
heavy things, grip strength may not be all that is lacking.
Moreover, lower arm work can often be added through small bits and pieces. The
farmers walk is a prime example. The time required to perform a few sets with a heavy
load is minimal. Therefore, not only do you have a tremendous full body exercise, you
also have a lower arm developer that requires nothing but a few minutes, no more than
a few times per week.
Furthermore, while heavy dumbbells are not nearly as popular as they were in previous
eras, their effectiveness has not changed. I encourage athletes to include at least one
heavy dumbbell lift within their program. For instance, heavy snatches have benefitted
me and my athletes for many years. The snatch is not only a full body lift with
secondary lower arm benefits, it is also a movement that is naturally limited in terms of
overall weight. Consequently, this type of lift is often less difficult to recover from when
compared to other lifts that involve more significant loads (ex. the deadlift). As a result,
it is not difficult to add such a lift to an existing routine without throwing everything
else out of place. A few sets of heavy dumbbell snatches will not require a lot of time
and will not involve moving too much overall weight.
In summary, while there is obviously more to lower arm training than what can be
received indirectly, working with a few of the exercises from this chapter is an ideal
introduction to someone who has never targeted the lower arms. Small additions may
initially seem insignificant, but it is often small pieces that eventually accumulate into
something much more meaningful.

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ODD OBJECTS
We acquire the strength we have overcome.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Another tremendous way to strengthen the lower arms is by lifting heavy odd objects.
Such objects are unlike any conventional strength training tool. Whether you lift, carry,
or load the object, you can expect to be challenged. Odd objects develop a unique type
of real world strength. Unlike traditional weights, the odd object is not easily gripped or
evenly balanced. The best odd objects are heavy, awkward, and difficult to hold. A few
examples include sandbags, water balls, logs, and stones.
Regardless of the implement, the lower arms will be challenged when lifting and
controlling the object. It is all but impossible to find anyone who regularly lifts heavy
odd objects who does not possess strong hands. Lower arm strength is essentially a
prerequisite to successful odd object training.

Odd Object Oversight


Unfortunately, despite the benefits, athletes who frequently train with heavy, awkward
objects are a dying breed. Aside from strongman competitors, it is not every day that
you find someone who regularly lifts stones, logs, and heavy sandbags. Therefore, the
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obvious question that comes to mind is why do so many athletes neglect odd objects if
they really are effective? There must be a reason for the widespread oversight within
the industry.

I. Intentional Industry Neglect


Perhaps the most obvious reason for neglect is that many of the better odd objects are
free to acquire. Items that are freely available offer little in return to gym owners and
equipment manufacturers. And unfortunately, what is popular in the fitness industry is
not always what is most effective. Trends are often created by those with the financial
resources necessary to market their ideas to the masses.
For instance, within this chapter I will demonstrate how heavy stones can be used for a
variety of exercises. I own several hundred pounds in stones of all sizes and they were
all free to acquire. Some came from my yard, others from the woods, and others from
the side of the road. Why would any gym owner or equipment manufacturer promote
free stone lifting to the masses? Naturally, they will instead promote items that they sell
or encourage you to use as part of a gym membership.
I have never seen any marketing campaigns directed towards lifting stones that can be
found on the side of the road. Fortunately, the lack of public attention is irrelevant
when considering the benefits that come from lifting these objects.

II. Watered Down Commercialization


The second source of oversight is related to the first. While part of the industry ignores
odd objects, others have attempted to cash in on the niche market. Unfortunately, the
best way to promote widespread use is by making odd objects more comfortable.
Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the industry has watered down what was once a
rugged and effective training style.
For example, many commercial sandbags are now equipped with carefully constructed
handles. The handles make the bags easier to grab. Lighter bags have also become quite
common. Though I dont deny that smaller objects can be useful at times, it has become
rare to see anyone carrying and hoisting massive sandbags (as was common in the
past).
In summary, reducing the difficulty may appeal to the masses, but doing so negates
many of the benefits that originally made the tools so useful. Odd objects are supposed
to be awkward and difficult to maneuver. Stripping away these key attributes reduces
the odd object to a regular object that offers little in return.

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III. Difficulty
Lastly, based on how difficult it is to lift heavy, awkward objects, it is not surprising
that many trainers shy away from these tools. In todays online era, the last thing that a
guru trainer wants to do is highlight his inabilities. Large stones, logs, and sandbags are
extremely difficult to lift and carry. Such work will never be overly popular in a world
that constantly seeks the easy road in hopes of instant gratification.
Conversely, many athletes do not appreciate or understand how effective odd object
training can be. It is impossible to comprehend how difficult it is to lift odd objects if
you have not done so before. For instance, an athlete who is already strong may see
little benefit in lifting an object that weighs less than what he is accustomed to lifting
with a barbell.
I encourage you to avoid making this false assumption. One of the key benefits to odd
object training is the awkwardness associated with each tool. When grabbing an object
or opponent in the real world, you will not have a carefully constructed handle to assist.
Odd objects are ideal for developing the real world strength that you may someday
need outside the gym.

Stone Lifting
My grandfather was a brick and stone mason. As a teenager, I vividly remember him
crushing my hand with ease. It became somewhat of a game between us where he
would test my handshake whenever I saw him. No matter what I did, my hand wasnt
going anywhere until he released his vice grip. He was certainly my first introduction to
truly strong hands. Ironically, my grandfather never spent a day training his hands.
What he did instead was lift stones and bricks for long hours each day for most of his
life.
Fortunately, you do not need to be a mason to benefit from my grandfathers example.
What you can do instead is to include stone lifting as part of your odd object training.
Regardless of the stone, you can expect the hands to be challenged. Stones are naturally
difficult to grip. Even the same stone can offer countless challenges by simply grabbing
it in different places.
And as mentioned previously, perhaps the best part of stone lifting is that stones are
free to acquire. Almost any stone can serve as a valuable odd object. Even smaller
stones can prove useful and challenging for many exercises. Over the years, I have
acquired a variety of stones. No two are the same, yet each is challenging for different
reasons. Stones are also ideal as they can be left inside or out. They will not be damaged
by rain or snow. These free yet challenging objects will literally last a lifetime and wont
cost you a dollar.
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Clean and Press


One of my favorite odd object lifts is that of the clean and press. Cleaning and pressing
a heavy, awkward object is a tremendous real world strength developer. Each object
presents its own challenges.
For instance, stones are particularly difficult as they are awkward to grab. Therefore, it
goes without saying that pressing a stone overhead is not intended for beginners. There
are natural risks associated when pressing any awkward object overhead. If stone lifting
is new to you, be sure to begin with a light stone that you can comfortably control. Do
not expect to lift the same weight in stone that you can with iron. The difficulty in
gripping the stone will reduce the amount of weight that can be handled.
Even though lifting less weight may seem disadvantageous, I view it as a plus. The
lighter weight allows one to perform this type of work without disrupting your entire
strength training program. As mentioned earlier, I do not limit my overhead lifting to
odd objects. I also enjoy pressing heavy dumbbells. Fortunately, the lighter weight of
the stone allows me to lift it without disrupting my heavy dumbbell training.
I often perform overhead lifts with odd objects and conventional weights within the
same session. I reap the hand training benefits of the stone while warming up for the
heavier dumbbell lifts to follow. Therefore, in this case, the stone lift is similar to the
kettlebell bottoms up press seen earlier. You are not lifting enough weight to interfere
with your heavier (conventional) weight training, yet you are receiving secondary
lower arm benefits.

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Another benefit to stone lifting is that the same stone can provide numerous challenges.
Notice my hand position in the close up pictures below. My right and left hand have
different grips on the stone. Each hand is presented with a unique challenge. I can also
turn or flip the stone for a new set of challenges. No other fixed weight can provide
such a vast array of grip challenges.

Loading
If you are not comfortable pressing stones overhead, one useful alternative is to load a
moderate stone to a raised platform. Begin by cleaning the stone a few feet away from
the platform. You will then walk with it forward and place it on top. In the image
below, I am using a homemade platform that fits within my power rack. Loading a
stone or sandbag to a platform has long been a favorite finisher of mine. I will often
load the object for reps or time at the conclusion of a strength workout. It does not take
long for the entire body to be challenged with particular attention to the lower arms.

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Clean and Throw


Stones can also be used outside. One of my favorite stone exercises is to clean a large
stone and then explosively launch it forward with a chest pass. This exercise will not
only target the hands, but also develop full body strength and power. In terms of allaround (real world) strength, this exercise is tough to beat. It is also convenient as you
dont need to worry about pressing the stone overhead and you dont need a platform
for loading.

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Smaller Stones
Smaller stones can also be used for a variety of grip exercises. I have a vast collection of
various stones in all shapes and sizes. Each stone is unique so no matter how you grab
it, you can expect the hands to be challenged. Many of the smaller stones are also ideal
for dynamic hand training. Rather than simply holding a static position, these stones
can be lifted to challenge the lower arms throughout a vast range of motion.
For example, I can perform pinch grip rows with the following stone (with or without a
bench). The total weight is nowhere near what I can row with a dumbbell as I must hold
the stone with a pinch grip. Pinch grip is the grip between the fingers and thumb. The
fingers are on one side of an object with the thumb on the other. This type of grip is one
of the most important as thumb strength is essential to any pinch grip exercise.

Stones can be particularly useful for pinch grip as even a single


stone may offer multiple opportunities to train various degrees
of pinch grip strength. As you can see, this stone varies in
thickness so wherever I grab it, I can expect a unique challenge.
And once again, due to the lighter weight of the stone, I can
perform a few sets of pinch grip rows without interfering with
my heavier rows. Pinch grip rows could be performed as a
warm-up before heavier rows or as a grip based finisher
afterward. With either scenario, I am able to train support grip
and pinch grip within my strength workout without eating too
much time on the clock.
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Pinch grip can also be trained with a release and catch drill. As you can see below, I pull
upright, release the stone, and then catch it before it touches the ground. This type of
drill is much more challenging than statically holding a single position. Hand-eye
coordination and grip are trained simultaneously.

Smaller stones can also be used to perform continuous circuits with a variety of
exercises. You can get creative with exercise choice (ex. curls, lateral raises, front raises,
rows, clean and press, etc.). The key is to not allow the stones to touch the ground until
the circuit is complete. You can work for time, reps, or multiple trips through the
circuit. These lightweight complexes are an ideal finisher at the end of a workout. A few
sets of a few minutes in duration and the grip will be taxed considerably.

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Concrete Blocks
As fond as I am of stones for hand
training, I realize that not everyone will
have access to the same materials. If
stones are unavailable in your area,
concrete blocks can be used in a similar
fashion for certain exercises. By gripping
the middle of the concrete block, pinch
grip will be trained throughout each
exercise that is used.
Concrete blocks are usually not difficult
to find. Many hardware stores sell them
for under $2 each. Perhaps the most
common size is 8 x 8 x 16 inches. At this
size, the blocks will typically be in the 40
pound range (give or take a few pounds
in either direction).

Pinch Grip Rows


As seen below, pinch grip rows can be performed with concrete blocks identically as
you would with a stone. Do not allow the block to touch the ground and challenge your
pinch grip endurance with moderate to high reps.

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Clean and Press


Concrete blocks can also be used for a lighter weight clean and press. This exercise
could be performed on its own or with two blocks as part of a circuit. In either case, you
are not working with a considerable amount of weight. As a result, it is not difficult to
make room for this type of movement within a routine. Pinch grip endurance will be
taxed while the rest of the body is spared from too much difficulty.
Those who have never trained pinch grip seriously will likely struggle for even single
reps. Fortunately, you can train pinch grip directly without significant loads.

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Farmers Walk
Concrete blocks can also be used for a lighter farmers walk. For instance, suppose you
have performed a strenuous lifting session. The body is taxed from heavy barbell work
such as deadlifting. It may not make sense to perform a heavy farmers walk. One
worthwhile alternative would be to instead perform a lighter variation. Concrete blocks
are one of many options. Pinch grip endurance will be taxed while the rest of the body
performs minimal work. A few minutes will be all that is necessary.

Although a few minutes may seem insignificant, it is often these small additions that
prove most valuable. For instance, when discussing brief finishers or mini-workouts, I
often reference the following mathematical example.
Suppose you add a five minute finisher to your workout three days per week. The total
addition to your weekly routine would be 15 minutes. Fifteen extra minutes each week
is a blink of an eye when you consider how much total time is available. Each day
consists of 1,440 minutes. Each week consists of 10,080 minutes. To add 15 minutes of
work to a week that has 10,080 minutes isnt difficult and may even seem pointless. You
may even wonder how much can be accomplished in an extra 15 minutes. Surprisingly,
the answer is plenty. Fifteen minutes each week is 780 minutes a year, which is 13 hours
of work. Can you imagine 13 hours of non-stop lower arm training? Thats a lot of time.
And if you bumped up the finisher to 10 minutes instead of 5, now you are looking at
26 hours of additional work each year. As you examine the math, it is not difficult to see
how the small additions can accumulate into something much more significant.
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Sandbags
Sandbags are another tremendous odd object. An abbreviated definition of a sandbag is
a bag filled with sand or another material such as wood pellets, pea gravel, or rubber
mulch. Depending on the materials used, the inner contents are either dumped directly
into a larger bag (often referred to as the outer shell) or added to filler bags which are
placed inside the outer shell.
For example, sand is a fine material so if it were dumped directly into the outer shell,
there is a good chance the small particles would eventually leak. Therefore, filler bags
are used to house the sand. A common do-it-yourself option for filler bags involves
using tire inner tubes. Tire inner tubes are quite durable and often easy to find.
As you can see to the left, the tire inner tubes are
cut into smaller pieces. Start by securing one end
with a zip-tie and duct tape before filling the tube
with sand. Next, you would secure the opposing
end with another zip-tie and more duct tape.
These filler bags will then be placed within the
outer shell.
If you do not wish to use filler bags, be sure to use
a material that will not leak through the outer
shell. Rubber mulch is one example. While not
nearly as dense as sand or gravel, rubber mulch
will last a lifetime and will not leak.
In the pictures that follow, the outer shell is a naval sea bag with seams that have been
reinforced with an industrial strength seam sealant. The end of the bag is closed with a
zip-tie which is then wrapped in duct tape.
As for the relevance to lower arm development,
almost any sandbag lift that is executed without
handles will challenge the hands. As you can see,
my hands must grab the actual bag material.
Doing so is much more difficult than grabbing a
carefully constructed handle. Strong hands and
fingers are required to lift and control the heavy,
awkward object. Performing lifts with this grip is
similar to grabbing an opponents jersey or gi. It is
extremely challenging to maintain a proper grip
when moving or controlling considerable weight.
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Clean and Press


As was the case with stones, cleaning and pressing a sandbag is a tremendous display
of real world strength. Not only must you fight the shifting inner contents within the
bag, you must also maintain a solid grip on an object that is not intended for gripping.
When grabbing the bags material from the top, the hands will be challenged
considerably during the initial pull. It is from there that you will release and then catch
the bag in a more favorable position to allow for an overhead press.

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An easier way to clean the bag would be by cupping the hands underneath. By starting
from such a position, hand strength will not be challenged as considerably during the
initial pull. If you wish to develop the hands, grab the bag from the top or side. Initially,
it may feel awkward or even painful to the fingers. With consistent practice, the lower
arms will adapt to the challenge however. Just be sure that the finger nails are trimmed
short before attempting this variation.

Water Ball Substitute


Before discussing additional sandbag lifts, it is worth noting that a water ball* can be
used to perform many of the exact exercises. A water ball is simply an anti-burst
stability ball that has been filled with water. Common sizes include 65cm or 75cm. Each
will hold more than 100 pounds of water.
In terms of pound for pound difficulty, the water ball is certainly a top contender. The
sloshing nature of the water makes this object incredibly difficult to control. To add to
the challenge, water balls are also extremely awkward to grip. Simply put, there is no
convenient way to grab a water ball. There are no handles. The only way to lift a water
ball is by grabbing the balls material in a way that is similar to how you would grab a
sandbag. The water within will slosh much more violently than sand however. It almost
feels as if the water ball is pulling itself from the hands as you attempt to lift the object.
In summary, if you already perform the sandbag exercises from this section, perhaps
the water ball is one object that you have not yet tried. Adding this tool to your arsenal
promises to be both challenging and beneficial.

Shoulderingawaterball


*

Relatedtutorial:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kIXvBnOL3Tg

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Sandbag Loading
Previously, I demonstrated how stones could be loaded to a raised platform. Sandbags
and water balls can also be used for loading. In the pictures below, I show how to load
the sandbag from a sideward position. As you can see, my hands must tightly grip the
bag throughout the lift. Therefore, not only do I have a tremendous full body lift, but a
tremendous lower arm developer as well.
If you opt to load from the position below, be sure to work both sides evenly.

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Sandbag Shouldering
Shouldering is to sandbags what swings are to kettlebells. Anyone who has ever trained
with a sandbag has likely spent a fair amount of time shouldering. Shouldering a heavy
sandbag is yet another full body lift with secondary lower arm benefits. The hands must
hold on tightly throughout the pull.
As for specifics, shouldering involves what the name implies. You lift the bag from the
floor to the shoulder. Naturally, you will work both sides evenly.

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Lighter Bags
When training with sandbags, there is no denying my preference for heavier bags.
Heavy sandbag lifting can be quite strenuous however. As a result, certain athletes may
wish to avoid such work. Perhaps they are already busy with an existing free weight
routine and do not have room to add heavy odd object training. If you find yourself in
that position, one alternative may be to work with a lighter bag. You can still experience
some of the lower arm benefits while minimizing the load placed upon the rest of the
body.
For instance, grab a lighter bag with one hand and rip it into the air. Release the bag and
attempt to catch it with the other hand before it touches the ground. This type of drill
could prove particularly useful to an athlete who must quickly grab a jersey or gi. If
your hands have the ability to snatch a sandbag in mid-air, they will certainly be
effective at reaching out to grab an opponent.

In many ways, lighter sandbags can be used similarly to the lighter stones seen earlier.
Regardless of how the bags are grabbed, held, and lifted, the hands will be challenged
with relatively minimal loads.
And even if you prefer heavy sandbag training, these lighter drills could serve as a
viable warm-up or as a brief finisher. Once again, several options exist simply because
of the lighter load. It is typically more difficult to make room for a heavily weighted
exercise. A lighter drill can be included almost anywhere without interruptions.
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Manual Labor
Odd objects may also be hiding as manual labor tools. If you have ever worked with a
heavily loaded wheelbarrow, you likely remember the extreme pump experienced
throughout the forearms. Walking with a heavy wheelbarrow can be a tremendous odd
object finisher. I occasionally include uphill wheelbarrow walks in place of a heavy
farmers walk. And once again, the wheelbarrow is by no means a necessity, but it is
undoubtedly beneficial. The physical challenge is certainly unique when compared to
any of my conventional tools.
A finisher could be as simple as walking up and down the hill for 10 minutes. When I
walk down the hill, I do so by walking the wheelbarrow backwards under control.

The reinforced wheelbarrow above holds 500 pounds with ease. Unfortunately, it is far
from easy to walk that load up and down the hill repeatedly.

Additions, Not Overhauls


As you begin to examine the odd object possibilities that exist, it is not difficult to
become overwhelmed. For instance, suppose you already train with free weights and
calisthenics. How on earth will you make room for sandbags, stones, and water balls?
There is only so much time in a week and the body can only handle so much work.
Fortunately, adding odd objects to your schedule does not need to be confusing. I have
not included each of these objects with hopes that you will include them all at once.
Less can be more. I have demonstrated multiple objects so that you will have options to
consider as the weeks, months, and years pass.
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Speaking from experience, I have trained consistently with various odd objects for over
15 years. Throughout that time, I have experimented with countless strategies. What
has always worked best for me was to include odd object training as an addition, rather
than developing an entire routine based on the object.
I do not train for the odd object. Instead, I use the odd object to assist with a goal or
objective that is pertinent to me at the time. Therefore, whenever I am asked to list my
favorite odd object workouts, I rarely have a response. Such a question assumes that a
routine has been developed based on the tool. I do not subscribe to an object-based
training philosophy.
I strongly believe that odd objects are best used as a supplement to an existing routine
or program. For instance, I may include a heavy sandbag exercise within a strength
training routine. One example that I have used many times is to shoulder a heavy
sandbag after deadlifting. The sandbag makes a valuable addition to the routine, but
the entire routine is not based on the sandbag. Another example I often use is to
conclude a routine with an odd object finisher. I regularly change which odd objects are
used. One day I may load sandbags. Another day may conclude with a lighter stone
finisher. I continually vary my selections as the weeks and months pass.
The cumulative effect is that I have become well versed with a variety of heavy,
awkward objects. I am not invested solely in any particular item. Such an approach has
proved to be most effective for me both physically in terms of gains and mentally by
eliminating staleness and monotony.

Availability
And while I certainly enjoy training with a variety of objects, it is worth noting that you
can do well without each of the items that I have presented in this chapter. For example,
not everyone lives in an area that is populated with mountains and stones. If you do not
have access to stones, dont assume that your lower arm development will suffer. No
single item should be viewed as a necessity. Once again, view each object as an option if
and when the opportunity presents itself. I simply advise you to remain open minded
when considering odd object possibilities. There are often ample opportunities to lift
heavy, awkward objects that the average person would not think twice about.
For instance, suppose you do not wish to make a sandbag or water ball and you cannot
locate stones in your area. There are still possibilities that may be realistic for you.
Perhaps you have access to large logs. A heavy log is a tremendous odd object to lift
and carry and the free price cannot be beat.

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Below are two examples that I freely acquired last year after a local tree service left
them on the side of the road. These heavy logs proved to be challenging odd objects that
I used throughout the winter.

Not only is each log challenging for various lifts and carries, notice my hand position in
both pictures. Shouldering the log on the left requires an open-handed position that is
unlike any conventional weight.
Carrying the log on the right also provides a unique lower arm challenge. Notice how
my fingers are positioned underneath the log. It is extremely difficult to maintain this
position while carrying such a heavy log. Heavy carries have always been a favorite
finisher of mine, but this particular log was unlike anything else I have ever carried
before.

Summary
By now it should be clear that there are often ample opportunities to strengthen the
lower arms with objects or tools that are inexpensive to acquire and not difficult to
include within an existing routine. I just caution you against becoming overly ambitious
with odd object training if it is new to you. Odd object training is unlike anything you
will experience within a conventional gym. It is not uncommon to experience soreness
in small muscle groups that you did not know existed. Give your body time to adapt to
such work by making the transition gradual. Odd object training must not be rushed. It
takes time to develop the ability to manhandle heavy, awkward objects.

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ROPES AND TOWELS


When you're at the end of your rope, tie a knot and hold on
- Theodore Roosevelt

There is no denying the vast array of equipment that exists for lower arm training.
Between high-end commercial products and inexpensive homemade tools, there are
countless options. Fortunately, there may also be useful grip training items that you
already own without realizing it. Two examples include towels and ropes. Both items
are extremely effective at developing the lower arms and do not require construction.
They work as is. You do not need to build or modify anything for a piece of rope or
towel to become a useful grip training tool.
Towels and ropes of all sizes can be used for a variety of challenging exercises. They can
be used to enhance several bodyweight movements and free weight lifts. Towels and
short strips of rope are also lightweight, thus easy to pack. It is always nice to have
portable grip training tools available. Regardless of where you travel or train, it is not
difficult to add a towel or short piece of rope to your gym bag.
As for exercise options, perhaps the most common towel and rope movements occur
from the pull-up bar. If you perform pull-ups and have access to a towel or rope, you
have a tremendous lower arm developer at your disposal.

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Towel Pull-ups
A basic towel pull-up can be performed with a single towel. If possible, it is best to use
larger towels such as a beach towel or bath towel. Smaller towels are not as difficult to
grip. They also may not hang low enough to allow for a full range of motion.
To perform the exercise, start by hanging a towel evenly over the bar. Next, secure a
grip that allows for a full range of motion. For instance, notice my hand position in the
pictures below. If I gripped the towel higher, my head would hit the bar at the top of
the movement. I also need to bend at the knees to prevent my legs from touching the
ground. Initially, it may take you a few reps to determine the ideal hand and leg
position, but after a few sets, you will instinctively find it without thought.

Towel pull-ups are quite popular with many Brazilian jiu-jitsu athletes. The lower arm
strength that is developed through towel training often proves useful when grappling
with a gi.
Single towel pull-ups are perhaps the most common of all, but this variation is just the
beginning of countless options. Once you have developed strength with a single towel,
you can begin working with more difficult variations. As for placement within a
routine, towel pull-ups can be performed as a substitute for traditional pull-ups. The
upper body pulling demands will be similar with extra attention directed towards the
lower arms.

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Two Towel Pull-ups


A more difficult towel pull-up can be performed with two towels. This variation may
look similar to a single towel pull-up, but the grip demands are much more challenging.
With a full sized beach towel in each hand, there is much more material that must be
gripped tightly to successfully pull yourself towards the bar.

If full sized towels are too difficult,


smaller hand towels can be used as a
progression. You will not need to worry
about head clearance when working with
two towels. You can grab the material
much closer to the bar.
The smaller towels to the left may not
look considerably different from those
above, but are actually much easier to
grip. There is not nearly as much material
that must be squeezed within the hand.
The difference between the two may be
difficult to comprehend until comparing
the various sizes yourself.

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Towel Modifications
If you do not have larger towels to use, one way to increase the difficulty is by wearing
gloves that do not provide grip assistance. For example, the fleece gloves below turn a
relatively easy exercise into one that is much more challenging.

If you are too tall to perform towel pull-ups from your bar, consider working from the
L-sit position. Even taller athletes can use relatively low hanging bars to perform L-pullups. An added benefit is that the core will be challenged as well.

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Ropes vs. Towels


A close relative to the towel pull-up is the rope pull-up. One key difference however is
that ropes are available in more sizes. Each size presents a unique challenge.

inch

1.25 inch

1.5 inch

2 inch

As for difficulty, the thinnest and thickest ropes tend to be most difficult. The inch
and 2 inch ropes above are much more challenging when compared to the 1.25 and 1.5
inch ropes.
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The ropes material can also influence difficulty. For example, the inch rope from the
previous page is a smooth, nylon rope. The nylon material is much more difficult to
securely grip when compared to the more commonly used manila.
As for comparing towels to ropes, I am often asked which tool is more challenging and
effective. Unfortunately, there is not a single answer to these questions. There is no
denying that ropes and towels are similar, but I believe there are enough differences
between them to justify training with each. I often switch back and forth between
towels and ropes and consider both to be extremely effective. And as you will soon see,
there are exercises unique to each tool that cannot be easily replicated with the other.

Rope Specifics
If you wish to use ropes of various sizes, four foot strips are typically used for pull-ups.
If the rope is less than four feet in length, certain athletes may not have enough head
clearance at the top of the pull. Fortunately, many rope suppliers will gladly sell rope
by the foot. Therefore, you will not need to purchase more than you intend to use.
In addition, if you wish to purchase longer lengths
to create multiple pieces, it is not difficult to cut
the rope yourself. You do not need any fancy
machinery to cut a manila rope. A basic handsaw
will suffice.
Once the rope has been cut to length, burn the
edges to prevent fraying and then secure the ends
with duct tape.

As for suppliers and price estimates, I have found some of the best deals on eBay. I have
purchased two inch ropes for less than $3 per foot. As the rope gets thinner, the prices
will typically drop. It is not uncommon to pay less than $2 a foot for a 1.5 inch climbing
rope.
Contrary to what the fitness industry would like many to believe, you do not need a
high-end rope to climb or perform pull-ups. A fitness equipment manufacturer is the
last place I would shop for ropes. Manila ropes can be found for much lower rates from
companies who market the ropes to boating docks and similar industries.

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Rope Modifications
If you do not wish to purchase multiple
size ropes, the glove modification that was
demonstrated with towels is a worthy
option. Adding gloves to a 1.5 inch rope
will often increase the difficulty beyond
what is experienced with a 2 inch rope.
When wearing gloves, the hands must
squeeze incredibly hard to avoid slipping
down the rope. Athletes who have not
trained the grip regularly will often find
themselves unable to even hold a static
position with gloves.

Unlike towels, a single rope pull-up is no


different from working with separate
ropes. The grip demands are identical as
each hand grabs one end of the rope with
either variation. Towels are unique as
when working with two towels, the hands
must grab both ends to secure a grip. If
not, the towel would naturally fall from
the bar.
Two separate ropes can be useful for taller
athletes however as they allow one to
perform L-pull-ups. By working from the
L position, foot clearance is no longer an
issue at the bottom of the pull-up. This
position is not always possible when
working from the side (depending on the
configuration of your bar).

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Double Ropes
Considering that the grip demands are identical when hanging a rope over a bar vs.
performing pull-ups with a different rope in each hand, you may be wondering why I
bother to attach separate ropes to my power rack.

Thelowerarmchallengeisidenticalwitheachofthesepullupvariations

Pull-ups are just the beginning of the grip training


exercises that exist with rope however. Securely
attached ropes can be used for several additional
movements.
As for requirements, almost any overhead pull-up bar
or rack can be used to attach the ropes. High ceilings
are not necessary. On the pages that follow, you will
see how I have secured two 1.5 inch thick manila ropes
to a power rack. The ropes are attached seven feet
overhead. And while seven feet may not seem like a
lot, it is all the length you will need to perform several
challenging exercises.
To attach a rope to a bar or rack, you will need approximately 18 to 24 inches of extra
rope. With the extra length, you can securely tie the rope with one of many knots. Two
half hitches is one of the more commonly used knots for attaching rope to a bar, but
several options exist. You can find several knot tutorials with a quick search of the web.

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Double Rope Exercises


Climbing from a seated position is perhaps the best double rope exercise.

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There is no denying that rope climbing is a


tremendous upper body exercise with lower
arm benefits. I have a 25 foot rope outside that
I climb regularly. I often use it as a finisher. For
example, I will climb up and down as many
times as possible in a ten minute period.
I realize however that not everyone lives in an
area where it is feasible to securely attach an
outdoor rope. In addition, outdoor climbing is
not always possible due to poor weather. I
would never have an athlete climb rope in the
rain. Falling from such a height could be tragic.
Fortunately, climbing two shorter ropes inside
will provide many of the same benefits that
you would experience by climbing a longer
rope outdoors. The shorter distance is not the
limitation that many believe it to be.

As you can see on page 54, I begin from a seated position to extend range of motion. I
then climb the ropes with my arms only. Upon reaching the top of the ropes, I reach for
the bar and perform either one or a few pull-ups. I then reverse the process by climbing
down the ropes (under control, with one arm at a time). As soon as I am seated again, I
immediately continue with another climb.
Each climbing sequence is relatively short. Yet, despite the short distance, it does not
take many trips up and down for this exercise to become quite challenging. Difficulty
will also increase if you perform pull-ups from the top of the ropes, as opposed to using
the bar. Between climbing and performing pull-ups at the top, you have a tremendous
upper body pulling exercise with particular attention directed towards the lower arms.
If climbing two ropes is initially too challenging, you can also perform this exercise
from a single rope. With a single rope, the legs can provide assistance. Even without the
legs however, climbing two ropes is more challenging than climbing a single rope.
Therefore, I suggest using two ropes when climbing minimal distance. Due to the
shorter length, it is useful to make the brief climb as challenging as possible.
As for carry over to outdoor climbing, I have found the shorter indoor climbs to be
quite useful. I typically climb indoors throughout most of the winter. As soon as the
weather warms, I climb outside to enjoy the scenery and fresh air. A regular dose of
indoor climbing allows me to maintain my outdoor abilities without skipping a beat.
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Rope Suspension Trainer


Ropes can also be used to replicate several exercises that are commonly performed with
a suspension trainer. Rope body rows are a prime example. To perform this horizontal
pulling exercise, start from a position where the body is just inches above the floor.
Only the feet should touch the ground throughout the set. Allowing the upper body to
touch down between reps will minimize the grip challenge.

Although body rows are often considered a beginner exercise, there are variations that
will challenge even advanced athletes. Body rows should not be viewed as an exercise
that you will outgrow or are already beyond simply because you can perform pull-ups.
Pull-ups and body rows are both useful and can often be performed within the same
workout. It is always nice to have quality horizontal and vertical pulling movements
within a routine.
In many ways, body rows are similar to traditional pull-ups in that once you develop
proficiency with the basics, you should progress towards more challenging options. For
instance, once an athlete is comfortable performing multiple pull-ups, he will often add
weight or begin working towards more difficult variations (ex. one arm chin-ups). In
other words, you dont leave pull-ups behind simply because you can perform pull-ups.
The same logic can be applied to body rows. Once you are comfortable performing
multiple reps with the feet grounded, you can begin working with more difficult
variations. Even the simple addition of a weighted vest can turn a body row into a
challenging strength exercise.

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Elevating the feet from a bar or bench will also increase the challenge of the body row.
Add a weighted vest as well and you have an extremely challenging movement. Few
athletes will perform ten reps with the feet elevated while wearing a 50 pound vest.

If you do not have ropes but would like to perform this exercise, you can hang towels
from a suspension trainer. Simply loop a large towel through each handle and you have
a new grip challenge at your disposal. It is always nice to have exercises that target
multiple objectives. This variation provides horizontal pulling with secondary grip
benefits.

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A single arm body row can also be performed with a rope or towel attachment. Hand
strength will be challenged considerably when performing multiple reps without
allowing the body to touch the ground.

A thick towel makes this exercise incredibly difficult. I believe it is more challenging
than a rope. The hands must maintain extreme tension throughout each rep to avoid
slipping down the towel.

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Ropes can also be used for one of my favorite tricep exercises. Using ropes for the
bodyweight tricep extension makes an already difficult exercise even more challenging.
The difficulty of this movement is impossible to comprehend without trying it yourself.
Fortunately, if it is too difficult, you can adjust your starting position on the rope to
make it more manageable. Starting from a higher position will decrease the difficulty.
As strength increases, you can gradually progress towards a lower starting position.
The eventual goal should be to start this exercise with the elbows just above the ground.
If you have never performed this exercise before, you can expect considerable soreness
throughout the triceps. An added benefit is that the hands will also be targeted when
using ropes to perform this movement.

Rope and Towel Hangs


When considering exercises such as rope pull-ups, body rows, and tricep extensions, we
have strength movements that provide secondary lower arm benefits. For example,
when performing a rope pull-up, the hands are challenged, but you are still performing
a pull-up. The exercise is not focused exclusively on lower arm development. With or
without the grip challenge, you have still performed a pull-up.

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Ropes and towels can also be used to target the lower arms directly. Hanging from
either with a single hand is a classic example. Your ability to hang from a towel or rope
will depend almost exclusively on lower arm strength. If the hands are not strong
enough, you will not be able to hold on. Many otherwise strong athletes will struggle to
hold on for even a few seconds. Holding yourself for 20 seconds or more will typically
require a considerable amount of training (particularly for larger athletes).

Athicktoweland1.5inchmanilaropearesimilarintermsofdifficulty.

Certain observers may see a one arm hang and wonder if it is all for show or if there are
actual benefits that will prove useful to athletes. Fortunately, I believe one arm hangs of
all varieties can be quite beneficial. There is no denying the grip challenge. It is also nice
to have exercises that challenge the grip without loading the spine. For example,
compare a one arm hang to a heavy farmers walk. Both challenge your ability to hold
on, yet the load distributed to the rest of the body is entirely different.
I am obviously a fan of hangs and farmers walks, but it is always useful to have
multiple options. For instance, if I am focused heavily on my deadlift, I may not wish to
add a heavy farmers walk to my schedule. Shifting gears to one arm hangs instead may
provide my low back with some much needed rest. It is also useful to have challenging
grip exercises that can be performed almost anywhere. If you can find somewhere to
hang a towel, you have instantly created a challenging grip station. And if you dont
have a towel, just grab the bar directly with your hand. Whether you hang from a bar,
rope, or towel, the lower arms will be challenged considerably.
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As for instructions, hanging from one arm is a relatively straightforward exercise. You
can either hold on or you cant. I would simply advise you to maintain some tension
throughout the active shoulder and lats. Be aware however that a one arm hang is an
advanced movement. This is not the type of exercise that a beginner should even think
of performing. It is important that you first develop strength and competency with two
arm towel or rope exercises.
When considering progressions for one
arm hangs, there are several approaches.
Many athletes begin with two arm hangs.
One example would be to hold yourself
from two ropes or towels. As your ability
improves, you can eventually add weight
via a weighted vest.
Many athletes also follow progressions that
are similar to those used for one arm chinups. For example, one hand will grab the
towel or rope, while the other provides
assistance by just barely touching the bar.
As strength increases, you become less
dependent on the other hands assistance.
Personally, I used very little static work to initially develop my one arm hanging ability.
Instead, I worked with several dynamic movements that drastically improved my static
strength. A few examples include weighted rope pull-ups, weighted rope climbs, and
one arm body rows. Each of these exercises will naturally strengthen the hands. As
strength improves, your ability to grip a towel or rope will also improve.
As I look back to my early training, the bulk of my static work was actually performed
with two hands. I have written training logs from almost ten years ago detailing how I
would perform weighted rope pull-ups and then finish each set with a weighted rope
hang for time. On other days, I would climb rope outdoors (often with a weighted vest).
Clearly, these exercises are not the typical progressions used to achieve one arm hangs,
but I believe it is worth noting the potential that exists with dynamic rope and towel
exercises. Such training proved instrumental for me to eventually achieve these
challenging feats of one arm hanging strength.
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Weightedpullupsandropeclimbsfrom2006

In summary, as much as I enjoy one arm hangs, I encourage you to avoid focusing all of
your attention to static work. As stated previously, the grip demands of an athlete are
dynamic. So while static holds can be valuable, dont let their value blind you to the
significance of dynamic work as well.

Towels, Ropes, and Weights


Towels and ropes are often viewed solely as supplements to bodyweight movements.
The reality however is that towels and ropes can also be used to enhance several free
weight exercises. You do not need to be a bodyweight enthusiast to include towel or
rope training as a means to enhance lower arm strength.
In fact, one of my favorite rope exercises
involves pulling a weighted sled. Sled pulls
are ideal as you can perform this exercise in
almost any weather. The upper body
demands are similar to rope climbing minus
the risk of falling. Therefore, this exercise
could be particularly useful for those who
have nowhere to climb.
To perform sled pulls, I attach a rope to a
metal sled (the type of sled that kids use in
the snow). Such sleds usually have rope
handles included so it is not difficult to
attach a pulling rope to the handle.
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Another benefit to sled pulling is that it is easy to work with ropes of different sizes.
The rope on page 62 is much thinner than the manila rope seen below. It takes but a
matter of seconds to change ropes. It is much less convenient to change climbing ropes
that are knotted 25 feet overhead.

As for workout options with a sled, I often pull the sled in one direction and then
perform a backwards drag to return the sled to the starting position. It does not take
many trips through this sequence to experience fatigue throughout the upper and lower
body. It truly serves as a full body conditioner or finisher with particular attention to
the lower arms.
If you live in an area where snow sleds are not sold, a similar device could be made
with a small tire. You can find several tutorials online that show how to create a tire
dragging sled. The only downside to the tire sled is that it will not work as well on
grass. If you drag a heavy tire across your lawn, it is all but guaranteed that your grass
will pay the ultimate sacrifice.
The metal snow sled* is much smoother on the bottom so it can be safely dragged on the
grass without damaging the lawn. I have worked with the same snow sled for many
years and it still works as good as new. It flattens out the grass when used but never to
the extent that the lawn is damaged. If you opt to create a tire sled, I suggest using it on
a paved surface such as a large parking lot.

*

Relatedtutorial:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=76i8yZV0tyU

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Towel Lifts
Continuing with the dynamic theme,
another tremendous lower arm exercise
involves performing one arm swings
while gripping a towel. A towel swing can
be performed with a kettlebell or Thandle. Simply loop the towel through the
kettlebell handle or around the T-handle
as demonstrated.
For this particular exercise, a smaller towel
will be used than what was demonstrated
from the pull-up bar. When performing
towel swings, the towel cannot be too long
or there will not be enough clearance at
the bottom of the swing.
Whether using a kettlebell or T-handle, the working hand will need to squeeze
incredibly hard to maintain control of the weight as it swings upward and away. In
terms of developing grip strength throughout a vast range of motion, swings are tough
to beat. This exercise is deceivingly difficult even with moderate loads. As with the
previously demonstrated swing variations, towel swings are an ideal warm-up before
swinging heavier loads with a traditional grip.

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More controlled lifts can also be performed with towels. Hammer curls and rows are
two examples. Both will blast the lower arms.

A farmers walk can also be performed. Although kettlebells are more convenient to
grip with towels, dumbbells can be used as well. Once you get a feel for the balance that
is required, it is not difficult to maintain throughout each walk. As for usefulness, these
exercises are actually similar to the bodyweight movements seen earlier in the chapter.
As with those previous examples, these are dynamic strength movements that
undoubtedly target the lower arms. It is even feasible to use these exercises when
progressing towards static holds from a towel or rope. The strength developed with
these exercises will certainly carry over to those static holds.

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Thick rope can also be used for certain lifts. For example, curling a heavy kettlebell with
a 2 inch thick rope proves to be quite challenging for the hands and forearms. Even
those from the anti-isolation crowd will likely find themselves enjoying this variation.
As with many of the towel and rope exercises, thick rope curls are deceivingly difficult.

T-Bar Rope Rows


Ropes can also be used for one of my
favorite rowing exercises. A T-bar row can
be performed with an Olympic barbell using
a short piece of rope as the handle.
You do not need a landmine to perform this
exercise. Simply secure one end of the
barbell with a heavy dumbbell against a
wall or corner. As seen to the right, I also
add a piece of foam insulation to prevent
damage to the concrete wall.
Do not perform this exercise without firmly
securing the non-lifted end. With heavy
loads, the barbell can literally fly up the wall
if it is not secured. I have seen it happen and
it can be dangerous.
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When performing the T-bar row with rope, I am not concerned about ultra-strict form.
In some ways, I perform the exercise similar to a Kroc row. My goal is to load as much
weight as my hands can handle.

Roperowswith1.5inchmanilarope

As a result, this exercise certainly targets the back similarly to a stricter T-bar row, but
with much greater attention directed towards the lower arms. Based on the overall load
that is used, this variation ranks among my favorite rope exercises. And fortunately, all
that you will need is a few feet of rope. Therefore, if you had nowhere to climb, you
could still realize significant lower arm benefits by adding this exercise to your strength
training regimen.
As for towels vs. ropes, I prefer ropes for
this particular exercise. The towels that I
own begin to tear if I surpass five 45 pound
plates. Manila rope is stronger so can
handle much more weight. I will never
outgrow the capacity of the ropes.
It is also nice to have different sized ropes
available. Even an extra half inch can make
a considerable difference. It is much more
challenging to perform rope rows with a 2
inch rope compared to a 1.5 inch rope. As a
result, I typically integrate multiple sizes
within a workout. The added variety
promotes all-around development.
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Summary
In summary, there is no denying the versatility and effectiveness of towels and ropes
for lower arm development. Whether you prefer lifting weights, bodyweight exercise,
or a combination of both, the addition of a towel or rope is a no-brainer. In terms of
effectiveness, convenience, and cost, towels and ropes will contend with almost any
lower arm tool.
And while many of the variations from this chapter are difficult to perform, dont let the
challenge discourage you. Many athletes begin training with towels and ropes with
great ambition, yet soon after put these tools aside to collect dust. The reason for the
neglect is simple. It has nothing to do with lack of effectiveness. Instead, the neglect is
based almost entirely on difficulty. Exercises that are challenging will never be overly
popular with the masses. The easy path is the road most often traveled.
Unfortunately, the easy path does not lead anywhere. It is like traveling in a circle. You
keep moving, but you never get anywhere. If you ever wish to develop true strength, it
is inevitable that you will need to become comfortable with the uncomfortable. This
realization is particularly true when discussing lower arm development. Many towel
and rope exercises wont feel very good on your hands initially. Developing strength
and competency with these simple implements is not easy. It takes time. Your patience
will be rewarded however as long as you remain consistent and diligent.
I have worked with towels and ropes for many years and I rank them among my
favorite lower arm developers. The benefits that I have received from these simple tools
are as meaningful as those derived from any other tool I own. And in case you didnt
know, I own a lot of equipment. Ropes and towels hold their own against any of my
commercial and homemade tools.

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PINCH GRIP
Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already
mastered, you will never grow. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Earlier, I demonstrated how odd objects such as stones and concrete blocks can be used
to enhance pinch grip strength. Those exercises only scratched the surface of the pinch
grip possibilities that exist however. There are literally countless exercise options for
pinch grip training. And fortunately, despite the numerous options that exist, none
require expensive equipment. As you will see, pinch grip training is affordable to
anyone interested in developing this often overlooked objective.
As for significance, pinch grip is perhaps the most important grip to target with direct
attention. The significance of the thumbs cannot be overstated. Only so much hand
strength can be developed if the thumbs are neglected. Luckily, since the thumbs often
receive such little attention, it does not take much direct work to notice improvements.
Yet, while small additions can lead to improvements, pinch grip must be targeted
directly. Unlike other grips, pinch grip is not developed through conventional strength
training. For instance, earlier we saw how support grip can be developed with deadlifts
and rows. These movements will not develop pinch grip. The forceps motion of your
pinch grip is ignored when grasping a bar. Therefore, direct work is required to develop
this important aspect of lower arm strength.
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Door Pinch
My introduction to pinch grip training came many years ago after reading Edward
Astons grip training book. One of the exercises that caught my eye required nothing
but an open door. The instructions were simple. Grab the door at approximately waist
height and sit back with your weight on your heels. As you lean away from the door, it
becomes more difficult to hold on.
Based on the shape of a door, pinch grip is directly targeted with this exercise. The
thumb must work extremely hard to prevent slipping from the door. When I first
attempted this exercise, I was amazed at the difficulty.
It was also nice to have a challenging exercise that could be performed almost
anywhere. I began practicing this hold each morning while brushing my teeth. I would
grab on with one hand and brush with the other, switching once or twice. The entire
time that I spent with the exercise totaled no more than a minute or two each day.
Within a few weeks, my pinch grip had improved considerably. Now, several years
later, I still find this exercise useful. It is one that I will never outgrow. Whether you are
a beginner or advanced, all that it takes is a simple adjustment to alter the difficulty of
the exercise. As you lean away from the door, it naturally becomes more difficult.
Certain doors are also more challenging based on the material and finish. The smoother
the door, the more difficult it is to hold.

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When training pinch grip, you will quickly find that your pinch is strongest at a certain
width. It is therefore useful to train pinch grip with more than one tool. I prefer to train
at least a few widths to develop all-around strength. One way to apply this idea to the
door is by pinching a small book or block with the door. Below you can see how I have
a 2x4 inch piece of wood that I pinch on both the thumb and finger side. Pinching the
block with the thumb is more difficult as the thumb must fend for itself to keep the
block in place as you also struggle to hold on.

In addition to leaning farther away from


the door, difficulty can also be increased
by holding a weight in the non-working
hand. Weight can be added to each of the
door pinch variations.
You will not need a significant load for a
noticeable increase in difficulty.

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A sturdy door can also be used to perform a bodyweight pinch grip row. Simply grip
the door, lean back under control, and pull yourself to the start position. As with the
previous examples, difficulty can be adjusted by leaning more of your weight away
from the door. For instance, by starting with the feet close to the door, you are forced to
hold more of your bodyweight as you lean back.
If the foot position seen below is too difficult, take a step or two away from the door
and start the exercise from there. As you move the feet away from the door, you will
naturally hold less of your weight when performing this exercise. With a little practice,
you will quickly see how even the slightest adjustment in weight distribution can make
these exercises either elementary or extremely challenging.

Resistance Bands
One of the reasons I enjoy pinch grip rows from a door is the dynamic element that the
exercise presents. When rowing your bodyweight towards the door, you are not simply
holding a static position. The dynamic element that the pull introduces provides an
entirely new challenge. It is easier to pinch and hold an object statically as opposed to
pinching and pulling simultaneously. Fortunately, we are not limited to door rows
when considering low-tech pinch grip options. Resistance bands offer yet another
unique challenge for pinch grip training.
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When training pinch grip with resistance


bands, I use one of three attachments. Each
is inexpensive and easy to make. To the
right, you can see a 2x4 inch piece of wood,
a hockey puck, and a 4x4 inch piece of
wood. The wood pieces are between 6 and
7 inches in length.
Each of the three attachments has an eyehook screwed into it. Carabiner spring-links
then attach to the eye-hook to connect each
piece to the resistance bands.
The hockey puck attachment is the easiest
to make. Hockey pucks can be purchased at
a sporting goods store for a few dollars. All
that you need is a small eye-hook which
can be manually screwed into the puck.
There is no need to pre-drill the hole or use
any machinery.
Training with this hub-style device offers
an entirely unique pinch grip challenge.
Many athletes who have developed pinch
grip strength with blocks are shocked at the
difficulty of the hub.
Hub-style training originates from an old
strength feat where athletes would pinch
the center (hub) of a 45 pound plate and lift
it while the plate remained horizontal to
the ground.
The York Barbell Company used to manufacture plates with a prominent hub. Hub
lifting originated from these early plates. Unfortunately, many plates today are flat and
have no hub to grip. Others have a very shallow hub which makes lifting them
incredibly difficult. A novice to grip training will not possess nearly enough strength to
lift one of these 45 pound plates by its hub. Training with a hub attachment allows one
to progress gradually. And as you will see later, resistance bands are just one option to
train your hub-style pinch grip.

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The wooden attachments are inexpensive like the hockey puck but will require a few
extra steps. Once you have cut the wooden pieces to approximately 7 inches in length,
you will need to pre-drill a hole for the eye-hook. If you do not pre-drill the hole, there
is a greater chance that the wood will split when screwing in the eye-hook. This is
particularly true when screwing into a thinner piece of wood (ex. 2x4 inch strips).
After the hole has been drilled, begin screwing the eye-hook with just your hand.
Continue with your hand until the eye-hook becomes difficult to turn. You can then
slide a wrench through the end and continue turning until the threaded portion is no
longer visible.

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Once you have created the attachments,


you can use them with almost any
resistance band. I typically use bands with
handles. I find them more convenient to
quickly attach to the spring-links.
When using bands for pinch grip, I prefer
for the bands to be securely attached to a
wall. To attach the bands, I first secure the
ends to a quick-link connector. The quicklink then attaches to an eye-hook that has
been screwed through a stud in the wall.

Thebandsareattachedsecurelytothewall

Enclosed loop bands can also be used. To


the right, you can see how I have attached
a 72 inch pallet band by slip-knotting it
around a piece of smooth rope. The pallet
band is 1 inches wide so it fits perfectly
to the spring-clip.
To secure the rope to the wall, I simply
run it through three eye-hooks which are
screwed into studs. I use rope with the
bands as it is non-abrasive. Attaching the
bands to the rope does not degrade them.
Although this set-up may appear crude, it
has served me well for several years. It is
used daily and has never failed.

Thissetupmaynotscoreanystylepoints,butitremainseffective

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Band Rows
Resistance band rows can be performed with each of the pinch grip attachments. As
you pull away from the wall, the grip challenge increases.

If you are new to pinch grip training, consider spotting yourself by placing the nonworking hand in front of the grip attachment. Below, you can see how my right hand
provides a spot. If my grip fails, my right hand will catch the wooden block so it does
not fly back against the wall.

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A 4x4 inch wooden block and an inexpensive pallet band provide a quality pinch grip
challenge.

Two 2x4 inch attachments can also be


used together. Notice the close-up
picture to the right. I am pinching two
2x4 inch pieces together. Each has its
own band attached to it.
Therefore, not only is it more difficult
to pull both bands at once, I am also
forced to pinch the two blocks together
while pulling. This variation is clearly
much more difficult.
It is also useful if you do not have a
thicker block to use. By doubling up
the 2x4s, I have essentially created a
4x4 inch attachment.

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Two arm rows can also be performed by more experienced athletes. I would not suggest
this variation to beginners as by using both hands, you lose the ability to spot yourself.
If your grip fails, the attachments could go flying.

I enjoy performing rows with a different grip attachment in each hand. I find the mental
challenge to be more significant, as I cannot focus on a single hand position. Instead,
each hand must fend for itself with a unique challenge. If you opt for this approach, be
sure to work each hand evenly.


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Static Holds
As much as I enjoy pinch grip rows, I also consider resistance bands to be particularly
effective for static holds. With a band, it is possible to achieve almost an exact level of
resistance. For instance, when using a strong band (two if necessary), there will always
be a point where you cannot pull the band (or bands) any farther without losing
control. Even an extra inch will cause your grip to fail. Statically holding a pinch grip
attachment just before this failing point is an example of training your maximal pinch
grip strength.
The significance of this quality is that you can train pinch grip to your precise needs and
ability. Many traditional forms of pinch grip training do not allow for such incremental
steps. For example, suppose you can comfortably pinch two 25 pound plates together.
Despite your proficiency with 25 pound plates, you may still struggle to pinch 35 pound
plates. There is a huge difference between pinching two 25 pound plates and two 35
pound plates.
Training with bands can be a useful progression as regardless of your strength, you can
find and then target your maximal pinch grip ability.

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Sled Training
Earlier, I demonstrated how sled pulls could
be performed with a rope attachment.
Fortunately, the same inexpensive sled can
be used to train pinch grip. All that you will
need are a few pieces of chain and four
carabiner spring-links (circled in the image).
To the right, you can see how I have a three
foot piece of chain attached to the rope
handle of the sled with a spring-link. At the
other end of the chain, there is another
spring-link that attaches to the center of a
shorter two foot piece of chain.
Each end of that two foot piece connects to a
pinch grip attachment. Any pinch grip
attachment can be used with the sled.
Conventional weights can be loaded on the
sled or you can use odd objects such as
stones. I opt for the latter as the stones can
also be used for a variety of additional
exercises (as demonstrated previously).

Backwards Drag
Once the stones are loaded within the sled, I
grab the pinch grip handles and drag the sled
backwards. Heavy loads can be pulled short
distances to enhance strength or lighter loads
can be pulled longer distances to develop
endurance.
With either, I prefer dragging the sled on a
trail that includes several turns and inclines.
The varied terrain provides a superior
challenge when compared to pulling the sled
in a straight line.

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Rows
Sled rows can also be performed with any of the pinch grip attachments. With the feet
planted, you will row the sled towards you. Once you have pulled the sled as far as you
can, step back and continue with another row.

The physical demands of the sled row are similar to the resistance band row. One
advantage of the sled however is that if your grip fails, the handles simply fall to the
ground. There is no risk of the bands snapping the handles back towards the wall.
Therefore, the sled is certainly a safer option.

Free Weights
While there are certainly low-tech (ex. stone) and homemade (ex. hockey puck) options
for pinch grip training, many of the more popular exercises involve free weights. For
example, it is common to pinch and lift multiple weight plates together. A common
starting point would be to pinch two or three 10 pound plates. You could then progress
to pinching four 10s or perhaps two 25 pound plates. The next step would be two 35s
and finally two 45s which is a feat reserved for only the strongest grip specialists.
There is no doubt that pinching heavy plates is as true a test of pinch grip strength as
any. Not all plates are constructed in a way that allows for convenient pinch grip
training however. Plates that are to be pinched need a flat surface. When pinching two
plates, the flat surface should be facing outside (where the fingers and thumb grasp).
There must not be any indented or protruding edges to assist.
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Unfortunately, smooth sided plates are not


nearly as common as they were many
years ago. More and more plates are being
created with easy-grip handles.
To the right, you can see three different
pairs of 25 pound plates that I have in the
gym. None of these plates are useful for
pinch grip training. The easy-grip handles
and protruding edges on each side make
them much easier to lift with a pinch grip.
These plates were affordable however. I
have owned them for many years and did
not want to purchase another weight set
solely for the purpose of pinch grip
training. As a result, I had to become
creative with homemade pinch grip tools.

Screw-On Attachments
When I began serious pinch grip training,
the only smooth sided plates that I owned
were 10 pounds each. Once I was able to
comfortably hold four 10 pound plates, I
needed a way to progress beyond them. I
eventually created an attachment that was
almost identical to the width of the four
plates.
I took a 4x4 inch piece of wood and
screwed a floor flange into the bottom.
The floor flange screws into the top of the
T-handle that was seen earlier.

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The T-handle serves primarily for swings,


but it also doubles as a grip training tool. It
works almost identically to a loading pin.
The difference is that the pipe connections
screw together. Pipe nipples are threaded
on each end.
To create a T-handle, all that you will need
are a few plumbing supplies.
a)
b)
c)
d)

One x 12 pipe nipple


One floor flange
Two x 3 pipe nipples (handles)
One pipe tee fitting

c.

d.
a.

b.

To convert the T-handle into a grip tool,


simply unscrew the pipe tee fitting from the
top and replace it with one of several
possible grip attachments.
To the right, you can see how I have
attached the 4x4 inch block to the T-handle.
The 12 inch pipe nipple from the T-handle
attaches directly into the floor flange that
has been screwed into the 4x4.
With this simple attachment, I can now
train pinch grip with the same width of the
four 10 pound plates but with additional
weight.
And while it is certainly different to pinch a single block as opposed to multiple plates,
there is undoubtedly a point where the extra weight becomes more challenging than the
plates. For example, pinching four 10 pound plates may be more difficult than pinching
a 4x4 inch block with 40 pounds attached, but once I move to 50 pounds and beyond,
the added weight becomes more challenging. As a result, I have a convenient and
inexpensive way to progress with weighted pinch grip training.
I can also make small adjustments in weight. I am not limited to adding another plate of
the same size. Instead, I can load a precise amount without changing the width of the
pinch block.

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The ability to make small increases in


weight may not seem significant, but even
a few pounds can make a considerable
difference when training pinch grip.
If you are limited to pinching plates, you
can only progress by adding another plate.
With the T-handle, I can add small plates
or single pound wrist weights.
Even though a single pound may seem
pointless, I have performed many grip
exercises where one extra pound caused
me to fail. The ability to progress in small
steps has proved extremely vital to my
lower arm development over the years.

Pinch Swings
My favorite grip exercise with the T-handle is a pinch grip swing. I created a 2x4 inch
attachment specifically for this movement. As you can see below, all that you will need
is a floor flange and two screws. This exercise is extremely difficult. Your pinch grip
will be challenged considerably as the weight swings away from the body. Dont expect
to swing much weight if this variation is new to you. Fortunately, the lighter weight
makes this an ideal warm-up before progressing to heavier (traditional) swings.

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The 2x4 inch attachment can also be used for single or double hand lifts. I enjoy lifting
with the wooden attachments as I find that the smooth finish makes them more difficult
than lifting plates of the same thickness.

Some may see the wooden T-handle attachment


and wonder why not use the attachments seen
earlier. All that you would need is a piece of
chain and a spring-link.
Yet, while the two attachments may appear
similar, there are considerable differences. For
example, when using chain to attach weight to a
wooden handle, it is much less convenient to
make small increases. The chain that I own will
not fit through smaller non-Olympic plates.
The weight itself is also not as steady. A weight
that swings from chain is much different from a
weight that is secured to a T-handle. The Thandle creates a much more stable connection.
Thisattachmentisidealforfarmer'swalks

Consequently, I only use the chain attachments with weight when performing farmers
walks. With a pinch grip farmers walk, I am not using a heavy load, so I am not as
concerned about the swaying chains. If however I am attempting a maximal pinch grip
lift (or swings), I want the weight to remain stationary, rather than swaying underneath
me.
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Hub Lifts
Hub lifts can also be performed with the T-handle attachment. All that you will need is
a hockey puck and a floor flange. A screwdriver is all that is necessary to screw into the
puck. You do not need a power drill.
Hub lifts will develop a unique type of finger and thumb strength. It is quite possible to
develop strength with more traditional pinch lifts yet struggle with the hub. And once
again, the T-handle attachment will allow you to add a precise load based on your
ability.

T-Handle Sizing
In the pictures above, you will notice that I am using an Olympic sized plate with the Thandle. On the left side picture, you can see the gap between the inch pipe and the 2
inch plate. Fortunately, the space between the plate and pipe nipple poses no problem
for short range lifts.
With that said, I typically do not use Olympic sized plates with the T-handle. I have
adequate weight available with 1 inch standard plates. If you only own Olympic sized
plates however, you may wish to construct your T-handle with 1.5 inch diameter pipe.
The 1.5 inch pipe is a better fit for Olympic plates if you wish to perform more dynamic
lifts such as swings.

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Pinching Plates
For those who do not wish to build any grip training tools, pinching plates is still a
viable option (assuming you have smooth sided plates). Pinching two 25 pound plates
in one hand is usually beyond the ability of most grip training novices. Yet, with regular
training, it should not take too long to achieve. Progressing beyond two 25 pound plates
may require a homemade tool however. Fortunately, no construction is required.
As for necessity, once you can pinch two 25 pound plates, the next plate size is 35
pounds. Not only is it much more difficult to pinch two 35 pound plates, not everyone
has 35s available. For example, despite owning well over a thousand pounds in free
weights, I do not own any 35 pound plates. Many home gym owners will find
themselves in a similar predicament. Perhaps you can pinch two 25s but pinching two
45s in one hand is beyond your ability. Only a competitive grip athlete will be able to
pinch two 45s in one hand.
How then will you progress beyond pinching two 25s in one hand? Jumping from two
25s to two 35s or 45s is a huge step.

PVC Pipe Modification


If you are struggling to progress beyond your pinching ability with 25, 35, or 45 pound
plates, a simple piece of PVC pipe can be a valuable addition. All that you will need is a
1.5 inch piece of PVC to progressively increase the load without altering the width of
the implement. Most hardware stores will sell three foot lengths of 1.5 inch PVC. It will
only cost a few dollars. You will not even need to cut the pipe. The three foot length is
ideal as is.
Using myself as an example, I am unable
to pinch two 45s in one hand. Only a grip
specialist will progress to such a feat.
Therefore, two 25s in one hand is not
enough, but two 45s in one hand is too
much. Yet if I use two hands, the two 45s
are not heavy enough.
Fortunately, the PVC allows me to find
some middle ground. I can add weight to
the PVC and pinch progressively heavier
loads without altering the width of the
implement.

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As you can see, the PVC allows me to


make much smaller increases in weight. I
could even add the small wrist weights
seen earlier. I am no longer limited to
jumping from one large plate to another.
Precise loads can be added based on
individual ability. For a few dollars, the
PVC pipe truly becomes a valuable grip
training addition.

Thin Pinch
As mentioned previously, it is useful to train pinch grip with various widths. Everyone
will have a sweet spot where they are strongest. Even slight increases or decreases from
that spot will make pinching significant loads much more challenging.
Although various options exist for thin pinch training, I find standard 1 inch 25 pound
plates to be quite useful. I rarely see them sold, but I was fortunate to come across a
used pair at a yard sale. Pinching the thinner 25s is more challenging for me than
pinching two Olympic sized 25s.


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It becomes even more difficult for me when pinching the width of a single plate.
Fortunately, pipe can also be used to allow for smaller increases in weight with single
hand lifts. I can add weight to the pipe without altering the width of the object. If you
wish to do the same, all that you will need is an 18 inch piece of iron pipe.
Below you can see how I center the thin 25 pound plate and add weight to each side. I
keep the smaller plates in place by securing them with inexpensive hose clamps. The
hose clamps cost less than a dollar each. You will need four (two on each side) to create
the device below. With this device, I can target my weakness (thin pinch) with precise
loads.


Wooden Width Modifications


As you look through the pinch grip implements presented thus far, it should be clear
that no single athlete will need to create or use each of these tools. I have presented
numerous examples not in hopes that you will work with each tool, but instead to
provide options to as many readers as possible. Regardless of what is available to you
in terms of equipment, it should be feasible for you to train pinch grip at various
widths.
I realize however that there will be readers who do not wish to build anything or
purchase additional weights. For example, you may not own any smooth sided plates. I
do not expect you to go out and purchase a new weight set to train pinch grip. You also
may not have the tools necessary to drill a hole and screw an eye-bolt into a wooden
block. You also may not have access to stones or cement blocks that can be pinched.
Fortunately, there is still hope for you without any construction.
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Scrap wood can often be found or purchased inexpensively at hardware stores such as
Home Depot. Below you can see three examples of scrap wood in various widths. I
have a 4x4 inch piece, a 2x4 inch piece, and a inch piece. With these three scrap
pieces, I can train pinch grip at several widths. I can pinch one of the pieces by itself or
even combine multiple pieces to create unique widths. For example, I can pinch the 2x4
and the inch piece together for a 2.5 inch pinch. To add weight, you will simply need
a piece of chain and a spring-link.
As a result, the easy-grip plates discussed earlier (which cannot be pinched) suddenly
become useful as they are easier to attach to the chain.

Block Weights
One limitation of the scrap wood pieces is that they do not allow for many dynamic
pinch grip exercises. Instead, they are used primarily for limited range lifts (as seen
above). With that in mind, perhaps the polar opposite to a piece of scrap wood is an
iron block weight. Block weights allow for countless dynamic pinch grip exercises. You
can lift, carry, and throw block weights without any risk of damaging the block. They
are virtually indestructible.
As for the specifics, a block weight is nothing but the sawed off end of a solid dumbbell.
Perhaps the most popular block weight is that of a blob. Blob lifts are commonly
performed by competitive grip athletes. The term blob is used to describe the end of a
100 pound York dumbbell. York dumbbells have sloped sides which makes them
different from the more commonly seen hexagonal dumbbells. The blob therefore is
essentially a 50 pound cylindrical weight (i.e. one half of a 100 pound dumbbell).
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Unfortunately, due to the increased popularity in recent years, blobs have become quite
expensive to purchase. It is difficult to justify such a pricey investment to a non-grip
athlete. And it is for that reason that I have yet to acquire a true blob. What I have done
instead is created block weights from some older hexagonal dumbbells that I was no
longer using. The shape of the hex block is naturally different from a true blob but still
presents a tremendous grip challenge.
As for creating the block weight, all that you will need is a hacksaw and time. Just be
sure to start your cut as close to the end of the handle as possible to ensure a non-jagged
edge. Once you have finished the cut, file down any burrs that may be sticking out. You
will then have a tremendous tool to develop pinch grip from a wide, open-handed
position. As you can see below, certain blocks are rather wide which makes them quite
challenging to lift. The thumb, fingers, and wrist will need to work hard to lift any
considerable block.

Cut or Lift
If you are anything like me, your first thought upon seeing a block weight is why
would anyone ruin a perfectly good dumbbell. Those were my exact thoughts when I
first saw block weights being used. It was difficult for me to justify hacking one of my
weights in half as I spend so much time training with dumbbells. Yet, as I continued to
see so many grip athletes using block weights, I knew they had to be good. It was not
by accident that grip specialists from around the world had flocked to blobs and block
weights. The payoff had to be high.
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I still was not ready to hack apart a new dumbbell, but I was willing to sacrifice some of
my older weights that were not receiving as much use. In the time since, I have sawed
apart several dumbbells. It did not take long for me to appreciate why so many grip
specialists have turned to blocks and blobs. The open-handed pinch grip challenge is
both unique and beneficial.
As for whether you should start sawing dumbbells in half, I would start by considering
individual needs. Dumbbells are an extremely versatile strength training tool. There is
so much that can be accomplished with a simple dumbbell. The decision to cut or lift
the dumbbell as is depends on the interests and goals of the individual. For example, if
you are a novice to lower arm training, there are certainly other challenges available to
you without ever using a block weight. It is also worth noting that open-handed pinch
grip can be developed with other low-tech tools such as heavy stones (assuming you
have access to such stones).
Perhaps the ideal scenario would be to acquire older dumbbells that are being
discarded or inexpensively sold. Below you can see over 800 pounds in dumbbells that I
freely acquired. These weights had been put out to the garbage so I gladly added them
to our gyms collection.

I have also acquired used dumbbells from local yard sales. One mans junk is another
mans treasure. And while I am not suggesting that you scour the junkyard in search of
block weights, you may wish to occasionally stop at a local yard sale or browse websites
such as Craigslist to see if used weights are being disposed of in your area. It certainly
makes the decision to cut a dumbbell much easier when it has been acquired for a
minimal price.
As for an ideal starting weight, it depends on your previous grip training experience. I
have seen otherwise strong athletes struggle with a 25 pound block (half of a 50 pound
dumbbell), just as I have seen others lift 25 pound blocks on their first attempt with
ease. Unfortunately, there are no formulas to calculate the ideal starting weight. There
will always be a chance that your block will be too heavy or light to lift. And it is that
uncertainty which leaves many athletes reluctant to cut a dumbbell in half. The last
thing anyone wants to do is waste a dumbbell creating a block weight that will not be
used.
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Starting Out
Fortunately, if your new block is too heavy or light to lift, there are still exercises and
modifications that can be made. As for ballpark estimates, a 25 pound block should
provide an adequate challenge for most grip training novices. Those with prior lower
arm training will probably wish to start with half of a 60 to 70 pound dumbbell.
Once you have created the block weight, the first exercise to attempt is to simply
deadlift it from the floor with one hand.

This single hand lift is not only an excellent exercise, but it will also provide immediate
feedback as to whether your new block is too heavy or light. Naturally, if you cannot
move the weight, it is too heavy. A block weight that is too heavy is not necessarily a
bad thing however. It may be too heavy initially, but it provides a challenge that you
can work towards achieving. There are progressions that can be performed that will
help you to eventually lift the block from the floor.
Conversely, if your new block weight feels too light, dont assume that it will only serve
as a paper weight. It can still be a valuable tool. For instance, lighter blocks can be used
for more dynamic movements. You can also use them for longer duration sets to
challenge strength endurance. You can also change the way that it is lifted. For example,
rather than using your entire hand, try lifting it with one finger and thumb. With a little
creativity, a light block weight can still prove challenging.

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Velcro Additions
It is also possible to modify the block so
additional weight can be attached. To the
right, you can see how I have secured
industrial strength velcro to a few blocks
and plates. With these velcro strips, I can
add 2.5, 5, or 10 pounds to each block.
To secure the velcro strips to the blocks, I
used a high strength epoxy adhesive. The
velcro itself has a sticky backside, but it is
not strong enough to keep it in place
when weight plates are attached. You will
need a strong epoxy product to firmly
secure the velcro.
These velcro attachments allow me to make incremental adjustments in weight.
Therefore, lighter blocks remain useful and I can also progress towards heavier blocks.
For example, suppose you have a 30 and 40 pound block. Perhaps you can lift the 30
pounder but the 40 is beyond your ability. You could attach a 2.5 or 5 pound plate to the
30 pound block to help bridge the gap between them.

When attaching velcro strips, I do so in an X pattern so the two strips are perpendicular
to each other. Doing so minimizes the chance that one strip will rip the other from the
weight when pulling the two apart.
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Band Progression
Resistance bands are also useful in helping one progress towards lifting a block that is
currently beyond your ability. The bands will be used identically to how they would be
used when performing a band-assisted pull-up. Begin by slip-knotting a loop style band
overhead to a pull-up bar.
In the image below, I am demonstrating a 72 inch pallet band that is 1 inches wide.
The extra length of the pallet band makes it quite useful for this progression. Traditional
loop style resistance bands are typically 41 inches long. The shorter length is not as
useful when using the band to assist with an exercise that begins closer to the floor. The
72 inch band is much easier to stretch down to the bench that can be seen below.
As you can see, I wrap the band around the block weight. The band therefore provides
the most assistance towards the bottom of the lift. It is at that point where the tension on
the band is greatest. As you pull the weight from the bench, tension on the band
reduces with each inch that you lift. The higher you lift the block, the less assistance you
receive.
Some experimentation may be required initially to gauge how far your band will stretch
and how much assistance you will need. If necessary, you can use books to elevate the
starting point of the block weight. For example, if your band does not reach the bench,
stack a few books atop the bench and then place the block weight on top of the books.

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Starting From The Bottom


Once you can comfortably lift a block with band assistance, it is time to attempt lifting it
on your own. Starting from the knees will limit range of motion and also limit the
likelihood of dropping the weight on your foot.

Once you can lift the weight from your knees, you can begin working from the standing
position. Reducing range of motion by lifting the block from a bench is a useful
progression if you are unable to lift the block from the floor while standing.

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Eventually, the goal is to lift the heavy block while standing as seen on page 93. Once
you reach that level, you can progress towards lifting two large blocks simultaneously.
Lifting two block weights at once is more challenging as you cannot concentrate solely
on a single hand.

Mental Strength
The difference between lifting one heavy block and two is difficult to comprehend until
you have tried it yourself. With a single block, you can focus every last ounce of energy
and determination towards lifting it. The thumb must work particularly hard during
the block lift. Even a momentary loss of focus could cause the block to come crashing
down. With two heavy blocks, your mind must divvy its attention between two hands.
Each thumb must act independently against an equally significant load. Without
extreme mental strength and focus, you will not complete each lift.
When discussing the significance of the mind and its relevance towards grip strength,
perhaps the best advice comes from the previously mentioned Edward Aston.
In his words,
The greatest factor for the creation of a powerful grip is sheer will power
He goes on to explain that it is impossible to develop better than average strength
throughout the lower arms without the mental force necessary to both create and exert
it. In my opinion, truer words have never been spoken in regards to lower arm strength.
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My experience has shown that the mind is as significant in grip strength as it is in any
other form of strength training. If you are not 100 percent dialed in with full focus and
intensity, you will never scratch the surface of your lower arm strength potential.

Dynamic Block Training


In addition to simply lifting block weights from the floor, there are several dynamic
exercises that can be performed. Bent over rows are one example. This exercise will be
performed identically to the previously seen stone and concrete block rows. Row the
weight without allowing it to touch the ground in between sets.
With any moderate to heavy block, do not expect to perform many reps before your
grip fails.

Some may see block weight rows and wonder if they really need so many bent over row
variations. Does one person really need to perform stone rows, block weight rows, and
concrete block rows?
Unfortunately, there is no single answer to the question. How it is answered today may
differ from how it is answered as the weeks and months pass. For example, I do not
perform rows with all of these tools in a single week. I may focus on block weight rows
for a certain period of time and eventually transition to something else.
The key for me is to have multiple options available for the long haul. I do not want to
perform the same lower arm exercises year after year. I find it beneficial (physically and
mentally) to regularly challenge myself with different tools and exercises.
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Snatches
Earlier, I mentioned that heavy snatches provide secondary benefits to the lower arms.
Support grip will naturally be challenged when snatching any significant dumbbell or
kettlebell. Snatches are not limited to conventional weights however. In the picture
below, you can see how I snatch a block weight from the floor.
From a dynamic pinch grip perspective, this exercise is tough to beat. Without strong
thumbs, the block weight will come crashing down to the floor. Explosively snatching a
block weight is much different from simply lifting it from the floor. If you are not
convinced of the difference, try snatching a heavy block that you can barely lift. You
will quickly notice the added challenge that accompanies more explosive and dynamic
exercises. Not only is the weight moving faster, it also travels throughout a much
greater range of motion. The result is a considerable challenge to open-hand pinch grip.

Fortunately, the difficulty of this exercise makes it easy to include within a routine.
When snatching a block, you will not use anywhere near the load that you snatch with a
conventional weight. Interference from the block weight snatch will therefore be nonexistent. Using myself as an example, I have snatched a 150 pound dumbbell but can
only snatch a fraction of that load with a block weight. Mixing in a few lighter sets of
block weight snatches will not be nearly enough weight to detract from my heavier
dumbbell snatches. I may start with a few sets of block weight snatches and then
proceed to my heavier dumbbell work.
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Clean and Press


Block weights can also be used to perform a clean and press. The block weight clean
and press is similar to the snatch in that you will not lift anywhere near as much weight
as you would with a conventional tool. The naturally lighter load of the block weight
clean and press makes it a useful warm-up before pressing heavier dumbbells or
barbells. Regardless of your lower arm strength, you will be working with a relatively
light load in comparision to what you typically press overhead.
Yet, even though you will be pressing what would be considered a light load, you will
still develop considerable strength throughout the lower arms. And fortunately, the
open-hand pinch grip challenge will have little impact on any subsequent lifts to follow.
For instance, cleaning and pressing a heavy dumbbell may challenge support grip, but
any lower arm fatigue from a few block weight warm-up sets will not be enough to
interfere with your heavier lifts.
As a non-grip competitor, it is always nice to have time efficient ways to squeeze in
some lower arm training without disrupting the rest of your routine. Both snatching
and cleaning and pressing a block weight are two excellent options.

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Release and Catch


Perhaps the greatest dynamic exercise that you can perform with block weights is to
release and catch a block repeatedly from one hand to the other. This exercise is much
more challenging than it appears. Successful execution requires strength and accuracy.
You have a split second to grab a freely moving dead weight. Securing a grip that is
strong enough to prevent it from falling requires tremendous lower arm strength.

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Doubling Up
In addition to the single arm lifts seen earlier, you can also work with two blocks at a
time. Lifting two blocks is naturally more difficult. Below you can see a combination lift
that involves a curl and press.

Alternating curls can also be performed and


are not necessarily easier. When holding two
blocks, even the non-working hand will be
challenged.
For example, when I curl with my right hand
(as pictured), my left hand still maintains a
grip on the block. The hand that appears to
rest by my side is not actually resting. The
fingers and thumb must work hard to hold
the block while waiting their turn to curl.
You will need extremely strong hands to
perform continuous reps of alternating curls
with any moderate block weight. This
exercise will strengthen both the hands and
wrists.

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If you are not convinced at the difficulty of simply holding a block weight, perhaps the
fastest way to become a believer is by grabbing a moderate pair and performing a
farmers walk. It will not take long to appreciate the difficulty. Like concrete blocks,
block weights are a tremendous option for a lighter farmers walk challenge.

Doubling Up Part 2
Doubling up can also be applied to a
single block weight if it is too large to lift
with a single hand. To the right, you can
see a 150 pound dumbbell that broke in
half while being lifted. If it had not
broken on its own, I would have never
cut this weight in half. It was one of my
favorite dumbbells for many years.
Unfortunately, heavy dumbbells will
occasionally break after years of use.
And depending on the size of the
dumbbell, the ends may be too heavy to
lift with a single hand. All is not lost
however. I found out by accident that
these massive block weights are actually
excellent for two hand lifts. Therefore, if

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one of your larger dumbbells breaks by accident, dont make the mistake of throwing it
out.
The end of my 150 pounder is much wider than my other block weights. It is massive. I
can hardly fit my fingers around it. As you can see, I am forced to lift this weight with
my finger tips and thumbs alone. This hand position is entirely unique when compared
to my other blocks.
Performing a few sets of deadlifts with this wider block provides an entirely different
challenge. The total weight is not what creates the challenge, but rather the hand
position that I am forced to use. As mentioned earlier, we all have a pinch grip sweet
spot where we are strongest. Occasionally working well beyond that sweet spot
provides both variety and a challenge that is not easily replicated elsewhere. I do not
spend a lot of time lifting this massive block, but a few sets on occasion certainly help to
develop my finger and thumb strength.

Inverted Dumbbell Lift


Lastly, when discussing block weights, I am often asked if a dumbbell can be lifted from
the top rather than sawing it in half. The answer to that question is yes and no. Many
grip competitors do perform inverted dumbbell lifts. You can see an example below. To
execute the lift, you essentially claw the top of the dumbbell without allowing your
thumb or fingers to touch any of the imprinted number area. You should only be
touching the smooth sides of the dumbbell head.

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Performing an inverted dumbbell lift is much different from working with block
weights however. Not only is the hand position different, but there are fewer exercises
that can be performed. Typically, the extent of training with an inverted dumbbell is to
pick it up from the ground. Therefore, while inverted lifts are challenging and can be a
useful addition, I would not consider them a replacement to block weight training.
Inverted dumbbell lifts are certainly convenient for those who train at commercial gyms
however. Most gyms do not have many options for lower arm training. Consequently,
the inverted dumbbell lift comes in handy for those who do not have grip-specific
equipment at their disposal.

Summary
As evident throughout this chapter, there are countless options for pinch grip training. I
purposely included so many exercises and tools to remove any remaining excuses as to
why one might neglect pinch grip training. There simply is no valid excuse in terms of
equipment availability. Whether you use free weights, a door, a stone, or a piece of
wood, there is always a convenient way to train pinch grip.
And as you will see, the time required to improve pinch grip is minimal. Small
additions will certainly prove worthwhile. Even simply performing a few pinch grip
sets as a warm-up before progressing towards heavier loads can lead to considerable
improvements. For example, suppose you have never trained pinch grip before. If all
you did was add a few sets of block weight rows before heavier dumbbell rows, you
would still experience noticeable improvements. In fact, if all you took from this book
was to invest more time into pinch grip training, you would still benefit considerably.
Tapping into the strength potential of the fingers and thumb allows one to reach
entirely new levels of lower arm strength.

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THICK GRIP
"Every time I worked, I was getting a little better. I kept moving
that limit back and back. Every time I walked out of the gym, I
was a little better than when I walked in." - Dan Gable

Thick grip training is a natural follow up to last chapters discussion of pinch grip. In
many ways, I consider thick grip and pinch grip to be relatives of each other. While
there are differences between the two, there are also similarities. For instance, when
gripping a thick bar, the hand is partially open. There is no overlap between the fingers
and thumb. Therefore, thick bar exercises will naturally challenge the fingers, wrists,
and thumbs.
As for athletic relevance, it is not uncommon to grab objects or body parts that are
thicker than what we are accustomed to while lifting conventional bars. Consider the
mixed martial artist who grabs an opponents ankle or arm. Chances are that he will not
be able to overlap his fingers and thumb while securing a grip. A regular dose of thick
grip training will certainly prove useful to these athletes.
Thick grip training is also important for athletes who do not have large hands. Using
myself as an example, my hands are average sized at best. It is rare that my fingers and
thumb overlap even a slightly thicker than normal bar. As a result, I have made a
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conscious effort to consistently develop my thick grip strength over many years.
Smaller hands may begin at a disadvantage, but can be developed adequately in time.

Hand Size Debates


Unfortunately, I have encountered many athletes who dismiss their ability to perform
thick grip feats because of hand size. When they first attempt a thick bar exercise, they
struggle and immediately assume it is because of inadequate hand size. They then
abandon thick grip training under the false assumption that it is not meant to be.
Others discredit the feats of certain lifters by claiming that their abilities are based solely
on genetic advantages as opposed to hard earned strength. I couldnt tell you how
many times I have seen a yeah but his hands are bigger than mine excuse from athletes
who are unable to perform certain exercises. These excuses are not new and even date
back to well known strength athletes from the past. For example, Earle Liederman
questioned the strength of the legendary John Grn (commonly known as John Marx).
In Liederman's 1925 book Secrets of Strength, he wrote the following:
John Marx had enormous hands with fingers so long that they would lap around a 3-inch bar...
So Marx got what was perhaps an undeserved reputation for strength.
Almost one hundred years later, John Grn is known solely as a strength legend from
the past. No one cares about his hand size. All that is remembered are his amazing feats
of strength. Whether he possessed inherent advantages is an afterthought. It is not
worth debating.
With or without large hands, thick grip training will be challenging to almost anyone
when first starting. It is not uncommon to feel as though you have never lifted a weight
when first attempting to pull a thick bar from the ground. Expect to be challenged
regardless of hand size.
Rather than harping on a potential disadvantage, invest that time and energy towards
improving your weakness. There is no point in worrying about whose hands are bigger
or smaller whenever witnessing a thick grip feat. There is nothing that we can do about
hand size, but there is plenty that we can do about hand strength.
Fortunately, while thick grip training is challenging, it is quite easy to include within an
existing routine without disrupting what is already in place. For example, you could
replace an existing exercise from your routine with the identical exercise using a thick
grip. Another option would be to begin with a few thick bar sets before transitioning
back to a normal bar. A brief thick bar finisher is also an option. Once again, small
additions will eventually lead to considerable improvements.
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Exercise Selection Means Everything


To maximize your thick bar training, it is important to choose the right exercises.
Training with an open or partially open hand does not guarantee that the lower arms
will be challenged. For instance, consider your hand position when performing a
pushup. The hand is open with no overlap between the fingers and thumb, yet there is
no challenge to the lower arms. The same logic applies to certain thick bar exercises. A
thicker bar does not always make the exercise more difficult or effective.
For example, two of my favorite exercises are dips and standing abdominal wheel
rollouts. Below you can see me perform each exercise with a thick grip.

Unfortunately, adding a thick handle does little to alter these exercises. With each
movement, my weight is at least partially on top of the handles. I am not struggling to
hold on. Therefore, the lower arms receive little attention despite performing these
exercises with fairly thick handles.
To truly benefit from thick bar training, it makes more sense to select exercises where
you have no choice but to hold on with all of your strength. Most pulling exercises will
satisfy this requirement. Rows, pull-ups, and deadlifts are three classic examples. The
lower arms have no mechanical advantages when pulling a heavy load from a thicker
than normal bar. In other words, if your hands are not strong enough, you will not be
able to hold on. Grip is the limiting factor.

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Thick Pull-ups
Thick grip pull-ups are one of the best thick bar exercises that you will ever perform. A
thick tree branch is ideal if you have access to one. As you can see below, my hands are
almost entirely open when performing pull-ups from the tree.

Commando pull-ups can also be performed. Grab the branch and alternate between
pulling yourself up to one side and then the other. Continue back and forth in this
fashion.


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Thick Bar Attachments


I have been fortunate to train from the same tree for several years. I realize however
that not everyone has a tree for thick bar training. Fortunately, thick grip attachments
are inexpensive, effective, and easy to make. You do not need to take my word for it
however. I am not alone in preaching the effectiveness of thick bar training. In recent
years, several thick bar attachments have been manufactured and sold commercially.
While writing this book, I scanned through several reviews of commercial thick grip
attachments. One of the more popular models sells for approximately $40. That
particular product has over three hundred five-star reviews on Amazon. It is not every
day that you find an exercise tool in that price range with so many positive reviews.
Thus, while some may label individual reviews as anecdotal evidence, it is impossible
to overlook the positive feedback of so many strength athletes.

Homemade Options
As for the decision to purchase a commercial grip product vs. building your own, it is a
matter of personal preference. I am not here to influence you one way or another. All
that I can do is share my experiences as a do-it-yourselfer. Personally, I opt to build my
own grip attachments. There are several options to choose from when building your
own. First, you will see a pair made from a childs pool noodle (used for flotation in a
swimming pool).
As you can see, these grip attachments can be taken anywhere to convert any bar into a
thick bar.


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Pool noodles can be purchased for a few


dollars. All that you need to do is cut two
pieces to your desired length. You will then
make a slit with a razor to create the
opening for the attachment to wrap around
a bar. Once you have made the slit, you
should wrap the entire attachment in duct
tape. I suggest wrapping the tape tightly to
minimize the chance of each attachment
compressing over time.
As for longevity, I have had this pair of
attachments for a few years and they have
held up surprisingly well. If there has been
any compression, it is not noticeable.
As for possible alternatives, if you cannot locate a pool noodle, pipe insulation is
similar. I have however noticed that pipe insulation products are not always as thick
and are often created from softer foam. If the foam is too soft, it will eventually
compress thus limiting the effectiveness of the thick grip over time.

Towel Thick Grips


A better, yet equally inexpensive, version
can be created from cardboard, towel, and
duct tape. This model was recommended
to me by an individual* who feared that the
pool noodle grips would compress with
regular use. There is no risk of compression
with the towel grips. They will remain the
same thickness indefinitely.
And as you will see, these grips are useful
for much more than pull-ups. They can be
applied to countless exercises to provide an
instant lower arm challenge.
Instructions for the towel grips can be
found on the pages that follow.


*

Relatedtutorialprovidedbythisindividual:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=klq2fS1mDhE

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To create the towel grips, you will actually use two types of towel materials. First, you
will need the cardboard tube from an empty roll of paper towels. You will also need
material from an actual towel (ex. beach towel). You will need 24 to 36 inches of
material (6 inches wide) for each grip. You will also need duct tape.

Step 1

Step 4

Step 7

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Step 5

Step 8

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Instructions
Creating these thick grip attachments is quite simple.
1. First you need to acquire an empty roll of paper towels. This cardboard piece
will be used to shape the grip attachments.
2. You will then cut the cardboard to your desired length. If you plan to use these
grips with dumbbells, you should first measure the length of your dumbbell
handles. Between five and six inches should suffice.
3. Next you will slice each cardboard piece down the middle.
4. You will then thoroughly cover each side of the cardboard with duct tape. What
you are left with is the shell of your future thick grip attachments.
5. Next you will need to determine the opening size of your attachments. To do so,
I take the piece from Step 4 and wrap it around a bar (ex. pull-up bar or
dumbbell handle). The size of your grips should match the bar that you plan to
use. For example, if your dumbbell handle has a 1 inch diameter, you will want
the thick grips to be around that size. Once I have estimated its size, I add a piece
of tape to prevent the shell from opening.
6. Next you will wrap the shell with a piece of towel that has been cut to the exact
width. For example, my grips are 5 inches wide. The towel is also 5 inches
wide. As for length, you will typically need between 24 and 36 inches depending
on the desired thickness of your grip attachments.
7. Once you have reached your desired thickness, you can then wrap the towel
thoroughly in duct tape.
8. You will then need to cut the attachment open.
9. Lastly, you will add another few layers of duct tape around the attachments,
particularly where the cut was made.
You will then have a durable pair of thick grip attachments that will never compress. In
addition, if you ever wish to increase the thickness of the attachments, you can always
add extra layers of duct tape.

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Homemade Advantage
As mentioned previously, there are several thick grip attachments on the market today.
Many of the commercial attachments are well constructed and certainly built to last.
There is no denying the quality of these products as well as the potential benefits that
come with their use.
Having used both the commercial and homemade options however, I can say that there
is little difference between the two. You will not be limited because you opt for
homemade grips as opposed to shelling out the cash for the real deal. Furthermore, an
added benefit of the homemade attachments is that you can inexpensively create grips
of different sizes.
For example, consider the two images below.

In each image, I am performing pull-ups from thick grip attachments. If you have not
worked with thick grips before, you may casually glance at the two pictures without
noticing any considerable differences. The reality however is that while the images may
appear similar, the thicker grip on the right side is much more challenging.

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Upon closer inspection, you can see the difference between the two grips. On the left
side, you can see how the attachment wraps all the way around the bar. My fingers do
not overlap, but I can get much more of my hand around the attachment. On the right
side, my hand is opened considerably wider. In addition, the grip attachment itself does
not wrap all the way around the bar. Therefore, I need to squeeze the attachment much
harder to hold on without falling.

Towelgripattachment

Poolnoodleattachment

Bigger Is Bigger
When considering thick grip training, bigger is not necessarily better. Thick bars often
range from 2 to 3 inches in diameter. Training with a three inch bar will certainly be
more difficult, but that does not mean you should invest all of your time towards the
thickest bar possible.
Naturally, as thickness increases, you will typically move less weight or perform fewer
repetitions. For instance, I can perform more pull-ups while gripping the attachment
pictured on the left side as opposed to the right. Therefore, one benefit to the left side is
that I can accumulate more volume, thus distribute more work towards the rest of my
body. A benefit to the right side is that my hands will be challenged to a greater extent.
The downside is that I will not accumulate as much volume, thus the rest of my body
will not receive as much attention.
Ultimately, when considering the pros and cons of each attachment, we are left without
a definitive answer as far as which attachment is superior. As is often the case,
individual needs and goals must be considered. Personally, I prefer to use thick grip
attachments of various sizes. There are benefits to accumulating more volume with the
2 inch attachments, just as there are benefits to struggling against a 3 inch attachment.
Why not reap the best of both worlds?
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Not Just A Towel


Whenever discussing the benefits of thick grip attachments, I am usually countered
with the following question.
Why not just wrap a towel around the bar?
I have been asked this question so many times that it is worthy of a brief discussion. For
starters, you certainly can wrap a towel around a bar to perform thick grip pull-ups.

From a performance standpoint, there is nothing wrong with wrapping a towel around
a bar. In the past, I have performed this variation simply because I had no other options.
I prefer thick grip attachments however as they are much more convenient to use.
Neatly wrapping a towel around a bar takes time. You may also need a step-stool
depending on your height and the height of your bar.
I see no viable reason to waste time wrapping a towel around a bar whenever you wish
to perform thick grip pull-ups. Why not instead invest your time once and create a pair
of portable attachments? It takes just a second to put them up and begin training. And if
you are still not convinced, lets not forget that thick grip attachments can be used for
much more than pull-ups.
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Beyond Pull-ups
Thick grip pull-ups are just the beginning of thick grip training. The portable grip
attachments can be applied to countless exercises. As mentioned previously, almost any
pulling movement can be instantly converted into a challenging grip exercise.
For example, I have been a fan of trap bar deadlifts for several years. Yet, after working
with the trap bar consistently, I reached a point where I could not fit any more 45
pound plates on my bar. Initially, I thought I had outgrown it. I do not own any 100
pound plates and they are not cheap to purchase. Fortunately, adding thick grips to the
bar completely changed the exercise.
The image to the left was taken last year. I can be seen joking around with 585 pounds.
Yet, when I began performing the exercise with fat grips, I started back with three
plates. Instantly, I had a new challenge. I also have a way to include grip work on my
warm-up sets. For instance, I can perform a few sets of thick grip deadlifts before
loading the bar to the max.

Another option would be to perform a lighter deadlift day. With thick grips, I can only
go as heavy as my grip allows. My lower arms will be challenged considerably, while
the rest of my body is given a break from strenuous loading. This option can be quite
useful after several weeks of heavy lifting. I may not wish to step entirely away from
the bar, but my body may need a break from truly heavy lifting. Targeting the lower
arms with inexpensive thick grip attachments is an excellent choice.
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Barbells
Thick grip attachments can also be added to conventional barbells. Doing so is a cost
effective alternative to purchasing a thick barbell (known as an axle). Axles are often
lifted in strongman events. Unfortunately, a seven foot axle (two inches thick) is a
considerable investment for most. A three inch thick barbell is even more expensive. I
have seen three inch thick barbells sold for several hundred dollars. And if you cannot
find the bar locally, you can expect to pay a considerable shipping fee as well. Thick
bars are heavy and awkward to ship.
It is difficult to justify such a price tag if you are not a competitive strongman. Thus,
while I am not suggesting thick grip attachments are identical to axle bars, you can
certainly realize many of the same benefits. This is particularly true for athletes whose
primary goals are not lower arm based.


Thickgripcurlsandreversecurlsarebothexcellentforlowerarmdevelopment

Personally, I do not own any thick barbells. I consider their price to be prohibitive based
on my needs and the needs of my athletes. If I wish to enhance the thickness of a
barbell, I opt for a portable attachment.
I also have homemade thick grip dumbbells which are much easier to make and quite
inexpensive. You can see an example on page 121.

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Dumbbells
Before discussing thick dumbbells however, it is worth noting that the portable grips
can also enhance several conventional dumbbell exercises. Perhaps my favorite example
is the farmers walk. These portable attachments are particularly useful as they allow
for a unique challenge that would not otherwise be available.

For instance, grab a moderate dumbbell with your thick grip attachments and begin
walking. Continue until your grip fails. At that time, momentarily put the dumbbells
down to remove the portable grips. Immediately pick the dumbbells back up and
continue walking.
Your hands will already be fatigued but you will still be able to lift the dumbbells
without the thick grips. Continue until your hands fail again. Rest a few minutes and
start from the beginning. After two or three trips through this circuit, you can expect
your lower arms to be fried.
And best of all, despite the lower arm challenge, you will not be working with as much
weight as you would typically use when performing a farmers walk with regular
dumbbells (ex. page 22). Therefore, the thick grip farmers walk is yet another example
of a challenging lower arm exercise that provides a temporary break to the rest of your
body.

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Thick Grip Suspension Training


Portable thick grips can also be added to a suspension trainer. Below you can see one
arm body rows performed from the same suspension trainer seen on pages 57 and 58.

The suspension trainer is homemade and consists of nothing but a pair of cam-buckle
tie-downs purchased at a local hardware store. The triangular handles that hook to the
tie-downs are swing set trapeze rings intended for a childs playground. Their
triangular shape is a perfect fit for the thick grips.
The combination of thick grips and the
suspension trainer is useful for athletes of all
levels. For instance, a beginner can start with
two hand variations. You could begin with
the feet on the ground as seen on page 56.
You could then elevate the feet and
eventually add a weighted vest. Next, you
could progress to one arm body rows and
add a weighted vest if necessary. Regardless
of your ability, there is a variation available
that will be challenging. And while the thick
grips target the lower arms, traditional body
rows are an excellent horizontal pulling
exercise. With or without the added grip
challenge, this exercise rarely receives as
much attention as it deserves.


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Permanent Thick Grips


As useful as the portable grip attachments are for so many exercises, it is also nice to
have permanent thick grip handles for lifting. Fortunately, thick grip dumbbells are
both easy and inexpensive to make. All that you need is a piece of pipe, rope, and duct
tape. Step by step instructions can be found on the following page.

Step 1

Step 2

Step 3

Step 4

Step 5

Step 6

Step 7

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Instructions
1. For standard 1 inch plates, you will use pipe. Pipe is measured by inner
diameter so a piece of pipe is a perfect fit for most 1 inch plates. If you are
unsure if your plates will fit on the pipe, consider bringing a small plate to the
hardware store for testing. It is always useful to try before you buy. As for pipe
length, I suggest using a piece that is 18 or 24 inches in length.
2. Once you have acquired the pipe, you will need to measure the gripping area. I
created my handles with approximately six inches of grip area. I then began
wrapping thin rope around this six inch space. Wrap the rope tightly around
until it has covered the entire six inch area with one layer.
3. Once you have wrapped the rope around the grip area, carefully add a piece of
duct tape to one end to keep it in place. You must then make sure the rope is
tightly wrapped without any slack before cutting the opposing end.
4. Once you have cut the first layer of your thick grip rope handle, you will need to
wrap it in a few layers of duct tape. Be sure to wrap the tape tightly to avoid any
shifting from the bottom layer of rope.
5. Next you will wrap another layer of rope (assuming that you want to go thicker).
The second layer will be added identically as you did with the first.
6. Be sure to wrap the second layer as tight as possible with duct tape. Once again,
you do not want any movement coming from either layer of rope.
7. Once you have reached your desired thickness, you should wrap each end of the
thick grip tightly and neatly with duct tape. The goal is to create a flat edge with
the thick grip section so that plates can be uniformly added to each side.
8. When first creating the handle, it can be useful to add plates to each side and
squeeze them inward to help form a flat edge from the thicker rope area. After
doing so, you can see on page 121 (step 8) how the plates rest flush against the
thick grip section.
Upon completion, you will have a durable thick grip dumbbell that will never
compress. The total cost to create such a handle will be minimal yet you can expect it to
last a lifetime. I have several thick grip dumbbells that I have owned and used regularly
for several years.

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Thick Grip Dumbbells


Any thick handle dumbbell discussion would be incomplete without referencing the
previously mentioned Thomas Inch. The former strongman became famous for lifting
his thick handle dumbbell overhead. The original Inch dumbbell was 172 pounds and 9
ounces with a 2.38 inch diameter handle. Inch was known to challenge fellow
strongmen to lifting the dumbbell.
In 1930, he wrote the following:
The secret of the famous Inch Challenge Dumb Bell is of course that it has a thick handle. That
and the weight of the bell has defied every famous strong man who has tried the bell... There is no
actual secret as far as the make up of the bell is concerned, the weight and the thickness of the
handle call for a better grip than anyone has yet been able to exert.
Over 75 years later, the Inch dumbbell remains one of the most famous grip training
tools in existence. Replicas are even sold commercially. They typically sell for several
hundred dollars. Fortunately, we do not need a true Inch replica to derive the benefits
of thick handle lifting. A homemade thick handle works just as well.

Why Bother?
Some may see the thick handle dumbbell and wonder whats the point of building one
if you already use thick grip attachments. For instance, if you made the towel grip
attachments from page 112, do you really need a thick handle dumbbell as well?
Without question, the short answer is no. Non-strength athletes can adequately develop
their lower arms without lifting a thick handle dumbbell. As already demonstrated,
there are several options for thick grip training that do not involve free weights. A few
examples include climbing a thick rope, performing pull-ups from a thick bar, and
training with thick grip attachments on a suspension trainer. Each of these options will
develop thick grip strength without ever using a dumbbell.
With that said, I believe thick handle dumbbells are so effective, inexpensive, and easy
to build that they are ideal for anyone interested in strength development.
Consequently, I recommend building a thick handle dumbbell whether you use thick
grip attachments or not. At first glance, the two may appear quite similar, but there are
distinct differences. Not only will each tool be unique in terms of thickness, but the
actual feel is different as well. Squeezing a thick grip attachment has a much different
feel from wrapping your hands around a solid dumbbell handle. I say this not to
suggest that the dumbbell is superior, but instead to highlight the uniqueness of each
tool.
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Another difference between the two is that you will have better control of a solid
dumbbell handle. If your grip is going to fail on a thick handle, you will know exactly
when you are losing control. Conversely, if you are going to fail with a grip attachment,
it is more likely that the weight you are holding will slip away from the attachment
without advance notice. There certainly is not a huge difference between the two, but
the attachment adds a second layer to whatever you are lifting. With a solid handle,
your hand is in direct contact with the object. As a result, I personally feel that I have
slightly more control and awareness with the solid handle.
In addition, as was the case when discussing pinch grip, it is always useful to have
unique challenges available to you. I consider thick grip training to be so valuable that I
am always interested in new options to target this worthwhile objective. And once
again, when discussing thick grip attachments and thick handle dumbbells, each of
these tools is extremely inexpensive. We are not talking about a significant monetary
investment. On the contrary, these are valuable tools that will cost but a few dollars to
construct. The inexpensive price tag and the obvious physical benefits associated with
each makes it a no brainer.

Exercises
When considering exercises with a thick handle dumbbell, perhaps the most common
choice is to deadlift it from the floor. This can be done with the dumbbell either parallel
or perpendicular to the body.


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Although deadlifting a thick handle dumbbell may not appear too beneficial at first
glance, this exercise is surprisingly difficult. One of the quickest ways for me to humble
an athlete who is new to the gym is by asking him to lift one of my thick handle
dumbbells. Nine out of ten times the athlete is left with a look of shock and confusion.
He is not sure if there is a trick to lifting the dumbbell or if it is glued to the floor. Why
cant he lift it? Unfortunately, there is no trick. Inability to lift the thick handle simply
highlights inadequate lower arm strength.
It is impossible to appreciate how difficult it is to lift thick handles if you have not done
so yourself. Fortunately, it is not uncommon to make fairly rapid gains when first
working with thick handles. Even a few sets per week will lead to greater lower arm
strength. For instance, you could perform a few sets of thick handle deadlifts on a pulldominant strength day. The total weight lifted with the thick handle will be minimal
when compared to traditional lifts such as a barbell deadlift. Therefore, the thick handle
work could be performed either before or after barbell deadlifts without interference.
Earlier, I mentioned that I often begin deadlift sessions with double overhand warm-up
sets. On certain days, I may bypass these double overhand sets however and instead
perform a few sets of thick handle deadlifts. Once again, the dumbbell weight is
minimal in comparison to what I can deadlift, so three or four moderate rep sets will
not interfere with the heavier barbell work to follow.
On another day, I may begin with double overhand grip warm-ups, proceed to heavier
mixed grip deadlifts, and conclude with thick handle work as a finisher. It will only
take a few sets to tax the lower arms, particularly after I have already deadlifted heavy.
Regardless of which option I choose, the total time invested towards lower arm
development will be minimal. It does not take a lot of time to strengthen the hands.

Beyond Deadlifts
In addition to deadlifting the thick handle,
rows are another tremendous option. Thick
handle rows are extremely difficult to
perform with moderate to heavy loads. You
must literally squeeze the handle as hard as
possible throughout each repetition.
This exercise can be performed on its own
or as a warm-up before progressing to
heavier Kroc-style rows where you may opt
to use straps.

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Various Sizes
Another benefit to homemade thick handles is that it is easy to create handles of
different sizes. It will only cost a few dollars per handle. And while some may wonder
if it is necessary to train with multiple thick handles, I believe it is beneficial to work
with at least two sizes. For instance, you could create one handle that is approximately 2
inches thick and another between 2.5 and 3 inches. Each would fall under the same
category as thick handle implements but the difference between the two could not be
overstated. Just as lifting a 2 inch handle is different from a standard bar, anything over
2.5 inches is entirely different from a 2 inch handle. This is particularly true if your
hands are not overly large.
Below you can see one of the thicker dumbbells that I own. Like the previous example,
this handle was created from rope. As for durability, I created this handle over seven
years ago. It is still as good as new. The only modification I have ever had to make was
the addition of another layer of tape. As time passes, some of the old tape may
occasionally come undone. The rope itself is virtually indestructible and the shape of
the handle has not changed at all.

Another difference between the handle above and the handle from page 121 is that this
handle was created from an actual dumbbell. I did not use pipe. Instead, I started with a
14 inch dumbbell that I had otherwise outgrown. The 14 inch length could not load
enough weight for many of my preferred dumbbell lifts. Rather than discard the short
handle however, I opted to convert it into a thick handle. Seven years have now passed
and I still havent outgrown it. I do not expect that to change any time soon.
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Exercise Options
When considering exercise options for your thickest handle, the general rules still
apply. The best exercises will be those performed without mechanical advantages. In
simplified terms, you should select exercises where you struggle to hold on. Deadlifts
and rows remain two of my favorites.
One exercise that is somewhat unique however is the curl. Previously, I mentioned that
curls are often performed with thick handles. Yet, if the handle is only moderately thick,
you may notice that you can curl almost as much weight as you can with a conventional
bar. While the forearms will certainly be challenged to a greater extent, the concentric
portion of the exercise is not all that different when compared to curling a conventional
bar.
Everything changes once you reach a certain thickness though. As you approach three
inches in thickness, the curl becomes much more difficult. This is particularly true
during the eccentric portion of the exercise. It is at that time when the thumb will
struggle to hold on as you lower the weight towards your thigh. As a result, it becomes
challenging to perform continuous reps of heavy curls with an extremely thick handle.
Therefore, while curls are often mocked within the fitness industry, you will not find
anyone laughing while attempting a truly thick handle curl. The lower arm challenge is
considerable. Dont knock it until you have tried it.

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Additional Tools
Continuing with the theme of variety, we can build yet another effective and
inexpensive thick grip device with PVC pipe and chain. It can be used as a bodyweight
exercise tool or in conjunction with free weights. I first saw a variation of this device
posted to my websites forum a few years ago and I have made a few modifications
since. The end result will be similar to a Rolling Thunder handle.
A true Rolling Thunder is a revolving deadlift handle that was created by IronMind in
1993. If you are not familiar with IronMind, it is a company that specializes in creating
high quality strength training equipment. They sell some of the best equipment on the
market. Their Rolling Thunder handle is 2.375 inches in diameter. What makes it so
difficult to grab is not just its thickness however, but rather the bearings that allow it to
freely rotate. In other words, you are not grabbing a fixed handle with the Rolling
Thunder. It will move on you. The difficulty of the Rolling Thunder is impossible to
fathom without trying it yourself. It is no surprise that the tool has become so popular
with strongmen and grip specialists. It provides a tremendous challenge.
Fortunately, those who are not competitive strength athletes can perform a similar
challenge with a homemade alternative. Rotating thick grips can be made from PVC
pipe. To do so, you will need a piece of 2 inch PVC pipe along with another piece of 1.5
inch PVC. Most hardware stores sell 1.5 and 2 inch pieces in three foot lengths for a few
dollars each. Three feet of PVC will be more than enough length for this project. Two
variations can be seen below.

Option A

Option B

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Handle Instructions
1. Both variations from page 128 use the bottom of the T-handle from page 83. In
other words, you are attaching the rotating handle to the same inch x 12 inch
pipe nipple, which is screwed into a inch floor flange.
2. The rotating handle consists of two pieces
of PVC. You are essentially inserting a 1.5
inch piece inside a 2 inch piece. Cut the
1.5 inch piece approximately inch
longer than the 2 inch piece. By cutting
the 1.5 inch piece longer, it is easier for
the 2 inch piece to rotate around it
without touching the chain.

b.
a.

a. 2 inch PVC x 6 inches


b. 1.5 inch PVC x 6.5 inches
3. Once you have cut the PVC to length, you can wrap duct tape around the 2 inch
handle until reaching your desired diameter. This is an optional step if you want
the handle to have a diameter that is greater than 2 inches.
4. You will then run approximately 22 inches of chain through the PVC. The chain
will connect to itself with a quick-link connector. What you will be left with is a
rotating handle that can be attached to several exercise tools.

Attachment Options
There are two ways to attach the rotating handle
to the 12 inch pipe nipple from the T-handle.
Option A from page 128 uses a pipe tee fitting. It
is not the same fitting used when swinging the Thandle however. There is a larger opening on top
where the chain feeds through. I use a 1 x
inch tee fitting. Therefore, the bottom of the tee
( inch side) still screws onto the 12 inch pipe
nipple. The larger 1 inch opening is adequate
for the chain to feed through.

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A second option is to create a loading pin attachment. Loading pins are commonly used
by grip competitors. Creating a loading pin involves more work than the first option. To
create a loading pin, you will need a pipe cap that fits the pipe nipple from the T-handle
( inch in my case). If you were using Olympic plates, you would use a 1.5 inch pipe
nipple and cap.
You will then need to drill a hole in the cap that is large enough for an eye-bolt to fit
through. A power drill will obviously be needed. Once the hole has been drilled, run
the eye-bolt through and secure it tightly with a nut.
To attach the rotating handle to this loading pin, you will use the same quick-link
connector that connects each end of the chain (which runs through the PVC). Refer to
the picture of Option B from 128 to see an example.

As for comparing the two attachments, I prefer using a tee fitting that attaches directly
to the pipe nipple. Once attached, the tee fitting and pipe nipple merge to become a
single, stationary unit. There is no movement between the two pieces. The same cannot
be said for the quick-link connector that attaches to the eye-bolt. There will naturally be
some swaying between the two pieces. Even though the difference is not significant, I
much prefer the immobile connection between the tee fitting and pipe nipple.
The tee fitting attachment also entails less work. You do not need to drill any holes.
Simply run the chain through the opening and you are ready to go. Clearly, personal
preference must be considered, but I much prefer the tee fitting attachment.
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Exercises
The most common exercise performed with a rotating handle is a one hand deadlift.
The instructions are quite simple. Grab the handle and lift. This exercise is typically
performed for low reps. It is also common to work towards a single rep with a maximal
load. Anyone who approaches 200 pounds in this exercise is well ahead of most.

These rotating handles can be used for


much more than deadlifts however. For
example, the chain attachment can be
easily connected to a kettlebell handle.
Bent over rows with a rotating handle are
a tremendous lower arm exercise. This
exercise becomes quite challenging with
any considerable amount of weight.
The kettlebell works better than the Thandle for rows as it does not hang as
low. The shorter length allows for a
greater range of motion. If you wanted to
use the T-handle for rows, you may wish
to use a shorter pipe nipple attachment
(ex. 8 or 10 inches as opposed to 12).
Theserowscouldalsobeperformedfromabenchifyouprefer

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Kettlebell swings can also be performed with rotating handles. This exercise is much
more challenging than a bent over row. The exercise is more dynamic with a faster
moving load. Expect to be humbled when attempting this variation for the first time.
As the weight swings away from you, it becomes extremely difficult to control. In the
picture below, you will notice the open position of my hand towards the top of the
swing. My thumb must work extremely hard to hold on. If not, the kettlebell will
literally fly out of your hands.

And once again, despite the considerable lower arm challenge, the overall weight is
minimal compared to what you could swing with a traditional grip. Therefore, rotating
grip swings are yet another ideal choice as a warm-up before heavier sets. You will not
need to accumulate too much volume before the grip is taxed.

Double Up
Many hardware stores do not sell PVC in lengths under three feet. With that in mind,
even if you only intended to create one handle, you would still have extra PVC pipe left
over. Rather than discarding the excess, it makes more sense to create a second handle.
The cost of two rotating handles is virtually identical to one aside from some extra chain
and a second quick-link connector. By adding another handle, your exercise options
will increase considerably. This is particularly true if you prefer a bodyweight based
lower arm challenge. Rotating grips are an ideal addition to the pull-up bar. They are
much more challenging than the previously seen thick grip attachments.

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Attaching the rotating handles to a pull-up


bar is relatively straightforward. Simply
loop the chain around the bar and attach it
to itself with the quick-link connector.
Notice how one link of the chain rests
evenly on top of the bar however. As a
result, you will naturally need to grip the
handles dead center. If not, the handles will
shift in the direction of your bodyweight. It
may take a few reps for you to get a feel for
the balance that is required. It will then
become second nature.

Performing pull-ups from rotating thick grips is much more difficult than it appears. I
have had many otherwise strong athletes who struggled to perform even a single
repetition. The challenge then increases exponentially when performing multiple reps
without touching your feet to the ground. Multiple reps are naturally more difficult as
even the negative portion of the exercise is taxing to the lower arms. There is no option
to rest when holding your bodyweight from thick, rotating grips.


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Based on the difficulty of the rotating grips, it is not unusual for athletes to need
assistance when attempting continuous reps from the pull-up bar. I have seen many
athletes who are quite strong with weighted pull-ups who lack the lower arm strength
to perform continuous reps from these grips. If you find yourself in a similar position,
band assisted reps can be useful. Simply slip-knot a resistance band around the bar and
hook it around your knee. From there, you can perform pull-ups with the assistance
provided by the band. Even with the band, the lower arms will often be challenged with
ten or less reps.
In addition, just because you may be able to perform a few unassisted reps does not
mean that band assisted reps are entirely useless. If lower arm training is new to you, it
is important that you leave your ego at the door. Working with a light band may allow
you to concentrate more volume towards the lower arms.
For instance, suppose you are proficient with traditional pull-ups, but you can only
perform three unassisted reps with the rotating grips. You may wish to begin with three
sets of three reps. Upon completion of the unassisted reps, you could then attach a light
resistance band. Finish with a few band-assisted sets of 8 to 10 reps. Considering that
you are already strong with traditional pull-ups, it is safe to assume that your upper
body will not be challenged with these band assisted reps. The challenge will be
focused almost exclusively towards the lower arms.
In summary, you have an effective lower arm exercise that spares the rest of your body.
As a result, you can include it almost anywhere within a routine without interference.


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Shifting gears, once you become proficient with unassisted reps, a weighed vest will
extend the challenge further. It will not take much weight for you to realize that these
rotating grips are a tool that you will never outgrow. Whether you are a beginner,
advanced, or somewhere in between, there is a variation worthy of your time.

Additional Options
Furthermore, the rotating grips quickly
attach to the same homemade suspension
trainer seen earlier. The hooks from each
end of the cam-buckle tie-downs fit easily
through the chain that runs through the
PVC handles.
With this simple connection, you instantly
have several additional thick grip options
to choose from. For example, body rows
can be performed just as discussed on
page 120. Once again, there is a variation
available for athletes of all abilities.

Severalbodyrowvariationscanbeperformedwiththeserotatinggrips

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These inexpensive thick grips can even be added to a barbell. By attaching these grips to
a bar, you will have an exercise that is similar to a thick handle trap bar deadlift (as seen
on page 117). This variation is unique however as it not only entails a thicker grip, but
also the rotating handles.
As for placement within a routine, this exercise can be useful for beginners or advanced
strength athletes. For instance, suppose you are a beginner to lower arm training, thus
are unable to perform pull-ups from the rotating thick grips. You may wish to use the
rotating grips, but you do not have resistance bands to perform assisted pull-ups. You
also may not have a T-handle or kettlebell to perform one arm lifts. If you find yourself
in this position (which is not uncommon), the barbell is an ideal solution. With a
barbell, you can load the precise amount of weight that you can lift.
And once again, the overall weight that you will be lifting is minimal compared to what
you can handle with a traditional grip. Therefore, you can target the lower arms
without disrupting the rest of your routine. A few sets as a warm-up or finisher will
eventually lead to considerable results.

More advanced strength athletes may also find the rotating thick grip deadlift useful.
For instance, you may not own a weighted vest that is heavy enough to adequately
challenge you on the pull-up bar. Heavy weighted vests are quite expensive. If you find
yourself in this position, it is much more convenient to add weight to a barbell. It is also
more convenient to progressively increase the weight of a barbell. In summary,
attaching these inexpensive grips to the barbell creates an effective grip challenge that
you will never outgrow.
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Ball Grips
Another inexpensive thick grip tool can be
created from softballs. Although I have seen
commercial versions sold for over $80, you can
create your own for approximately $10.
To begin, you will need two softballs. Along
with each ball, you will need an eye-bolt, a
nut, and a washer. The eye-bolts that I use are
6 inches long and thick.
First, you will need to drill a hole through each
softball. Use a drill bit that is smaller than
to ensure a tight fit. You will then screw the
eye-bolt through the hole. Next, secure the bolt
in place with a nut and washer. Add a small
piece of chain and a quick-link connector and
you can attach these balls to any bar.
Performing pull-ups from the softball grips will provide a unique lower arm challenge.
The open hand position is different from what you may be used to while training with a
thick bar.

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And as was the case with the rotating thick grips, these ball attachments can be added
to almost anything. For example, you can perform body rows from a suspension trainer.
Just be sure to keep your hands on the actual softball, as opposed to latching on to (or
around) the eye-bolt.

As for necessity, I am not suggesting that everyone must train with softball grips in
addition to thick grips. Once again however, it is always useful to have multiple options
available as the weeks, months, and years pass. Working with a new tool not only
provides a unique physical challenge, but can also provide a mental spark to prevent
staleness and monotony.

Summary
As was the case throughout the pinch grip section, I have intentionally included several
inexpensive thick grip tools within this chapter. My hope is to remove any excuses that
you may have used previously to overlook thick grip training. As you can see, thick
grip can be developed with inexpensive tools that are readily available to all.
It is rare that so many benefits can be realized from such an inexpensive source of
training. Many of the best tools for thick grip training will cost less than $10 to
construct. To overlook such an inexpensive, yet effective means of training is
inexcusable. Simply adding a few thick grip and pinch grip sets to your existing routine
will lead to considerable lower arm gains.
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In summary, whether you swap out a traditional exercise in place of a thick grip
movement (ex. thick grip pull-ups), or instead target thick grip via warm-up sets or as a
finisher (ex. thick grip deadlifts), you are guaranteed to improve lower arm strength.
And perhaps most importantly, the time required to include such work will not disrupt
an existing routine. Therefore, not only is the monetary investment minimal, but your
investment in time will be minimal as well. Dont mistake a minimal investment for
minimal gains however. Thick grip training provides some of the highest payoff for
lower arm strength development. In other words, make room for thick grip training and
enjoy the guaranteed strength gains that develop as a result of your work.

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WRIST TRAINING
"Strong wrists are such an advantage that it is impossible to
spend too much time at improving their shape and power."
Earle Liederman

Thus far, I have started each chapter with a single quote. For this chapter, I will start
with two. In addition to what is listed above, Earle Liederman continued with the
following.
Strong wrists are indispensable to strength. In most ordinary feats of strength the object to be
moved or lifted, swung or broken, is gripped by the hands; and those hands must be strongly
coupled to the arms, so that there will be no break in the delivery of power. A famous veteran,
advising a new-comer in the professional ranks said, Young man, you will never be any
stronger than your hands and wrists.
I have this quote printed on my office wall. That is how much I believe in it. I do not
just believe in wrist development for strength athletes however. It is perhaps even more
important for combat athletes to actively train the wrists. Unfortunately, it took a long
time for me to truly understand and appreciate the relevance of wrist training. As a
young fighter, I had my share of wrist injuries but they were always overshadowed by
hand fractures. My once feeble wrists were likely spared further damage because of my
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hand problems. When my hands were injured, I could not strike effectively, so my
wrists remained weak, but also rested. It was not until I began training other fighters
that I began noticing how common and debilitating wrist injuries could be.
I have seen wrist fractures occur during professional bouts where the injured fighter
did nothing but land a meaningful punch. Ultimately, the impact of the punch was
more than the wrist could handle despite being wrapped thoroughly with tape and
gauze. One of the professional fighters I train missed an entire year of his career (during
his prime) because of a wrist fracture that occurred during a bout. He began working
with me afterward. In discussing his past, he was quick to point out that he had never
spent any time training the lower arms. Therefore, it was lower arm neglect that almost
ended a promising career simply because he landed an effective punch.

The Basics
While dedicated wrist training is uncommon, those who train the wrists usually focus
their attention towards one or two exercises. Wrist curls and reverse wrist curls are
certainly among the most popular wrist exercises performed by the masses. Yet, despite
the name, most people who perform wrist curls do so with little concern for the actual
wrists. Wrist curls are typically performed by those wishing to build larger forearms.
Wrist curls are commonly performed with a dumbbell, barbell, or EZ curl bar. The
forearms will rest on your thighs (as illustrated) or on a bench. You will then lower the
bar by bending at the wrist (forearms remain stationary), before reversing the
movement and curling the weight up. This exercise targets wrist flexion.

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Wrist curls can also be performed behind the back. This variation is more convenient
when performing heavier reps as you can back yourself up to a power rack and grasp
the bar to begin the set. I prefer this style over all others.

Reverse wrist curls are often paired with wrist curls. The reverse wrist curl trains
extension as you begin with the palms down. Aside from hand position, execution of
this exercise is identical to a wrist curl. Dont expect to move as much weight however.

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Both wrist curls and reverse wrist curls can also be trained with thick grip attachments.
A few sets of each could be an ideal finisher at the conclusion of a strength workout.

Thick grip reverse wrist curls are particularly challenging. It is quite difficult to hold
and curl any meaningful weight with this exercise.

Thick grip wrist curls and reverse wrist curls are advanced movements. Do not
underestimate their difficulty. If you are new to wrist training, it is important to start
light. Many athletes have extremely weak wrists due to prior neglect. As a result, it is
not uncommon for these athletes to injure themselves when first training the wrists.
Therefore, start light and proceed with caution. Wrist strength takes time to develop.
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Yes or No?
Whenever discussing wrist curls or reverse wrist curls, I typically encounter conflicting
viewpoints. There are those who swear by these movements and others who believe
they are a complete waste of time. Personally, I am not entirely for or against either of
these exercises. There are certainly other options available if forearm size is your
primary goal. With that said, it is important to perform at least some wrist flexion and
extension for complete lower arm development.
Be aware however that there is much more to wrist training than performing high rep
wrist curls and reverse wrist curls. To make the most of these movements, the goal
should be to eventually progress towards heavier weights. Yet, even when you are
capable of wrist curling heavy loads, there is still much more to complete wrist
development. Dynamic flexion and extension are just the beginning.
Before we look at other forms of wrist
training though, lets first examine my
favorite exercise for wrist flexion and
extension. I can also use myself as an
example to highlight a common mistake
that is made during wrist training.
The image to the right was taken around
ten years ago. You can see me working with
a homemade wrist roller. The wrist roller
consisted of nothing but a wooden dowel
and a piece of rope.
To perform a wrist roll with this device, I
would roll the weight up in one direction,
lower it to the ground, and continue by
rolling the weight up in the opposing
direction. I would continue to alternate the
direction with each rep, thus targeting both
flexion and extension.

Ahomemadewristrollerin2005

The limitation to this device is that you can only roll as much weight as you can hold.
As a result, you are naturally limited in terms of how much weight can be used.
Therefore, while this exercise will challenge the forearms, the primary target is strength
endurance as opposed to maximal strength. High rep wrist rolling is not much different
from performing high rep wrist curls. In each case, you will certainly experience a pump
throughout the forearms, but dont expect to develop much in terms of actual strength.
To develop strength, you must challenge yourself with more significant loads.
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Mounted Wrist Rollers


Mounted wrist rollers are far superior to the handheld design. With a mounted roller,
you can focus all of your attention to the lower arms without actively holding the
weight above the floor. As for creating a mounted wrist roller, it will only cost a few
dollars and there are options for almost anyone.
The first option is to create a wrist roller that will fit inside of a power rack. The actual
roller will fit over a safety bar within the rack.

Instructions
1. First, you need to measure the bars from your power rack. The roller will be cut
slightly shorter. For example, I have 24 inches between the bars on my rack so I
cut the PVC to approximately 23 inches.
2. The roller itself is made from 1.5 inch PVC pipe. You can likely use the same
piece that you used for the rotating thick grips from page 129. A three foot length
will give you enough for two rotating handles and one rack mounted roller.
3. You will then attach a strong piece of rope to the PVC by securing it with a hose
clamp. Approximately five feet of rope should suffice.
4. Next, wrap the hose clamp thoroughly with duct tape. The tape is added to
prevent the jagged edge of the clamp from digging into the rope.
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5. Lastly, you will attach a carabiner or quick-link connector to the end of the rope.
This connector will be used to attach weight to the roller. Simply feed it through
the weight plates and then attach it back around the rope (as seen on page 145).
6. An optional step is to wrap the roller in athletic tape. The athletic tape will allow
you to get a better grip when rolling significant loads.
As for using the rack mounted roller, I position it at approximately chest level. You may
need to experiment but somewhere around chest level is typically where you will be
strongest. With regular use, you can eventually progress towards rolling several plates
at a time. Heavy wrist rolling is perhaps the greatest forearm developer you will ever
find. Just be sure to work both directions evenly.

No Rack? No Problem
If you do not own a power rack, you can still
create a mounted wrist roller. All that you
will need is a homemade suspension trainer
(see page 120).
The suspended wrist roller is actually more
difficult than the rack mounted roller. With a
suspended roller, you cannot lean against it
the way that you can when working within a
power rack. The suspended roller will simply
move forward if you lean your bodyweight
against it.
Therefore, there is no way to cheat with a
suspended wrist roller. Forearm and wrist
strength alone will be responsible for rolling
significant loads up and down.
As for creating a suspended wrist roller, the
parts list is similar to the rack mounted roller
with the addition of a few items. Refer to
page 147 for a complete list.

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Parts List
a) Two cam-buckle tie-downs
b) Two small pieces of pool noodle
foam (wrapped in duct tape)
c) One or x 24 iron pipe
d) One 1.5 wrist roller (PVC, rope,
and carabiner)

a.

b.

c.

d.

Instructions

Hoseclampsecuredoffcenter(6inchesinfromoneside)

1. First you need two cam-buckle tie-downs and somewhere to hang them
overhead. The cam-buckles that I use can be hooked over a pull-up bar (as seen
on page 120) or hung to an overhead ceiling attachment. I personally use
overhead swing hangers to attach the cam-buckles to the ceiling. The swing
hangers have been drilled into the overhead beams within the ceiling. A swing
hanger is the hardware used to secure a childs swing set.
2. Once you have the cam-buckles secured overhead, you need a piece of pipe that
will fit inside of the cam-buckle hooks. Depending on the size of the hooks, you
will typically need to use or pipe (24 inches in length).
3. The pipe will serve the same role that the bar did within the power rack. It is
where the roller will be mounted. The suspended roller is not as long as the
power rack model. I cut the PVC pipe to 16 inches for the suspended roller.
4.

When attaching rope to your PVC roller, you will use a hose clamp. The hose
clamp should be secured off center however. Due to the shorter length of the
PVC pipe (16 inches), you will need more room on one side for the rope to wrap
around the PVC. Therefore, I secure the hose clamp six inches in from one side.

5. To keep the suspended roller in place, I use two small pieces of foam pool
noodles. The pool noodles are wrapped in duct tape and will fit over the end of
the iron pipe.
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Visual Demonstration
1. Notice in Figure 1 how the iron pipe rests within the hooks from the cam-buckle
tie-downs. Once again, just be sure that the pipe you purchase fits within the
hooks from your cam-buckles.
2. Also, notice how the 16 inch piece of 1.5 PVC fits over the pipe (inside of the
hooks from the cam-buckle tie-downs). You can also see again how the hose
clamp is off center (where the duct tape has been wrapped on the roller). As a
result, there is enough room for the red rope to wrap around the roller.
3. Lastly, you can see how the two pieces of foam attach to each end of the pipe.
The foam is added to prevent the roller from sliding to either side when in use.

Figure 1

Figure 2

Figure 3

Rolling and Curling


Wrist curls, reverse wrist curls, and heavy wrist rolling are all potentially useful. If
forearm size is your primary goal, these are viable options. It is also nice that these
movements can be performed fairly often without negative results. I have always been
able to train wrist flexion and extension with more frequency and volume than other
forms of lower arm training. For instance, my forearms can tolerate much more work
than my thumbs. If I begin to train pinch grip too frequently, it is only a matter of time
before I stall. Conversely, I can perform wrist curls and wrist rolls several times a week
without losing any strength. And while my own experience is merely anecdotal
evidence, the forearms are often quite resilient when compared to other muscle groups.
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Be aware however that as you build forearm size, overall wrist strength could still be
limited. As mentioned previously, there is much more to wrist development than
performing exercises such as wrist curls and wrist rolling. Large forearms do not
guarantee wrist strength. Furthermore, wrist strength is highly specific. For example,
many athletes who have only trained wrist flexion and extension may struggle
considerably when first training radial and ulnar deviation of the wrist. In other words,
just because you can wrist roll or wrist curl heavy loads does not mean you wont be
humbled when attempting to lever even insignificant weights. The anatomy of the wrist
joint is extremely complex so do not expect adequate wrist development with a single
exercise or two.

Plate Curls
While discussing the potential limitations of wrist curls and wrist rolling, another
exercise that often proves humbling is the plate curl. It is not uncommon for athletes to
wrist curl heavy loads yet struggle considerably when attempting a plate curl or plate
wrist curl. Switching from a bar to a plate changes everything.
Plate curls are challenging to the wrist, fingers, and thumb. The movement is somewhat
of a mix between a wrist and pinch grip exercise. As for execution, plate curls are best
performed with a plate that has a flat side. To perform the movement, spread your four
fingers on the flat side of the plate while pinching the thumb over the front. From this
position, you will execute a curl as if you were performing a strict bicep curl. There
should be no swinging and the wrist must remain flat (no bending). If this exercise is
new to you, I suggest starting with a 10 pound plate.

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Assuming that 10 pounds is not too


difficult, the next step is to pinch another
plate on top. For example, you could curl
a 10 and 5 pound plate together. When
curling multiple plates, you can either
pinch them manually between your
fingers and thumb, or clamp them
together if you wish to focus solely on the
curl.
Once you are comfortable with a 10 and 5
pound plate, you should progress to two
10 pound plates. Most athletes who have
regularly trained the lower arms will be
able to handle two 10 pound plates for
moderate reps.
It is more common to see athletes fail when they first attempt to curl a 25 pound plate.
They typically underestimate the difficulty. Many of these athletes can plate curl two 10
pounders with relative ease, yet struggle with a 25 pound plate. The reason for the
added difficulty is not just the extra weight, but also the added length of the plate. As
plate size increases, the leverage challenge increases as well. More of the weight is
farther away from your hand.

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The majority of non-grip specialists will


be adequately challenged with a 25 pound
plate. If however you can plate curl the 25
pounder for moderate reps (ex. 5 to 8),
you may wish to eventually progress
towards heavier loads. To do so, you can
once again add a second plate.

Startpositionforplatecurlingtwoplates

While pinching two plates, you will execute the plate curl under control without any
bend in the wrist. Even the addition of an extra 2.5 or 5 pounds will make the plate curl
much more challenging.

Once you are comfortable with a 25 pounder plus another plate, the next progression
would be a 35 pound plate. As mentioned previously however, not everyone owns 35
pound plates. And to plate curl a 45 pounder is an extremely challenging feat that is
limited to a select number of dedicated grip specialists.
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Homemade Alternative
The plate curl is a tremendous exercise that does not
receive as much attention as it deserves. One reason for
the oversight is likely the inability to conveniently make
incremental adjustments in weight. For instance, you
may plate curl two 10 pounders, yet struggle with a 25.
Another athlete may plate curl a 25 pounder, yet
struggle to pinch another plate on top when attempting
to increase weight. I have seen many athletes in these
situations who eventually abandoned the exercise and
instead selected movements that can be more easily
modified.
Demoingaplatecurlwithtwoplatesin2009

To prevent this from happening with my own athletes, I eventually created a


homemade alternative. It was back around 2009 when I was regularly curling multiple
plates. I did not own a 35 pound plate and could not curl a 45 pounder. I didnt mind
pinching weights on top of a 25 pound plate, but I wanted a more convenient way to
make smaller increases. An extra pound or two can make a world of difference with
many hand and wrist exercises.
With that in mind, I built an extremely simple tool that can be used by beginners and
advanced athletes. It can be loaded to precise amounts regardless of your ability. As for
specifics, all that you need is a short piece of 2x10 inch wood. I cut mine to 11 inches. I
then attached a floor flange and a 4 inch pipe nipple (to load the weights). I use a
hose clamp as a collar to prevent the weights from sliding down the pipe nipple.

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This simple device was inexpensive and easy to build. I used an old piece of scrap wood
and purchased the plumbing supplies for a few dollars. Yet despite the low-tech
configuration, this tool has allowed several athletes to progress considerably with one
of the most effective wrist exercises available. Now that I have this tool, it is rare that I
ever plate curl an actual plate. I much prefer this homemade alternative. And as can be
seen on page 152, this tool can be adjusted to exact amounts. In that image, you will see
a 10 pound plate, a 2.5 pounder, and 1 pound wrist weight. Without this tool, it would
be difficult to load such a precise amount when performing plate curls.
In addition to the weight, you must also factor in the weight and size of the tool itself.
For instance, the weights are secured farther away from the hand, thus making this tool
more difficult when compared to holding an actual plate. I also prefer this tool as the
grip surface never changes. Regardless of how much weight is added, you are always
pinching and curling the same piece of wood. You do not need to adjust your grip
based on the size or load of the plates being curled.

Earlier, I mentioned that plate curls are somewhat of a mix between a pinch grip and
wrist exercise. The leftmost picture above highlights this combination. You will notice
that my start position is similar to the hand position seen in many of the previously
illustrated pinch grip exercises. Without adequate thumb strength, I would be unable to
hold on (thus unable to perform the exercise). With that in mind, if you find yourself
struggling with a particular load, it may be useful to position yourself in front of a
bench when performing this exercise. You can rest the weight down on the bench
momentarily to avoid losing control at the bottom of each rep.
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Plate :ULVWCurls
In addition to plate curls, another tremendous lower arm exercise is to instead wrist
curl a plate. This variation is naturally more difficult than performing a standing plate
curl. Do not expect to use as much weight. Ten pounds is typically a good starting
point.
As for execution, perform this exercise exactly as you would a traditional wrist curl
except that you will be grasping a plate instead. Your hand position will be identical to
how it is when performing a plate curl. The four fingers will be spread on the flat side
of the plate while the thumb pinches the opposing side. From here, you will lower the
weight under control over your knee (or a bench) before curling it back up with your
wrist alone.

Be sure that you ease into this exercise with light loads if you have not tried it before.
Any challenging wrist exercise carries the potential for injury when attempted by those
with inadequate wrist strength and flexibility.
Therefore, you may find that this exercise is best performed with the same homemade
tool that I demonstrated for plate curls. With such a tool, you will not be forced to make
large increases in weight. You can literally add a single pound at a time. The ability to
make smaller increases allows for seamless progressions.
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This homemade tool is also useful for more advanced lifters. For instance, wrist curling
a 25 pound plate will prove challenging for most non-grip specialists. Not only is the
exercise difficult, but progress is often delayed for those athletes who can only add
weight by pinching multiple plates. Such an approach will never prove as convenient as
adding the exact amount that you can handle.

Levering
Levering is yet another challenging and beneficial type of wrist training. There are
levering variations that will allow you to train ulnar deviation and radial deviation, as
well as pronation and supination. Unfortunately, these are movements that are often
entirely ignored. Speaking as a boxing trainer, I strongly believe that levering is one of
the best ways to develop strong and resilient wrists that are less prone to injury. If more
fighters implemented a regular dose of levering, wrist injuries would be reduced
dramatically.
It is worth noting however that many levering exercises are quite challenging. If you
attempt to use too much weight too soon, you are asking for injury. Even light weights
can prove difficult depending on the location of the weight and the exercise performed.
Furthermore, do not expect much carry over from the more popular wrist exercises (ex.
wrist curls and wrist rolling). If you wish to develop levering strength, you will need
direct work with levering exercises. Legitimate strength takes time though, so dont
expect any overnight miracles.
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Side Levering
Side levering is a personal favorite of mine. By levering to each side, we are able to train
pronation and supination. Supination involves rotating the lower arm so that the palm
is facing up. Pronation involves rotating the lower arm so that the palm is facing down.
Without direct work, these are motions that would otherwise receive minimal attention.
As for equipment options, there are several low-tech tools that can be used for levering.
Perhaps the most common tool is a sledgehammer (ex. 6 to 10 pounds). Yet, while I will
demonstrate a sledge, I personally use a few homemade devices for most levering
exercises.

When levering to each side, you will begin in a neutral position with the elbow tucked
in by your waist. You should be holding the sledge straight in the air. From this
position, begin working from side to side with the elbow remaining stationary. Your
sole focus should be wrist action.
A moderate rep range will typically be used when levering to the side. I do not advise
working with near maximal loads as the stress to the wrist can be excessive. As for
progressions with a sledgehammer, simply alter your hand position. As you work your
hand towards the bottom of the handle, the exercise becomes increasingly difficult. An
extra inch or two can make a world of difference. To monitor progress, label your start
position on the handle with a strip of tape. As your strength increases, you will
gradually work yourself down the handle (farther away from the head of the sledge).
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Another common side levering tool is a basic dumbbell handle. Simply load weight on
one end and you have a levering tool. Below you can see a 14 inch handle that has a 10
pound plate attached on one end.

Homemade Option #1
Personally, I prefer a slightly longer handle
and a thicker grip when side levering with a
straight bar. Fortunately, creating a bar that
suits these needs is inexpensive and easy. To
the right, you can see a homemade levering
tool that I have had for many years. It is an
18 inch piece of galvanized iron pipe. The
thick handle at the bottom was created from
rope (just as you saw in the thick handle
chapter).
Towards the top of the handle, you will see
two hose clamps. The hose clamps serve as
collars to keep the weights in place.

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As can be seen below, the weight is farther away from my hand when compared to the
14 inch dumbbell handle. As a result, this longer device is naturally more difficult.

Progression
What I also enjoy about this homemade
tool is that I can load precise amounts.
Unlike the sledgehammer, you do not
progress by altering hand position. With
this tool, your hand always grips the same
area. Therefore, you progress by adding
weight.
For instance, you can see to the right how
I have added a single pound by attaching
a small wrist weight. And while a single
pound may seem insignificant, I have seen
many athletes work with 10 pounds, yet
fail with 11. As mentioned previously,
small increases often make a world of
difference.
In summary, wrist weights in conjunction with a few 2.5, 5, and 10 pound plates allow
me to load precise amounts regardless of an individuals ability.
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Homemade Option #2
Yet another homemade levering tool can be
constructed from basic plumbing supplies.
This model is my favorite for side levering. It
will only cost a few dollars to acquire the
necessary parts.
a)
b)
c)
d)
e)

One x 8 pipe nipple


One 90-degree elbow fitting ()
One 4.5 pipe nipple
Rope and duct tape
Hose clamp

c.
b.

a.

e.
d.

Putting the pieces together is as simple as acquiring them. The 8 inch pipe nipple will
first attach to one end of the 90-degree elbow fitting. The 4.5 inch nipple will attach to
the other end of the elbow fitting. One piece simply screws inside of the other. You do
not need any tools to put the pieces together.
Next, you can thicken the gripping area of the handle with rope and duct tape. I use the
exact method that was demonstrated on page 121. I thickened the first five inches of the
eight inch pipe nipple. Clearly, this step is not necessary, but I prefer the feel of a thicker
handle when performing side levering exercises.
Lastly, I use a hose clamp to secure the levering plates in place. Traditional collars could
also be used but an inexpensive hose clamp is more than adequate based on the light
loads that will be used with this tool. Most athletes will not work with anywhere near
20 pounds when using this device. A flat head screwdriver is all that you will need to
manually tighten the hose clamp to secure your weight.
The result of these parts is an inexpensive, yet highly effective tool for training
pronation and supination. This tool is unique from the previously demonstrated
sledgehammer, dumbbell handle, and homemade handle. Although it is noticeably
shorter in length, the more significant difference between this tool and the others is the
location of the load. The 90 degree angle creates an entirely unique levering challenge
when compared to a straight bar or sledge.

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Personally, I find this particular tool to be the most comfortable and effective option for
targeting pronation and supination. Unlike a straight bar however, you will not target
both at the same time. With this homemade tool, you will target pronation with one set,
and then turn the handle to target supination with a separate set.
Pronation: Rotating the lower arm so that the palm faces downward.

Supination: Rotating the lower arm so that the palm faces up.

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This tool can also be used while seated (my personal preference). It is naturally more
suitable for seated use when compared to a longer handle such as a sledge.
Pronation:

Supination:

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It is also worth noting that while training pronation and supination with this tool, I stop
at approximately the upright position. For instance, observe the two pictures at the
bottom of page 161 (supination from a seated position). The left side picture shows the
starting position, while the right side shows my ending position. Notice that I do not
continue until the palm is facing completely up. I instead stop where the challenge
ends. The active portion of the exercise ends at approximately the upright position. If I
continued farther, gravity would eventually take over. By stopping at around the
upright position (or slightly beyond), more of my time is spent actively training
supination.
In summary, there are clearly several options available for training pronation and
supination. As mentioned already, I personally prefer the 90 degree device but I
encourage you to come to your own conclusion. Whether you choose a homemade tool,
sledgehammer, or dumbbell handle, the results will be similar as long as you are
consistent. What you use will matter less than your decision to actively train these often
overlooked movements.

Ulnar Deviation and Radial Deviation


In addition to pronation and supination, levering exercises can also be used to target
ulnar deviation and radial deviation. Ulnar deviation involves the movement of
bending the wrist towards the pinky. In other words, the wrist bends towards the ulnar
bone. Radial deviation involves the movement of bending the wrist towards the thumb.
The wrist essentially bends towards the radial bone.
As was the case with supination and pronation, both radial deviation and ulnar
deviation typically receive little attention without direct work. It is therefore worth
restating that if these exercises are new to you, it is imperative that you start light. I
have seen many athletes with massive arms and otherwise impressive strength who
crumbled under light loads when first attempting to lever weights overhead. It is also
worth noting that non-strength athletes should not expect to replicate the levering feats
of competitive strongmen. I believe it is important to make this statement based on my
own observations as a trainer. I once had a boxer almost knock his teeth out by
attempting an overhead lever with a sledgehammer after witnessing a strength athlete
perform the feat with ease. I am still not sure how I would have explained that accident
to his promoter. Fortunately, the fighter was able to move his head out of the way a
split second before the head of the hammer came crashing down.
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Equipment
It is quite common for strength athletes to lever sledgehammers when training ulnar
deviation and radial deviation. For example, perhaps the most common levering
variation is an overhead lever. Levering a sledgehammer overhead will instantly
capture the attention of onlookers. It is certainly impressive to see someone lever a
heavy sledgehammer to their nose. Unfortunately, it is also dangerous to those who are
not physically prepared. Overhead levering is quite difficult, particularly for those who
do not specialize in lower arm development.
With that in mind, I prefer for my athletes to use slightly shorter implements when
levering overhead. The previous example of my fighter was all that I needed to see
before transitioning to shorter levering tools. A typical sledgehammer handle is over 30
inches long. When you add the head of the hammer to the handle, many
sledgehammers will approach 36 inches in total length. Such length will typically
surpass the distance from your fist to your shoulder. Therefore, when levering a sledge
overhead, the head of the hammer will reach your face.
To avoid potential disasters with nonstrength athletes, I use a 24 inch piece of
pipe for overhead levering. The 24 inch
length is not enough to reach your face if
you ever lose control of the load. As you can
see in the picture, the load would simply
drop down to my shoulder.
As for creating a levering tool, all that is
needed is a piece of 24 x galvanized
pipe. To secure the weights in place, I use
two hose clamps (one on each side).
Although serious strength athletes may frown at this modification, it can be loaded as
heavy as needed. Another benefit of this tool is that it can be loaded precisely with
smaller plates. Sledgehammer levering typically requires larger jumps in weight. For
instance, common sledgehammer sizes include 8, 10, 12, 16, and 20 pounds. A two or
four pound increase in weight is often significant. You would also need to purchase a
new hammer each time you wish to progress to heavier loads.
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Overhead Lever
Whether you opt for a homemade device or sledgehammer, the overhead lever is an
excellent exercise to train ulnar deviation. To perform this exercise, begin by holding
your levering device upright to the side of your body. Your arm should be parallel to
the floor. From here, lower the weight under control towards the shoulder. The arm
should remain straight as you focus on wrist action. Once the weight has been lowered
as far as you can control it, reverse the movement solely with the wrist until the
levering device is returned to the upright position.
When performing this exercise, I prefer to work with a few sets of moderate reps (ex. 3
sets of 5 reps per side).

If this exercise is new to you, I encourage you to start light. Even five pounds may be
challenging to someone who has never performed any levering exercises before. Just
because you are using a shorter device (pipe vs. sledge) does not free you from the risk
of injury. Attempting to lever too much weight without the adequate foundation can
lead to wrist strain and injury. Therefore, while this exercise is undoubtedly one of the
best for wrist development, it must be performed with caution. Put your ego aside and
progress gradually.

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As for progressions, you can naturally adjust the load, but you can also choke up on the
handle to reduce difficulty. Whenever you shorten the distance between your hand and
the weight, the object becomes easier to lever.



Chokingupcanalsobeusefulforfinalsetswithinaworkoutoncefatiguehassetin

An overhead lever can also be performed from a bench. This variation can be useful if
you struggle to hold the levering device in place while working from the standing
position. The wrist action is identical whether working from the bench or standing.


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Levering To The Rear


Ulnar deviation can also be trained by levering weight to the rear. This variation is
useful if you do not wish to lower any weights towards the head. A sledgehammer or
homemade device can be used for this exercise. Length is irrelevant in regards to safety
as the weight would simply fall to the floor rather than towards your shoulder or head.
As for execution, begin by grabbing your levering device from the end so the weight is
facing down. From this position, use only your wrist to raise the weight up until the
handle is above parallel from the floor. The arm should remain relatively straight
throughout the exercise. Lower the weight under control and continue for a moderate
rep range.

A sledgehammer will naturally be more difficult with this exercise based on the longer
handle. Therefore, if you perform this exercise with a sledge, choke up as needed to
allow for a full range of motion.
If you are using a homemade device, it will be useful to have small plates available. One
pound wrist weights and 2.5 pound plates are particularly useful when progressing
with levering exercises. I cannot overstate just how much of a difference a single pound
or two can make when performing these exercises.

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Levering To The Front


Radial deviation can be trained by levering a weight in front. This levering style is quite
challenging so do not expect to use as much weight as you can with other variations. As
for execution, the instructions are almost identical to the previously seen rear lever. The
difference is that you will be levering the weight in front rather than behind you. Once
again, the arm should remain straight and by your side as you use the wrist to raise the
weight up until the handle is at or above parallel with the floor. Lower the weight
under control and continue for a moderate rep range.

As for front levering tools, I once again prefer a homemade device as you are not going
to need a lot of weight. It is nice to be able to load an exact amount with an exercise that
is so challenging. If you opt for a full length sledgehammer, there is a good chance that
you will need to initially choke up on the handle.
Another option to consider is a smaller sledgehammer. A 4
pound sledge will only cost a few dollars and is noticeably
shorter than a full sized hammer. Most 4 pounders are less
than 16 inches in total length. The light weight and short
length make this a useful hammer for beginners who have
never levered weight in front. This hammer can also be used
to warm up before levering heavier loads with other
variations (ex. overhead levering).

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The shorter handle also makes this sledgehammer useful for seated levering. Below you
can see how I lever this light hammer to the front while seated on a bench. And even
though this hammer is not challenging for me, I find it useful to get the blood flowing
with a set or two of higher reps before working with a heavier tool.

Another low-tech levering option involves nothing but a chair. Grab a chair by the front
legs and hold it out in front of you with straight arms. From this position, use the wrists
only to lift the chair towards you (thus training radial deviation).


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Static Holds
While levering is certainly an excellent
way to strengthen the wrists, it can also be
useful to statically hold certain positions.
One useful tool to facilitate such an
exercise is a wooden broom handle. Pipe
could also be used, but a lighter handle
will allow you to work with a heavier
plate. The broom handle has virtually no
weight which in this rare instance makes it
preferable over iron pipe.
To perform the exercise, simply add a
small weight plate to the broom handle
and hold it out in front of you. The farther
the plate is from your hand, the more
difficult it is to hold. As fatigue sets in
from this exercise, simply grab the plate
with your free hand and slide it closer to
the working hand.
I often perform this exercise as a finisher
after levering. I start with the plate at the
end of the handle and hold it until failure. I
then slide it in closer and once again hold
the position as long as I can. It does not
take long to fail which makes this exercise
a challenging, yet time efficient way to
close out a lower arm session.
This exercise is similar to the Weaver Stick
challenge that was popular with strength
athletes from previous eras.
The Weaver Stick* lift is essentially a leverage deadlift from a wooden broom handle (42
inches total) where a small weight hangs 36 inches from the gripping hand. This lift has
humbled many athletes over the years. If you give it a try, dont expect to lift any
significant loads. John Grimek is said to hold the record with 11 pounds from a stick
that was 2 inches shorter than regulation.

*

WeaverStickLifthttp://www.usawa.com/theweaverstick2/


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Household Items
Continuing with the low-tech theme, we can use a push broom for another wrist
challenge. Grab the broom by the end and lift it straight from the floor. As your strength
increases, you can rest an object on the end. Strength athletes from the past often
performed this feat by placing a brick (or bricks) atop the end of a broom. At first
glance, this feat may look easy but it is much more difficult than it appears.

A similar challenge can be performed with a chair. This old time lift has also humbled
many athletes over the years. Simply grasp a chair leg as close to the ground as possible
and lift the chair straight into the air.

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To increase the challenge of the chair lift, grab one of the front legs so that the weight is
not balanced over the hand. This modification makes the lift much more difficult. I have
seen many strong athletes fail miserably when attempting to lift a basic chair in this
manner.

Stunt vs. Lift


Some may see the chair and broom lifts and wonder if these are exercises or party tricks.
The reality though is that these are challenging movements regardless of how you label
them. And while I am not suggesting that you limit your lower arm training to chair
and broom lifts, it is always nice to have multiple options available. For instance, these
exercises are surely convenient for those who do not have access to a fully equipped
gym.
Using myself as an example, I obviously have several lower arm training aids at my
disposal. With that said, it is not as if I can pack all of my gear with me when I travel. If
I am on the road, it is nice to have exercise options available that I can perform with
ordinary objects such as a chair.
I also find it useful to be occasionally humbled by regular household items. Few things
bring an overconfident athlete back to reality faster than having him struggle to lift a
chair or broom from the ground. As I often say, no matter how strong you are, you can
always get stronger. Failing to lift a chair from the ground will solidify this statement to
those athletes who may initially disagree.
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Sledgehammer Training
Although I have focused primarily on homemade options for levering, there is no
denying that a sledgehammer is a viable wrist training tool. The sledge is not only
useful for levering, but can also be used for certain wrist dominant lifts.
Perhaps the most common sledgehammer lift is to deadlift a moderate sledge from the
ground while keeping the handle in a horizontal position. Most non-strength athletes
will be adequately challenged with an 8 or 10 pound hammer. To perform this exercise,
start from a kneeling position with a sledgehammer on one side. Grasp the handle
tightly and slowly stand up. Do not allow the head of the hammer to tilt towards the
floor. The handle must remain level throughout the lift.

Upon completion, you can either return the hammer to the floor and continue for reps,
or hold the upright position for time. If you perform multiple reps, you may need to
alter your hand position as fatigue sets in. It is naturally easier to perform this lift as the
hand inches closer to the head of the hammer. One brief, but challenging finisher is to
begin by executing this lift as far down the handle as possible. Hold the upright
position until failure. Return the sledge to the ground and repeat the exact sequence
with the hand one inch closer to the head of the hammer. Continue in this fashion until
your hand is just inches away from the head.
If you have never performed this exercise, you will soon realize that even one inch can
make a huge difference. It is therefore useful to label the handle to monitor progress. As
mentioned previously, use thin strips of tape to mark various points on the handle.
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A sledgehammer can also be deadlifted with the head of the hammer in front of the
body. You may even wish to place a coin on the head of the hammer to ensure that it
remains level throughout the lift. If the coin falls off, you will know that the head of the
hammer is starting to tilt.


Sledgehammer Conditioning
Although the sledgehammer is clearly a useful wrist strengthener, there is more to
sledge training than lifting and levering. Repeatedly swinging a sledge into a tire has
long been a tremendous power and conditioning exercise for combat athletes. While
fitness gimmicks come and go, the sledgehammer has stood the test of time for good
reason. Plain and simple, it works. World champion fighters would not waste time with
the sledge if it was not providing results.
Dont just take my word for it however. One of my favorite quotes can be seen below
courtesy of former heavyweight boxer Earnie Shavers. Shavers was one of the hardest
punchers in the history of the sport.
Archie Moore showed all his old tricks to me when he trained me. He got me chopping trees to
improve my explosive power in my legs, back, shoulders and arms which are all places where
punching power comes from. And when we trained where there were no trees to chop he brought
in huge truck tires and got me hitting them with a sledge-hammer over and over.
I chopped trees or hit the tires before every single fight. Archie was the hardest hitting light
heavyweight who ever lived and so he knew exactly what he was talking about.
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To swing the sledge, begin in a staggered stance with one foot slightly in front of the
other. Notice how my right foot is closest to the tire while swinging from the left side.
This stance allows me to generate more hip action during the swing. The hammer starts
on one side, and comes across the body diagonally. Throughout the swing, one hand
remains stationary at the bottom of the handle. To begin (Figure 1), my left hand slides
down the sledge, away from the stationary hand, as it is loaded behind my left
shoulder. The hand then slides back towards the stationary hand during the downward
motion (Figure 2 and 3). When swinging in this style, I switch sides every 5 to 10 reps.

Figure 1

Figure 3

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Figure 4

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Anyone who has ever swung a sledgehammer has surely felt their share of forearm
fatigue. It is important not to confuse such fatigue with wrist development however.
While the forearms are certainly taxed when swinging a sledge, wrist strength will only
improve to an extent. I have seen many athletes who can swing a heavy sledgehammer
quite efficiently who still struggle to lever even light loads. I make this statement not to
minimize the effectiveness of swinging a sledgehammer, but to instead remind you that
specific work is required to develop true wrist strength.

To focus more attention to the wrists, swing the sledge with both hands stationary at
the bottom of the handle. When performing this variation, the feet will remain parallel
as the hammer is swung vertically. Alternate hand position every 5 to 10 swings.
A sample sledgehammer workout could begin with a few sets of vertical swings as seen
above, before transitioning to the more traditional style from the previous page. You
could then finish off with a few of the sledge lifts seen earlier. Such an approach will
surely hit the forearms and wrists adequately.
Yet another variation could be performed that includes a swing, but does not involve
any contact with a tire. You will essentially perform a partial swing before halting the
sledgehammer in mid-air. A few sets of this variation could be performed before
striking the tire with the sledge.
Page 176 includes a demonstration.
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As you can see, I begin as if I was swinging the sledge vertically with both hands
stationary at the bottom of the handle. Wrist strength is then required to halt the
sledgehammer out in front of the body. If you are unable to stop the descending
hammer, you are either swinging too fast (based on your ability) or swinging too large
of a hammer.

From a wrist strength perspective, this variation is much more challenging than striking
the sledge into a tire. Do not underestimate its difficulty. I recommend using a light
sledgehammer to avoid any injuries or potential accidents. A 6 or 8 pound hammer will
suffice in most cases. Remember, you are not just stopping a dead weight, but rather
one that is traveling quickly towards the ground. Even those athletes with considerable
lower arm strength can be challenged with a light hammer. To increase the difficulty,
simply swing the sledge harder. Eight pounds on a 30+ inch handle is not easy to
control when it is moving fast.

Bodyweight Options
While much of the book has featured low-tech equipment options, no tool is as
convenient or portable as your own body. Fortunately, there are bodyweight exercises
that we can perform to target the wrists. It is worth noting however that some of these
exercises are quite challenging, thus are not intended for beginners. It is also worth
mentioning that some of the movements may not be necessary for the typical fitness
enthusiast.

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One of the easier lower arm pushup variations is the knuckle pushup. Knuckle pushups
will improve wrist stability. Those who lack wrist strength and control will often find
their wrists buckling after performing continuous reps. Knuckle pushups will also
condition the hands for striking, particularly when performed on a harder floor surface.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of the knuckle pushup however is that you can eventually
progress towards one arm knuckle pushups. I prefer the one arm knuckle pushup over
any other one arm pushup variation.

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One arm pushups are a favorite exercise of many bodyweight enthusiasts. It is always
nice to have quality strength exercises that can be performed anywhere without
equipment. Unfortunately, many athletes struggle to find the ideal hand position and
balance when performing traditional one arm pushups.
In my opinion, performing a one arm pushup from the knuckles is in many ways selfcorrecting. It is much easier to align yourself properly for balanced pressing. The
drawback is that many athletes lack the wrist strength and stability to successfully
perform this variation. If more time was spent developing the wrists, knuckle pushups
could be performed easily from a wrist strength perspective.
Regrettably, many athletes overlook knuckle pushups as they assume the exercise is
only intended for wrist or knuckle conditioning. Yet, when I perform one arm knuckle
pushups, I do so primarily for the pressing benefits. It just happens that working from
the knuckles provides the best alignment for pressing. As for wrist strength, there
certainly are prerequisites to perform this exercise. With that said, an athlete who has
well developed wrists can perform one arm knuckle pushups with a minimal challenge
to the lower arms. In summary, I believe it is useful to develop the wrist strength and
stability to perform knuckle pushups so that you can eventually reap the benefits of this
hand position for more challenging variations.

Wrist Pushups
For true wrist conditioning, a more difficult exercise is the wrist pushup. This pushup
variation is performed from the back of your hands. You will essentially perform a
pushup while your bodyweight rests on your wrists.


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Depending on flexibility, wrist pushups can also be performed at various angles. The
hand position below requires much more flexibility than what is shown on the previous
page.

Why Bother?
Before discussing the progressions necessary to achieve the wrist pushup, it is worth
discussing why on earth anyone would want to perform pushups from this position.
Whenever I perform these variations, it is all but guaranteed that someone will either
ask what the point is or comment that these pushups appear dangerous.
For starters, wrist pushups are certainly not required for general health. It is more
common to see gymnasts and martial artists perform these pushups. Such athletes
require strong and flexible wrists. As for potential dangers, almost any exercise can be
dangerous to someone who is not physically prepared for it. The wrist pushup is no
exception. With the appropriate progressions however, these pushups are much less
challenging than they may initially appear.
As for benefits, the strength and flexibility that is developed can be quite useful for
combat athletes. For instance, almost every fighter has at one time jammed his wrist
while either striking a bag or opponent. Learning to throw a left hook is a classic
example. Many novice fighters will jam their wrists regularly when first hooking
against a heavy bag. In fact, the angle of the wrist when jammed is similar to what was
seen on page 178. If you misfire with a hook, your wrist will bend in a similar fashion.
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Progressions
The first step to performing the wrist pushup is to develop comfort with minimal
weight resting down on the back of your hands. Working from the position seen below
is an ideal starting point. The more you bend at the waist, the easier it is to perform
partial pushups from this position. Distribute your bodyweight accordingly based on
how you feel from this position.

Eventually, you will be able to perform wrist pushups from the knees (without bending
at the waist).


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Once you are comfortable performing at least 10 reps from the knees, you may wish to
progress towards full range pushups. If you are still hesitant or uncertain, consider
working from a soft piece of foam. A cushioned floor surface makes the wrist pushup
much less intimidating.

It can also be useful to train one hand at a time. Distribute your bodyweight accordingly
based on your comfort level.


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Once you are comfortable working from the back of the hand, you can begin to perform
a more dynamic variation. Start from the fists (Figure 1) and gradually bend the wrists
outward as you lower yourself towards the ground (Figure 2). You will then reverse the
motion as you ascend from the bottom position. You will essentially straighten the
wrists until you are back on the fists in the upright position (Figure 3). Continue back
and forth in this fashion.

Figure 1

Figure 2

Figure 3

How Long?
When discussing the progressions necessary to achieve wrist pushups, I am often asked
how long it will take. Unfortunately, it is impossible to predict in advance. Physical
ability is just one piece of the puzzle. What is often a greater barrier is the inherent fear
of performing pushups from this position. It is not unusual to feel uncomfortable when
working from the back of the hands.
With that said, I have seen certain athletes perform these pushups in a matter of days. I
say this not to suggest that you should rush through the progressions, but instead to
highlight a specific point. Many athletes who have spent ample time training the lower
arms already possess the physical attributes necessary to perform these pushups. They
simply need time to develop comfort and confidence from this position.
In summary, certain athletes may need days, others weeks, and others months to
perform these pushups. Do not set specific time limits on your own development.
Listen to your body and advance when you feel comfortable. Training should never be
viewed as a race, but rather a continuous journey of improvement.
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No Limits
Most athletes will never need to perform one hand wrist pushups, but I believe it is
useful to include this variation to highlight the bodys potential. As a young fighter, my
wrists were feeble and weak. Many years later, I can comfortably perform one arm
pushups from the back of my hand. Unfortunately, many spectators will naturally label
this exercise as dangerous. The real danger for me however was when I neglected to
strengthen my lower arms.

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As for progressing to one arm wrist pushups, it is worth restating that most athletes
will never need to perform this variation. With that said, there will certainly be those
who wish to push the envelope further and progress towards this movement. First, you
will obviously need to be comfortable with two hands. You can then begin working
with a light weighted vest or attempt one hand wrist pushups from the knees. If the full
range of motion is too challenging, start with a static hold. Try to hold the upright
position on the back of one hand. As your strength and confidence improves, you can
gradually begin working towards full range pushups. Just be sure to take your time
with this movement.

More Wrist Strength


As for additional pushup options, the variation seen below is perhaps the closest
bodyweight substitute for levering. With this movement, you will be rolling the wrists
forward and then backward, thus working from pinky to thumb.
In Figure 1, notice how my bodyweight is essentially resting on the pinky side of my
hands. From this position, I roll my bodyweight forward as my arms extend. I continue
to roll my bodyweight forward until my thumbs approach the ground (Figure 2). Upon
reaching Figure 2, I then reverse the motion, thus bending the wrist back to Figure 1.
The wrist continues to roll forward and then backward with each repetition.

Figure 1

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As for progressions, those who are comfortable levering moderate loads with a pipe or
sledgehammer will likely perform this pushup variation without too much difficulty. If
you are new to wrist training however, I suggest starting from the knees. You could
even bend at the waist as was demonstrated on page 180. By bending at the knees and
waist, you can fine tune exactly how much of your weight bears down on the wrists. As
your strength improves, you can gradually progress to full range reps as seen on the
previous page.

Turning and Twisting


Any wrist strength discussion would be incomplete without addressing the simple act
of turning and twisting. For instance, if you look back to the previously referenced grip
training manual by Edward Aston, you will find a page dedicated to opening tightly
sealed jar tops. He suggested using a long jar with a screw-on lid. The instructions were
straightforward. Turn and twist the lid open and closed with each hand.
Unfortunately, opening a jar is not going to be too difficult for anyone who regularly
trains the lower arms. The solution therefore is to replicate the movement with greater
resistance. As for options, one of the better ideas that I have seen involves turning and
twisting a dumbbell that is buried within a bucket of sand or rice.
To perform this variation, you will need a
large bucket. Most hardware stores sell
five gallon buckets for a few dollars. You
will then fill the bucket approximately
full with rice or sand. In the illustration, I
am using rice. I will demonstrate some
additional exercises that can be used with
a rice filled bucket in the next chapter.
For this particular exercise however, you
will need a moderate sized dumbbell (ex.
45 pounds). You will then essentially
screw the dumbbell into the bucket until it
is almost fully submerged. For optimal
results, continue all the way until the
dumbbell touches the bottom of your
bucket. That is the starting position for this
exercise.
With the dumbbell almost fully buried, you will then grip the top as was demonstrated
on page 104. From this position, you will turn and twist the dumbbell fully in each
direction as if you were opening and closing a jar. Strive to maximize range of motion
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both towards the pinky and then towards the thumb. Expect to be stronger working
towards the pinky, but work each direction equally.

Punching
Last but not least, one remaining topic
that is worthy of a discussion is whether a
fighter should strike a heavy bag with
bare hands. There are many martial artists
who consider bare knuckle striking to be
an effective wrist developer. They believe
that many wrist injuries could be avoided
if more fighters took the time to gradually
develop their wrists by striking the bag
without hand wraps or gloves.
Naturally, novice fighters would initially
be advised to hit the bag lightly. In time,
their wrists would adapt to the striking.
As the wrists become stronger and more
resilient, the fighters would gradually
begin to strike the bag harder.
The ultimate goal of this conditioning process is to create a durable pair of wrists that
can strike without fear of injury. Clearly, such development takes time. The wrists are
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often slow to adapt. Fighters who strike the bag without protection must be extremely
patient with their development. There are no shortcuts.
Consequently, there are many trainers who strongly oppose the idea of striking without
protection. They believe that bare knuckle striking puts too much strain on the wrists,
thus should be entirely avoided. Instead, they suggest alternative methods for wrist
strengthening (ex. weight training). When striking the bag, these trainers advocate
protecting the hands and wrists thoroughly with gloves and wraps.
Personally, I land somewhere in the middle when discussing the pros and cons of
striking a bag bare handed. When training a pro fighter, I am extremely careful with
their hands and wrists. I do not allow them to strike the bag without protection. A
fighters hands and wrists are his livelihood. I cannot allow the fighter to risk injury. I
wrap each hand carefully and then strengthen the lower arms separately.
With that said, I enjoy striking the bag without gloves. I do not perform all of my bag
work without gloves, but I do enjoy bare handed work on occasion. Perhaps one reason
why is because I never could before with my once feeble wrists. It is finally nice to hit
the bag without fear of injury. More importantly however, I strike the bag without
gloves as that is how I would use my hands if I had to protect myself. There is no better
way to prepare the wrists for impact than through impact. I simply do not advise such
an approach to an athlete who makes a living out of striking with his hands. There are
safer ways to strengthen the lower arms.
If I was still fighting competitively, I would wrap my hands each time I struck the bag.
As a trainer though, I have different goals than my fighters. I can take on greater risk as
I no longer enter the ring to fight. If I accidentally injure myself on the bag, it does not
hinder my career the way it would a competitive fighter.

Summary
As is evident throughout the chapter, there are countless options for wrist development.
Whether you train with bodyweight exercise, free weights, homemade devices,
household items, or a combination of each, there are ample opportunities to train the
wrists without expensive or elaborate tools.
It is my hope that more athletes (particularly combat athletes) invest the time that is
necessary to properly strengthen the wrists. A fighters wrists can literally make or
break his career. I hate to see any aspiring athlete unable to perform the sport he or she
loves due to an injury born of neglect. Most wrist injuries could be avoided if more time
was spent actively training the wrists. Do not wait for injuries to occur before you begin
training this valuable portion of the lower arms.
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FINGERS AND CRUSH


A chain is no stronger than its weakest link, and life is after all
a chain. - William James

If you asked the average person to define grip strength, most would describe the
strength displayed or felt when shaking someones hand. After all, it takes just a second
to recognize the lower arm strength of a man who shakes your hand with a vice grip.
This handshake-type strength is known as crush grip.
Crush grip involves gripping an object that rests against the palm and fingers. Crush
grip is undoubtedly the most commonly trained type of grip strength. In fact, many
athletes who train the hands do little outside of training crush grip. The bulk of their
work is directed towards this single gripping style. There are even certifications that
have been created solely around crush grip strength feats.
With that in mind, you may be wondering why on earth I waited so long within this
book to address the most popular form of lower arm training. What may be even more
surprising is that I have grouped crush grip with another lower arm category (finger
training). I did not even have the decency to give crush grip its own section.
Have I lost my mind?
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Crush Grip
For starters, I will remind you that I am not a grip strength competitor. I also have no
personal vendettas against crush grip or those who specialize in this lower arm strength
quality. I actually have several friends who have competed in grip events and spend a
considerable amount of time developing crush grip. I have a ton of respect for those
who have demonstrated world class crush grip strength.
As for crush grip feats, it goes without saying that the most common displays include
closing high tension grippers. And while several brands have been developed in recent
years, there is no denying that Ironminds Captain of Crush grippers are the most
recognized in the world. In other words, if you are serious about crush grip, there is a
good chance that you own several Captain of Crush grippers.
Therefore, it may come as a surprise that I do not own many grippers. I am far from a
crush grip specialist. Yes, I do believe that most athletes will benefit by developing
crush grip to an extent, but I also have seen many athletes overemphasize crush grip at
the expense of other lower arm needs.

I own two Captain of Crush grippers. I have owned the #1 and #2 for several years. I
purchased both grippers together when I first started focusing seriously on lower arm
training. Unfortunately, after I became proficient closing the #2, I developed a false
sense of my own lower arm strength. I was eventually shocked to see how limited I was
when I began training other grip qualities. For example, I struggled considerably with
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pinch grip and thick bar lifting. My wrists were also weak. I was essentially a one-trick
pony. I had developed respectable crush grip strength, while struggling with almost
every other lower arm task.
I share these stories not to suggest that crush grip lacks relevance, but instead to remind
athletes that there is much more to lower arm development. At this stage in my life, I do
not focus a lot of time on the grippers. I occasionally use the #1 as a warm-up and then
do a few sets of moderate reps with the #2. The bulk of my gripper training takes place
in my truck. I keep both grippers in the center console and use them on long rides or
when I am stuck in traffic.
In terms of benefits, crush grip certainly constitutes a portion of lower arm strength. I
just remind you to not expect too much carry over from crush grip strength to other
grip feats. As for athletic relevance, a strong crush grip can prove useful for athletes
who regularly grasp a piece of clothing. For instance, if you are involved in jiu-jitsu, a
strong crush grip could help when grasping a gi. The same could be said of a football
player who grasps a jersey in the fingers and palm when attempting to make a tackle.
As for closing a gripper, the instructions
are straightforward. Typically speaking,
you can either close it or you cannot.
There is not a whole lot of technique
involved. Although grip specialists may
debate various certification standards (ex.
credit card set), the average person does
not need to concern himself with such
nuances.
In terms of specifics, all that I have ever
done is to set the gripper within my
fingers and hand so that I am in an ideal
position to squeeze (as illustrated). I will
then continue the set from this position.
As for workouts, most specialists suggest working with three grippers. The first is for
warm-up sets. The second is for working sets. The third would then serve as a challenge
gripper. It will be one level higher than what you can currently close, thus useful for
variations such as negatives, forced reps, and partials. Unfortunately, high quality
grippers are much more expensive than the minimally challenging grippers sold at
most sporting goods stores. To develop true crush strength, you need quality grippers
that provide a legitimate challenge. Such grippers typically cost between $20 and $25
each. Therefore, purchasing three grippers is a fairly considerable investment for many
athletes. Not everyone is willing to invest $75 to train a single grip style.
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Yet, despite the cost, there is no denying that high tension grippers are perhaps the best
tool for developing crush grip strength. The lack of attention that I have directed
towards these grippers is by no means a knock against them. On the contrary, high
tension grippers have become so popular that few people need additional information
about closing them. Even though there are advanced techniques that grip specialists
may use, most non-strength athletes need nothing more than consistency and time to
eventually close higher level grippers.

Grip Machines
It is worth noting that while grippers are a tremendous crush grip tool, there are other
options available. Perhaps my favorite crush grip device is a homemade tool that was
inspired by an old Bruce Lee photo. Several years ago I came across a picture of Bruce
Lee training with what was described as a grip machine. In fact, if you search the web
for a Bruce Lee grip machine, you will likely come across the same photograph.
As a long time Bruce Lee fan, I naturally wanted to try a similar device. Unfortunately,
the plate loaded grip machines that I found commercially were quite expensive. Certain
models were selling for a few hundred dollars. To no surprise, I eventually decided to
build my own. Below you can see the low-tech model that I constructed. One key
difference between my model and the more expensive commercial models is that the
sides are not enclosed within a tracking frame. As a result, the load must be lifted as
well as balanced.

Thegripmachinecanbeusedwithinapowerrackoronitsownwithaseparatehomemadeplatform

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To build this grip machine, you must first


determine where it will be used. As seen
on the previous page, this tool can be used
within a power rack or atop a platform. If
you already own a power rack, a safety
bar within the rack can form the top
portion of the grip machine. Your hand
will rest on this bar when using this
device.

a.

b.

c.

d.

All that you will need are the following:


a)
b)
c)
d)
e)
f)

Two x 90-degree elbows


One x 12 pipe nipple
Two x 12 pipe nipples
One x 10 pipe nipple
Three floor flanges
One 2x10" cut to 18

e.

f.

Putting the pieces together is quite simple. Please note however that the top pipe nipple
is only a in diameter. The smaller size makes it easier for your finger tips to wrap
around the bar. As a result, the 90-degree elbow fittings are by . The bottom
portion connects to a pipe nipple, while the top connects to the nipple. The floor
flanges are manually screwed into the 2x10 inch piece of wood which has been cut to 18
inches.
If you do not have a power rack to form
the top portion of the grip machine, you
can easily construct your own platform.

a.

b.

All that you will need are the following:


a)
b)
c)
d)
e)

One x 24 pipe nipple


Two 90-degree elbows
Two x 18 pipe nipples
Two floor flanges
One 2x10" cut to 36

c.

d.
e.

The device seen at the top of this page would then rest inside this larger platform.
Depending on hand size, you can also place a plate or book on this platform to vary the
range of motion. A demonstration of this concept can be seen on the following page.

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Below you can see how I have placed a 25 pound plate between the two pieces of wood.
Doing so allows me to work through a range of motion that is comfortable based on my
hand size. If you have larger hands, you may not need to choke up. Also notice how the
top bar is thicker () than the bottom bar () where my finger tips grasp. If the
bottom bar was thicker, it would be more difficult to grasp and range of motion would
be slightly reduced.
As for technique, the goal is to squeeze the two bars together using nothing but hand
strength. Do not pull the bottom bar up to the top bar. This is a hand strength exercise,
not a deadlift. Focus solely on the lower arms. You are essentially crushing the two bars
together.
In addition, you will notice the difference between this homemade device and those
that are sold commercially. As mentioned previously, the homemade version does not
have a tracking frame on each side where the 12 inch pipe nipples would slide up and
down. Instead, the plate loaded portion of this tool is free to move. You must therefore
align your hands properly so that the load is balanced. I also find it useful to stand on
the platform. Positioning one foot on each side helps to keep the platform stable when
performing continuous reps.

Furthermore, you can alter the range of motion by varying the number of plates that are
stacked atop the bottom platform. For instance, suppose you are struggling at the last
inch of your crush grip. You can choke up to that point and focus your efforts
specifically towards that weak link.

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The grip machine can also be used to


train one hand at a time. When training
one side, I shift the bottom loading piece
towards the working hand. For instance,
in the image to the right, you can see how
the weights sit directly underneath my
left hand. By shifting the weights to one
side, it becomes easier to balance the load
during the exercise.
When first attempting one hand work, it
may take a few tries to get a feel for the
balance. Once you have performed a few
sets, you will instinctively know where to
grasp the bar so that it remains balanced
throughout each repetition.
It goes without saying that one or two
hands can also be used when training
within a power rack. I personally prefer
to use one hand inside the rack however
as the safety bars have a tendency to spin.
Therefore, I use my non-working hand to
keep the safety bar in place.
Another difference between the power
rack and the homemade platform is the
ability to adjust the height of the safety
bars. As a result, I do not need to place a
weight or book underneath the grip
machine. I can instead alter the height of
the bars. You could still place a weight
atop the rack (under the grip machine) if
you wanted to target a more precise
range of motion however.
As for ideal rep ranges with the grip machine, I prefer some variety. After a warm-up
set or two, I typically start with heavier work to focus on strength. During these sets, I
perform between one and five reps using one hand at a time. Following the heavier
work, I finish with a few two hand sets. When working with two hands, I increase the
rep range (ex. 10 to 20 reps). Performing higher reps against a moderate load provides a
tremendous hand and forearm pump. This variation makes for an excellent strength
endurance challenge.
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Apples and Oranges


Almost each time that I show a new athlete my grip machine, I am asked about the
differences between training with it and closing a gripper. Unfortunately, there is no
single answer. In many ways, it boils down to apples and oranges. One tool is not
necessarily better or worse than the other.
Both the grip machine and grippers are valuable tools for developing crush grip
strength. As for specific differences, there are pros and cons to each. For instance, a
handheld gripper is obviously more convenient to use when traveling. The grip
machine takes up more room and also requires additional weight. If you dont have any
weight to load, the grip machine is worthless.
Assuming you do have plates however, one benefit of the grip machine is that it can be
used by athletes of all abilities. I have had beginners use my grip machine, just as I have
had serious strength athletes use it. I have yet to find anyone who was too weak or too
strong for the grip machine. I also like the fact that I can make small increases in weight
without the need for an entirely new gripper. I can add or remove a few pounds to
increase or decrease the challenge whenever necessary.
In summary, lower arm strength is not developed by focusing all of your attention
towards a single tool. It is useful to have multiple options available for each grip style.
Crush grip is no exception. Both handheld grippers and a grip machine are viable
options to develop a vice grip.

Spring Clamps
Yet another low-tech lower arm tool can
be found at your local hardware store for
a few dollars. Heavy duty spring clamps
(also known as Pony clamps) are an
inexpensive addition to finger and thumb
training.
Spring clamps come in a variety of sizes.
Pictured to the right, you can see how a 1
inch, 2 inch, and 3 inch clamp compare in
size next to a Caption of Crush gripper.
All three of these spring clamps were
purchased together. The total bill was
approximately six dollars.

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As for use, spring clamps are most commonly used to target thumb strength. Individual
(or multiple) fingers can also be targeted however. With a little creativity, these spring
clamps can be used for several variations. As for difficulty, many athletes are shocked at
how much tension certain spring clamps provide. Surprisingly, the 3 inch clamp from
the previous page is the easiest to close.

Above, you can see how I target thumb


strength with the 3 inch clamp. Initially, I
need to set the clamp in my hand as it
would otherwise be too wide. Once the
clamp is set within my fingers and
thumb, I focus on thumb strength while
closing the ends.
Yet, while I can close the 3 inch clamp
with relative ease, the smaller clamps are
much more difficult. For instance, notice
how I am unable to close the 1 inch
clamp.
Few things will humble you as fast as
being unable to close a clamp that was
purchased for less than a dollar.

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If it is too difficult to close the clamp with


one thumb, you can use both instead.
Simply hold the clamp in front of the
body with each thumb resting on top. Use
thumb strength to repeatedly close the
clamp for reps.

You can also vary the position of the clamp so that the closed end begins towards the
body. You would then close the clamp with the finger tips and thumbs in contact as
seen below.

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Band Modification
If a spring clamp is not difficult enough for a particular exercise, it will only cost a few
cents to increase the challenge. Wrap rubber bands around the end of the spring clamp
and it becomes much more challenging. I suggest using multiple thin rubber bands (ex.
size #32) to allow for slight increases in resistance. It will not take many bands before
the spring clamp becomes quite difficult to close.

The clamp + band gripper can be used as seen above or below. This modification might
not attract the attention of grip competitors, but it will provide an adequate challenge
for many athletes at a price that is less expensive than most store bought grippers.

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Finger Exerciser
If you would like to complement the inexpensive spring clamp grippers with another
low-tech tool, you can build a homemade finger and thumb exerciser. All that you will
need are the following parts:
a) One x 6 pipe nipple
b) One 2x4 piece of wood (24 inches in length)
c) One floor flange
To create this tool, simply cut the 2x4 to 24 inches in length. You will then attach a
floor flange to one end with a 6 pipe nipple screwed into the flange.

a.
c.
b.

Next, I suggest mitering one end of the


2x4 to approximately a 45 degree angle.
Doing so will extend the range of motion
available with this device.
You will then need to cut two small strips
of wood (d.) that will be nailed into the
bottom of the device. These two strips will
keep the device in place. When in use, this
tool will rest atop a dumbbell handle. The
two small strips of wood will keep the
tool positioned properly over the handle.

d.

e.

Two additional strips of wood (e.) can also be attached to the sides of this device. These
small strips are optional, but will prevent the tool from sliding sideways atop the
dumbbell handle.
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Ultimately, the end of this unit will rest


atop a dumbbell when being used. The
dumbbell serves solely to house the unit
on top. It is not lifted. Therefore, size and
weight are irrelevant.
The dumbbell rests on top of a thin piece
of wood or hard cover book. Pictured to
the right, you can see how an old cutting
board works well. My fingers or thumb
wrap around this thin piece of wood when
performing reps.

Exercises
Below you can see how the unit rests atop the dumbbell. The dumbbell sits on top of the
cutting board. The cutting board hangs slightly off the bench so that the fingers have
room to hook underneath. From this position, you will train the thumb. Do not use
your bodyweight to push the device towards the bench. Focus solely on thumb
strength. It is easy to cheat with this exercise, but doing so offers nothing in return.

This simple device allows me to perform what I consider to be one of the best thumb
exercises of all. You will not need a lot of weight for a considerable challenge.
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You can also train the fingers with this tool. Target one hand at a time or individual
fingers. Just be sure that you do not lean down. Let your fingers perform the work.

It is also possible to simultaneously target fingers from each hand. For example, below
you can see how I target my two pointer fingers.

In summary, this simple tool will cost only a few dollars to construct yet will provide an
endless challenge to the fingers and thumbs.*

*

Relatedtutorial:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3bwx1JDqw8

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Extensors
Any discussion that includes crush grip and individual finger training should extend to
include extensor training as well. Unfortunately, the extensors are often forgotten when
considering lower arm training. For instance, earlier I mentioned that the average
person defines grip strength as their crush grip ability. In other words, how hard can
they close each hand? Flexion naturally generates more interest as our hands are meant
to grasp and hold various items. It is not surprising that little attention is directed
towards the opposite motion (i.e. opening the hand).
Extensor training is still important however. If you wish to maintain overall hand
health and balance between flexor and extensor strength, you need to train the
extensors. Fortunately, extensor training will not require a significant investment in
time or equipment. You will only need a few minutes at most and can perform the
exercises with little or nothing.
Perhaps the most obvious choice for extensor training is to simply open the hand. Make
a light fist and then rapidly open and close the hand as fast as possible. If you have
never trained the extensors before, it will not take long to experience an extreme burn
throughout the forearms.
Try to open and close the hand as many times as possible during a thirty second period.
You could perform a few sets within a matter of minutes without ever getting up from
your desk. And while the forearm burn may seem significant, the amount of resistance
that you are working against is minimal. Therefore, such work can be performed fairly
frequently without concerns of overuse.

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If you would like some variety, start with the fingers pinched rather than in a fist. One
or two sets of each variation will be all that is necessary for most beginners.

To add resistance to your extensor training, consider opening the hand repeatedly
against a moderate sized rubber band. For this exercise, use a larger rubber band than
what was demonstrated with the spring clamp grippers. Smaller bands are not as
convenient for extensor training as they are more likely to slide up your fingers while in
use. I prefer to use size #84 rubber bands (3 x ).

Once you can comfortably perform 25 or more reps, you can add another band. You
may also wish to discard older bands occasionally if they appear to be stretched out. An
entire bag of bands will only cost a few dollars so they are inexpensive to replace.
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Another option for extensor training


involves using the same bucket that was
seen on page 185. You will essentially open
the hand against the resistance provided by
the rice or sand. To do so, make a fist
outside of the bucket and forcefully insert it
deep into the rice or sand. You will then
open the hand quickly against the rice or
sand.
Next, remove your hand, make a fist in the
air, and drive it back to the bottom of the
bucket before opening the hand again.
Continue briskly for moderate to high reps.
Therefore, deep within the bucket, your hand will perform the following action.


Iphotographedmyhandabovethebuckettohelpillustratewhatshouldbehappeningwithin

In addition to training extension within the bucket, you can also forcefully grasp and
crush handfuls of sand or rice. For this variation, you will start with an open hand as
opposed to a clenched fist. Reach down quickly and crush whatever you can grab
within your hand. Continue rapidly and repeatedly.
It is also possible to grasp handfuls of rice or sand while twisting the wrist in each
direction. For example, grasp and twist towards the pinky, and then grasp and twist
towards the thumb. Continue rapidly, alternating direction with each repetition.
The combination of flexing and extending within the rice or sand provides a useful
strength endurance challenge. A few sets of each variation will not take long to
complete yet can be quite useful for the lower arms.
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Isometrics
The extensors can also be trained isometrically.
The equipment requirements are minimal. All
that you will need is a short strip of velcro.
Industrial strength velcro is inexpensive and
easy to find at most hardware or fabric stores.
Creating the isometric velcro device is quite
simple. Each box of velcro includes two strips.
One strip has a soft side, while the other strip
is abrasive. Each has a sticky back. Cut the soft
and abrasive strips to 12 inches each and affix
the sticky sides. Thats it.
Once you have the velcro affixed and cut to length, pinch the fingers together and
secure the velcro strip around them. From this position, you should attempt to open the
hand. Naturally, the strong velcro will not move so you will be forced to work
isometrically against it. Exert yourself maximally for 5 to 10 seconds.
Once you have performed a few sets, open the velcro to a wider position and continue
with a few more sets. It will only take a matter of seconds to adjust the velcro strip to
provide a unique isometric challenge. Below you can see two different positions.

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Weighted Isometrics
The extensors can also be trained isometrically with light weights. All that you will
need are the following:
x
x
x
x

One small eye-bolt with an accompanying nut


Three inch PVC cap
18 to 24 inches of chain
One carabiner spring-link

Building this simple, yet effective device will take a few


minutes at most. All that you need to do is drill a small hole
in the center of a three inch PVC end cap. These caps can be
found at any hardware store. Expect to pay a few dollars for
the cap. Once you have drilled a hole through the cap, you
will then screw and attach a small eye-bolt through the
opening.
Next, you will attach an 18 to 24 inch piece of chain to the
eye-bolt with a carabiner spring-link. The chain and link will
be used to attach small weights.
To use this device, place your fingers and thumb inside the cap and open the hand (thus
pressing the fingers and thumb against the inside walls of the cap). As you extend
isometrically, attempt to hold or lift weight that is attached from the chain.

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If you have never attempted to hold or lift weights isometrically in this fashion, prepare
yourself to be humbled. This is not the type of exercise where you will ever move
massive loads. In addition, PVC is naturally smooth which makes the exercise more
challenging. The extensors must not only work hard to hold the weight, but also to
prevent the fingers and thumb from slipping within the PVC. Some athletes actually
prefer to wear rubber gloves when performing this exercise to prevent slippage. I prefer
to use bare hands as it is more challenging and I do not need as much weight. I do not
train the extensors with the goal of developing brute strength throughout. I target the
extensors to ensure muscular balance and lower arm health.

More Than Strength


When considering crush grip potential and the limited strength of our extensors, you
could say that our hands are in some ways comparable to an alligators jaw. The
alligator bites down with tremendous force yet is quite weak in the opposing direction
(opening the mouth). Human hands are similar in that they have naturally evolved to
grasp and hold various items. We are much stronger when closing the hand as opposed
to opening it.
Unfortunately, the lack of maximal strength throughout the extensors is one reason why
many athletes ignore them. In their eyes, why waste time with a group of exercises that
will not develop brute strength. They would much rather focus their time and effort
towards more challenging and intense movements.
I encourage you to avoid making this mistake. Just because you are not developing
super strength throughout the extensors does not diminish their importance. Lower
arm health may not be an athletes primary concern today, but that opinion will likely
change as the years pass. Proactively training the extensors will not only prevent
injuries down the road, but will also help with overall hand strength. You will never
reach your lower arm strength potential if you neglect the extensors.
In addition, dont discount extensor training simply because the exercises are not that
intense. The limited intensity of most extensor exercises is advantageous in my opinion.
Less intensity allows for more frequency. Therefore, you can train the extensors a few
days per week without interfering with the rest of your training. For example, I have
rubber bands at my desk that I use regularly. I randomly perform a few sets of extensor
work whenever the mood strikes me. Such work is over within a few minutes and
requires even less time for recovery.
I may also perform a more intense extensor exercise once or twice per week (ex.
weighted isometrics, rice bucket exercises, etc.). I mix it up from week to week to avoid
boredom. Extensor work certainly is not the most exciting form of lower arm training,
so some variety is helpful as the weeks and months pass.
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Finger Strength
Thus far, I have demonstrated several inexpensive options for crush grip and finger
training. Yet, as I mentioned before, nothing compares to training with your own body.
Bodyweight exercise is undeniably the most convenient and cost effective form of
training available.
When considering bodyweight based finger exercises, one of the obvious choices is to
perform pushups from the fingers. Such pushups are commonly performed by martial
artists and competitive combat athletes. Athletes from more conventional sports may
also find these pushups useful however. For example, legendary baseball player Ted
Williams was known to perform pushups from the fingers on a daily basis. Many
basketball and volleyball players also find these pushups useful.
As for execution, some athletes may need to begin from the knees. Pushups from the
fingers are much more challenging than they appear. I have seen many strong athletes
with powerful grips who struggle to perform ten consecutive finger pushups. Such
struggles are not surprising however as many lower arm exercises have minimal carry
over to individual fingers. Strong fingers require specific work.
To perform finger pushups, start with your bodyweight resting on the fingers and
thumb without the palms touching the ground. You will not be on the actual tips of the
fingers, but rather the pads at the end of each finger and thumb. From this position, you
will perform full range pushups exactly as you would a regular pushup. To maximize
comfort, I suggest working from a matted floor surface if possible.


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If you wish to progress beyond regular finger pushups, one option is to add a weighted
vest.

Another common progression is to perform pushups from fewer fingers. For instance,
you could remove one, two, or three fingers from the floor. One commonly seen
example came from the legendary Bruce Lee. Old photos of his classic two finger
pushup (forefinger and thumb) can be easily found online.
I used to perform similar variations largely
because of Lees influence. I eventually
reverted back to training each of my fingers
equally however after injuring my 4th and
5th fingers repeatedly (ring finger and
pinky). These lesser used fingers were not
receiving adequate attention. I mistakenly
focused too much attention to the fingers
that were already stronger (ex. index and
middle finger).
As a result, my left pinky is permanently
damaged but I have regained strength and
mobility in this finger by training it
regularly. Finger pushups have made a
significant difference.

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UNTAPPED STRENGTH

Clearly, my own experiences are unique so I am certainly not against pushups from
fewer fingers. I simply urge you to focus equal attention towards each of the fingers. It
is easy to become distracted and only focus on your strong points. Unfortunately, it is
often our weaker links that are eventually injured.
As for more difficult finger pushup variations, you can eventually progress towards one
arm pushups. A one arm pushup from the fingers is quite challenging however so do
not rush in your attempts to perform this exercise. First, you would need to develop
strength from both hands. You could then begin adding weight with a weighted vest.
As your strength continues to improve, you can eventually begin working with one
hand at a time.

As for safety, I am often asked about the risks of performing finger pushups. Although
opinions certainly vary, I can only share my own experience. I have performed finger
pushups for many years and have never had any problems. On the contrary, my hands
have benefited tremendously from these pushups.
With that said, I will certainly make a change
if I ever experience discomfort from this
exercise. Therefore, my advice is simple.
Listen to your body and make adjustments if
and when necessary. In addition, dont just
perform an exercise because it looks cool. Do
so because there are specific benefits that will
aid you as an athlete.
Fingerpushupsin2005

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Finger Pull-ups
Continuing with the bodyweight theme,
pull-ups are another tremendous exercise
to strengthen the fingers. For instance,
many rock climbers perform pull-ups from
custom fingerboards. The fingerboard
challenges the fingers in unique positions
that the athlete may encounter while
climbing outdoors. As a result, it is no
surprise that rock climbers often possess
the strongest fingers of all athletes.
Fortunately, if you are not a rock climber,
you can still strengthen the fingers without
expensive equipment. One of the more
convenient options would be to perform
pull-ups from a bar with just the fingers
(no assistance from the thumb).
A similar variation could be performed from a wooden deck. Notice below how my
thumb is unable to assist. I must grasp the wood with the tips of my fingers and
perform pull-ups from this position. I prefer this variation over the pull-up bar as my
palms cannot swing forward in an attempt to improve the grip that my fingertips have
on top. I am naturally limited in terms of how much each finger is able to grasp.

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Unfortunately, not everyone has access to such a deck (including myself). I was away
from home when I had the chance to train from this deck. I had no trouble with these
pull-ups though as I train with homemade finger straps that allow me to target each
finger in a similar fashion. My inexpensive straps can be seen below.

Homemade Finger Straps


The finger straps that I created are not only effective, but
were essentially free to construct. When I created the
straps, I simply used excess material that I already had
from an earlier project.
I had previously created homemade gymnastic rings
from a pair of nylon straps. Each ring (pictured on the
right) consists of a one inch flat nylon strap. I initially
used 15 foot straps to create the rings. Fifteen feet proved
to be more than enough length however. Therefore, I cut
45 inches from each nylon strap and used that excess
material to create each finger strap.
If you need to purchase nylon straps, you can expect to
pay a few dollars each.
Homemadegymnasticrings

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Instructions
Creating the finger straps is quite simple.

Step 1

Step 2

Step 4

Step 3

Step 5

1. First you must plan the length for each finger. I made each strap approximately
4.5 inches long. I then marked the top of each finger by driving a nail through the
straps. This hole marks the spot where the straps will eventually be connected.
Be sure to leave excess material on one end of the strap however as you will need
it to make your final connection at the end of the project.

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2. I then used an eye-hook with a pointed end to bore out each of the nail holes.
These holes must be wide enough for the connecting bolt to fit.
3. You must then check that the holes are wide enough for the bolt. The bolt must
be quite snug within each hole.
4. You will then line up your holes. The excess material that was left from step one
will then fold over the top to create a separate loop. You will eventually run
chain through this loop to connect the finger straps to an overhead pull-up bar
(as seen on page 212).
5. Lastly, you will run a bolt through each hole and secure it tightly by crimping a
nut on the end.

Progressions
Performing pull-ups from the finger straps is self-explanatory. Hook each of your four
fingers through a strap and perform pull-ups as seen on page 212. The question
therefore is not how to perform pull-ups from the straps, but rather how one should
progress beyond basic pull-ups. For example, if you are able to perform 10+ pull-ups
from the straps, you may wish to advance to more difficult variations. As for options,
you can either add weight or begin targeting individual fingers (as was the case with
finger pushups).

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Personally, I prefer to add weight with a vest as seen on the previous page. With such
an approach, each of my fingers is targeted with equal attention. Another common
approach however would be to train fewer fingers at a time. Below you can see how I
perform pull-ups from my middle fingers.

Yet, while working from a single finger is certainly challenging, I believe most athletes
will benefit by training each of the fingers together. For example, the middle finger is
typically the strongest finger when comparing single finger pulling strength. If you
have never performed pull-ups from a single finger, I can almost guarantee that you
will instinctively choose the middle finger when attempting your first repetition.
Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the majority of single finger lifts
performed by competitive strength athletes are executed with the middle finger. The
previously mentioned Louis Cyr offers a classic example. His single finger lift in 1892 of
over 500 pounds is still heralded by strength athletes today.
You will not see as much attention directed towards lifts that are performed with
naturally weaker fingers. More weight will always attract more attention. As a result, it
is not uncommon for strength athletes to focus their attention towards the fingers that
can execute the most impressive lifts. Consequently, the already strongest finger
becomes even stronger. The other fingers may still be trained, but typically receive less
attention.

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Surprisingly, even the index finger is often not nearly as strong as the middle finger. I
have seen many athletes develop the ability to perform pull-ups from the middle finger,
yet struggle to do the same with any other finger. The frequency of this observation
confirms two points for me. First, the middle finger is typically strongest. Second, few
people develop better than average strength in any of the other fingers.

Eventheindexfingerisnotnearlyasstrongasthemiddlefinger

Ultimately, just because the middle finger is your strongest finger does not mean it is
more significant in other athletic events. On the contrary, if your sport requires finger
strength, there is a good chance that you will need to strengthen each finger. Therefore,
while I am not against training individual fingers, I urge you to target each finger with
equal attention.
Fortunately, we can use the same finger straps to safely
strengthen individual fingers. Rather than attaching the
straps from a pull-up bar, we can use them separately
to perform lighter finger lifts.
All that you will need is a short piece of chain and a
carabiner spring-link. You can actually use the same
chain and link that was used for the PVC cap extensor
tool. The chain and link can be used interchangeably
between the two devices.

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Lifting weights with finger straps will resemble a finger based bicep curl. The fingers
will essentially curl the weight up and down as seen below. Beginners may opt to
perform this exercise with all four fingers initially. More advanced athletes can begin to
target the fingers in pairs. For example, you could perform a set with the index finger
and middle finger. Next, you could perform a set with the middle finger and ring
finger. Lastly, you could train the ring finger and pinky finger. High level athletes such
as rock climbers could even begin to isolate single fingers.
Athletes of all levels can safely perform this exercise. Unlike finger pull-ups, there are
no prerequisites. You can start as light as necessary. This variation is also useful since
you are working through a full range of motion. Curling the weight up is much
different from performing pull-ups from the fingers. Both exercises are useful for
different reasons.

Strength and Dexterity


In addition to improving finger strength, it is also useful to improve dexterity. Strength
is obviously beneficial, but strong fingers become even more useful as you enhance fine
motor skills. Unfortunately, many athletes fail to appreciate the value of dexterity until
they are faced with a challenge where it is required.
The two exercises seen on the following page are prime examples. Even athletes with
strong fingers and thumbs may find themselves struggling. The struggles often have
nothing to do with strength, but rather inadequate dexterity. If you lack fine motor skill
in the hands, these exercises will be difficult even with minimal loads.
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For the first exercise, grab a sledge by the end with your arm extended. Without
moving the arm, walk the handle up with your fingers and thumb. Continue until you
have walked the entire handle up. You will then reverse the movement by walking it
back down. Continue briskly for a few trips up and down until the hands and forearms
experience an intense pump throughout. Work both sides evenly.

Another variation can be performed in front of the body with just the fingers. I was
shocked at the difficulty of this exercise when it was first recommended to me. To
perform this movement, the thumbs will stay together as you walk the sledge up and
down with the fingers. The arms should stay bent at approximately a 90 degree angle
with the elbows tucked by your side.

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Walking a sledge in front of the body with just the


fingers is quite challenging. Even a 6 or 8 pound sledge
may be too difficult for beginners. Therefore, if your
smallest sledge is too heavy for this exercise, consider
practicing with a lighter tool such as a broom handle or
baseball bat. Practicing with one of these lighter items
will help you to get a feel for the necessary coordination.
Eventually, you can turn a broom handle into a loadable
tool. Simply attach a collar to the end and start with a
small plate. 2.5 pound plates are particularly useful for
this exercise. You will never need a lot of weight, and the
smaller plates allow for incremental progressions.
Regardless of ability, this is an exercise that you will
never outgrow. A few trips up and down are all that you
will need to improve lower arm strength and dexterity.

Summary

Aloadablehandlecanbeusedbybeginners
oradvancedathletes

To conclude this chapter, it is worth noting that most athletes will not need to develop
extreme finger strength. Most athletes would fare well by simply developing the ability
to perform traditional finger pushups and pull-ups. Those who are more experienced
with lower arm training may eventually wish to tackle more difficult challenges
however. If you are interested in such challenges, I remind you to be patient with your
progress. Finger strength takes time to develop and there is always a risk of injury.
Patience and consistency are perhaps the best injury deterrents.
Furthermore, the lack of attention that I have focused towards crush grip is by no
means a knock against it. Crush grip will always be the most popular form of grip
training. By no means am I dismissing the benefits of crush grip strength. Instead, I am
urging you to not put all of your eggs into one basket. Do not make the common
mistake of assuming that crush grip strength equates to complete lower arm
development. There is much more to lower arm strength than your ability to crush an
object that rests between the fingers and palm. Even the simple addition of extensor
training to a program that previously lacked it can make a huge difference going
forward. Adding some dexterity training to your extensor work is even better.
In summary, I encourage athletes to develop respectable crush grip strength. Just be
sure that crush grip training does not become your sole focus. Crush grip is
undoubtedly an important piece to the lower arm puzzle, but remains just one of many
integral components. Complete lower arm development goes far beyond any single grip
style.
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THE PUZZLE
Knowledge is a process of piling up facts; wisdom lies in their
simplification. - Martin H. Fischer

Thus far, a few things should be abundantly clear. First and foremost, there are
countless exercise possibilities that exist below the elbow. If you have not trained the
lower arms before, you are likely shocked at the volume of exercises that target this
region. Between wrist strength, finger strength, thumb strength, and an assortment of
grip styles, lower arm training often entails much more than what the casual fitness
enthusiast initially imagined. And to make matters worse, you must not only sort
through an extensive list of exercises, but also several equipment options.
At this time, there is a good chance that you are wondering how on earth you will ever
perform each of the exercises. You may also be wondering how you will find time to
build all of the equipment. There is only so much time in each day and you certainly
have other objectives to train outside of the lower arms.
How can you put the pieces together without throwing everything else out of whack?
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Fortunately, these questions and concerns are easily addressed. Throughout this
chapter, I will detail a simplified approach to training the lower arms in a way that is
time efficient, effective, and specific to you. I am not here to rewrite your entire training
plan. I am also not here to suggest that you train identically to me or my athletes. We
are all unique, so the uniqueness of each athlete must be considered when adopting
new material. Despite what the marketing gurus suggest, there is no one-size-fits-all
approach and there never will be. How you train the lower arms will depend on several
factors that are specific to you.

Words of Advice
Before discussing the specifics, let me first share some important words of advice.

I. Patience, Consistency, and Time


Perhaps most importantly, significant lower arm strength takes time to development.
There are no shortcuts. As much as the fitness industry likes to market overnight
miracles, you will never find a 30 day program that develops any meaningful lower
arm strength. Thirty days is literally a blink of an eye when considering true strength
development.
Furthermore, patience, consistency, and time are even more important for the athlete
whose primary goals are not lower arm based. For example, if you are a mixed martial
artist, you certainly have goals and objectives outside of lower arm training. The diverse
needs of your sport will naturally limit the time that can be dedicated below the elbows.
As stated earlier, lower arm strength is only useful if it can be developed in a way that
will assist, not impede, your athletic performance. Ultimately, that means you will need
patience, consistency, and time if you ever wish to develop significant lower arm
strength.

II. Options vs. Necessities


If you are confused as to how you will perform each of the exercises from this book, let
me ease your mind. The short answer is that you wont. Perhaps the fastest way to fail
is by spreading yourself too thin and trying to accomplish everything at once. It would
be absurd to perform each of the exercises from this book within a single routine. You
would hardly have time to eat, never mind train the rest of your body. Your lower arms
would be overworked to the point that even waving to a neighbor would become a
difficult task.

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As stated throughout the text, I did not include so many exercises with hopes that you
would view each as a necessity. On the contrary, I intentionally included more exercises
than you would need at any given time. I wanted to include enough variety so that you
will never run out of ideas and challenges. Therefore, you could say that this reminder
is related to the first. It is impossible to progress through the vast array of exercises
without patience, consistency, and time.
The same logic can be applied to the equipment ideas presented throughout. I dont
expect you to run to the hardware store and begin building every last tool. Once again,
my goal is to provide as many options to as many readers as possible. There is no rush
to build anything. Before you choose any exercises or tools, you must analyze your
current program and future needs. Building or purchasing a tool that does not match
the job offers little in return. First, you need to know what you are trying to develop
and how you will go about developing it. Once the blueprint is in place, you can begin
to organize your tools.

III. Pick Your Battles


As a follow up to the previous reminder, it is also important to understand that you
cannot simultaneously target each lower arm objective with maximal intensity. If you
try to significantly improve in every direction at once, you will typically find yourself
making minimal gains in each of those directions. Therefore, if you are new to lower
arm training, now is not the time to become a pinch grip, thick grip, support grip, and
crush grip specialist. You cannot expect to make considerable progress by attempting to
become an expert at everything at the same time. Long before you even dream of
specializing in one of these areas, you must first develop an adequate foundation. In
other words, first develop some all-around lower arm strength over a period of several
months. Once you have a solid foundation in place, you can begin to consider targeting
more specialized exercises or goals.
Even more advanced athletes must be careful not to spread themselves too thin
however. Just because your lower arm work capacity may have improved does not give
you a green light to simultaneously attack every lower arm feat you desire. Regardless
of ability, it is important to pick your battles. Speaking from experience, there is no way
I could have progressed with so many exercises if I had attempted to do everything at
once. Instead, I have patiently progressed through a variety of exercises over many
years of consistent work.
Even after all these years, my goals continually change as the weeks and months pass.
For instance, there may be a time when I am working extremely hard with block
weights. If I focus extra attention and intensity towards the blocks, I may need to back
off some of my other lower arm work. Perhaps my thick grip training will need to be
temporarily reduced to allow my thumbs a chance to recover from the higher volume of
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block weight training. Ultimately, whatever makes sense for me at a given time
depends on the goals that I am targeting at that time. I pick my battles and adjust my
workload and focus accordingly.

IV. The Mental Aspect


Earlier in the book, I shared a powerful quote from the legendary Edward Aston. His
words are so relevant that I will restate them again:
The greatest factor for the creation of a powerful grip is sheer will power
Aston hit the nail on the head. It is virtually impossible to develop significant lower arm
strength if you are not mentally strong. Many lower arm feats require so much physical
exertion that casual execution is all but impossible. Therefore, to progress beyond the
norm, there will be times when you truly need maximal effort and intensity. If you
cannot focus 100 percent of your being into certain exercises, you will never perform
them. There is absolutely no room for distractions or half assed attempts.
Moreover, mental strength is not just about maximal exertion. Short term exertion will
never amount to much if you lack persistence. Successful training is not a sprint, but
rather an endless journey that is filled with ups and downs. To prevail, you will need
what I often describe as stick-to-itiveness. You cant give up when things get difficult or
gains begin to plateau. Remember, beginners gain strength much faster than athletes
who are already strong. If you are strong and you want to get stronger, you must
prepare yourself for the long haul.
Mark my words; there will be lower arm feats that are quite challenging for you. Weeks
may pass when you hardly make any gains at all. If you lack the mental tenacity and
focus to push through such plateaus, you will never accomplish anything worthwhile.
One thing that all successful strength athletes have in common is that they see things
through. They keep working until the job is done. They dont bounce from one program
to the next whenever they hit a bump in the road. Instead, they keep trucking along.
Strength athletes possess a unique brand of stubbornness where they absolutely refuse
to be deterred from their goals. And it is that relentless determination that leads to
inevitable success.
If you wish to achieve similar success with your lower arm training, you will need to
adopt a similar mentality.

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V. Small Additions
If you have never trained a day in your life, lower arm development probably should
not be your primary concern. I would actually be shocked if anyone reading this book
has never exercised before. I have yet to meet anyone who woke up from a life of
inactivity with a sudden urge to develop the lower arms. Thus, I will go out on a limb
and assume that you are currently involved with some type of exercise or sport.
Whether you lift weights, perform calisthenics, train with odd objects, or all of the
above, you are likely accustomed to working against resistance. Therefore, considering
that you already train, you must be careful not to add too much lower arm work to your
schedule. One of the biggest mistakes that an athlete can make is to add heaps of new or
different work to an existing routine. It is a recipe for disaster, particularly when that
work involves the lower arms.
In some way, the lower arms will be involved in almost every exercise you perform.
Each time you grab, lift, or hold a weight, the lower arms are engaged. And if your
current routine does not involve you grabbing any weights, bars, or odd objects, you
may need more help than this book can provide. Assuming that is not the case, I will
remind you again that small additions will often accumulate into something much more
significant.
I am not here to swing a wrecking ball at your existing routine. There is a good chance
that you enjoy the work you currently perform and/or enjoy the results that it provides.
I dont want to change that. My goal is to help you seamlessly enhance your current
routine in a way that is beneficial. The best way to do that is through small additions. A
few minutes here and there will eventually add up as long as you remain consistent.
Furthermore, these small additions can be included without excessive fatigue. The last
thing you want to do is fatigue the lower arms to the extent that they detract from your
performance in other areas (ex. sport training or other lifts). We must be consistent over
the long haul, yet patient with our progress. There is nothing rapid about lower arm
development. Small additions must be made gradually over time.

VI. Rest When Needed


While my lower arm philosophy is clearly rooted in patience and consistency, such an
approach does not free one from the need for rest. Even subtle additions that are made
to an existing program can eventually become physically and mentally taxing. As a
result, it can be useful for certain athletes to include scheduled periods of deloading.

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A deload phase (also known as a back-off period) typically lasts a week and comes after
three or four weeks of intense training. Deloading is common among high level strength
athletes. Beginners rarely need to deload as they lack the neural efficiency and work
capacity to accumulate enough work to truly wear down the body. Higher level lifters
however work against much more significant loads, thus have a greater need for rest.
For instance, a power lifter may engage in three weeks of extremely heavy lifting, thus
need a back-off week to facilitate recovery and growth. During the deload phase, he
will cut back on variables such as intensity and volume.
The theory behind the back-off week is simple. You dont instantly become stronger by
lifting weights, but rather by recovering from the act of lifting weights. When you
continually train hard, a deficit eventually builds that cannot be repaid by simply
sleeping well or resting on Sunday. To truly benefit from an extended period of
strenuous training, you need a dedicated period of less intense work. That is the goal of
the back-off week.
Unfortunately, back-off periods are often forgotten when considering lower arm
training. Many people assume that the lower arms can handle more work than the rest
of the body, thus are free from the need to deload. The reality however is that if your
lower arm training is intense, the time will eventually come when rest is required.
As for specifics, my approach to deloading is quite simple. I train hard for three to four
weeks and then schedule a lighter week. That is essentially it. During the lighter week, I
cut back on heavy lifting and only work with lighter lower arm exercises. I remove all
strenuous pinch grip and thick grip lifts as those exercises are most taxing for me. I
instead perform less strenuous movements such as sledgehammer handle walks, spring
clamp closing, and rice bucket work.
When I return to more strenuous training the following week, I almost always come
back stronger. If I skip the deload period, I tend to run myself into the ground. My
temperament is built around intensity so I need to control it through scheduled rest. If
you train with similar intensity, I encourage you to experiment with deloading.

Generic Programming Flaws


Before analyzing your programming options, it is useful to discuss a few common flaws
that exist within many generic routines. By understanding these common mistakes, you
will be less likely to make them yourself.
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I. Frequency Generalizations
Everyone wants to know how often they should train the lower arms. If I had a nickel
for each time someone asked this question, I would be a rich man. As for common
responses to this inquiry, I am sure we have all heard the same. It is not unusual for this
question to be answered with a generic two or three days per week recommendation.
Unfortunately, this recommendation does not provide the necessary details for an
athlete to maximize his lower arm training. I say this not to insult anyone who has
made this suggestion, but rather to highlight the limitation of focusing solely on
training frequency. It is impossible to determine ideal frequency without considerations
for intensity and volume. In other words, how often we train (frequency) depends on
how hard we train (intensity) and how much work we perform (volume).

As one variable increases, you will need to reduce at least one of the others. If not, it is
only a matter of time before you burn yourself out. For instance, if you train extremely
hard (intensity), it becomes difficult to maintain high frequency and volume. Something
needs to give if you wish to continue working with such intensity. You will either need
to cut back on frequency or perform less volume per session. All three variables cannot
be sky high without an inevitable crash.
Even most high level athletes can only raise two of the three variables. For example,
many strength athletes train with high intensity and frequency, yet minimal volume.
Others may prefer to train with high intensity and volume, yet minimal frequency.
Endurance athletes often opt for high frequency and volume, yet minimal intensity.
As for relevance to lower arm training, the same general rules apply. If you are working
with an extremely challenging lower arm exercise, intensity is naturally high. Therefore,
it will be impossible to maintain high frequency and volume. Using myself as an
example, my pinch grip training tends to be quite intense. I prefer to go heavy as the

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intensity suits my temperament. Consequently, I am not able to train pinch grip too
often. Once or twice per week will typically suffice for me.
There are other exercises however where my intensity remains fairly low. For example,
I am able to perform finger and wrist pushups with relative ease. I have performed
these exercises for so many years that they no longer provide a considerable challenge.
The reduced intensity naturally allows me to perform these exercises more frequently.
With that in mind, it is important for you to take note of the exercises that tend to be
more intense for you. Such movements will usually require less frequency than others
that you can perform with less difficulty. Moreover, you may actually find that two or
three days per week is the ideal frequency for your lower arm training. I am not
arguing against this recommendation. On the contrary, I am simply encouraging you to
consider more than just frequency. Reading two or three days per week on paper does not
tell the full story. What matters more are the specifics that take place within those
individual days. In other words, how hard are you training each day and how much
volume are you accumulating? These are the types of questions that must be considered
for successful programming of any kind (not just the lower arms).

II. Remaining Workload


Another generic programming flaw that is common in many lower arm routines is a
failure to consider the rest of your weekly training. These routines are created without
consideration for anything else. Essentially, the lower arm routine solely targets the
lower arms. That alone is not the issue. Problems can arise however when athletes who
are already busy with existing routines try to add that lower arm program on top of
what they already do.
For example, suppose you lift weights four days per week and perform two additional
conditioning workouts as well. You essentially train six out of every seven days, yet you
feel that lower arm strength is a weak point that needs improvement. Perhaps you came
to this conclusion after stalling on an exercise or lift where insufficient hand or wrist
strength appeared to be the bottleneck.
Your ambitious disposition naturally leads you to begin searching online for lower arm
routines. Your google-fu is powerful so it doesnt take long for you to find a complete
routine. The program calls for three days of lower arm training. You begin following it
immediately. Initially, you may experience some lower arm gains, but it is usually just a
matter of time before problems arise. You then find yourself scratching your head,
wondering what was wrong with the program.
The reality though is that you may have been using an excellent lower arm routine. The
problem was that you were trying to add a dedicated lower arm program to an already
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busy schedule. For example, I have seen certain lower arm routines that included 8 to 10
exercises. Working through so many exercises requires significant energy expenditure
and time. Whoever created these routines obviously did so without considerations for
an athletes present workload.
If you are a competitive athlete, you are already busy training several days per week.
Adding pieces to an existing puzzle must be done with care. You cannot just stack
several new pieces on top and expect them to magically fall into place. Whatever you
add must be done with consideration for what you already do.
There is a good chance that you already grab various weights and pull from various
bars. You may also perform exercises like swinging a sledge and lifting odd objects. All
of this work is relevant when considering what modifications or additions should be
made. The body can only handle so much work at a time, and no one knows your ability
to recover better than you. And even if you doubt your knowledge, you still know more
about yourself than the person who created the generic routine without considering
your past abilities and present goals.
In summary, if there was ever a rule for lower arm programming, it should state that
lower arm training must be added in a way that does not interfere with your existing
routine. To no surprise, this simple rule negates the vast majority of generic programs.

III. Athletic Considerations


Lastly, another programming flaw that is common with lower arm routines is a failure
to consider the competitive requirements of the athlete. In many ways, this flaw is quite
similar to the previous. Just as generic routines do not consider the remaining workload
of an individual, they also fail to consider the skill training requirements of the athlete.
Speaking as a boxing trainer, I have seen many grip routines targeted towards combat
athletes that failed miserably at addressing the actual needs of a fighter. Many of these
routines are created by individuals who do not understand the already busy schedule
of competitive combat athletes.
For instance, a mixed martial artist already has countless objectives that require time
and attention. He is busy training stand up, jiu-jitsu, wrestling, takedowns, takedown
defense, etc. He also has conditioning needs, strength training, core training, neck
training, and more. Adding a full lower arm program on top of this busy schedule can
eventually lead to overuse. Once again, the body can only handle so much work at any
given time. Adding new work to an already hard working athlete must be done with
extreme care.

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Consequently, my advice to competitive athletes is to add lower arm work in a way


where the additions are subtle. I would rather have the athlete hardly notice the initial
additions, rather than waking up the next day with extreme soreness. One of the biggest
mistakes that a competitive athlete can make is trying to train like a grip specialist. Grip
training has essentially become its own sport. High level grip competitors train for their
sport. They must prepare for specific tasks that they will encounter during competition.
The grip specialist certainly does not train for your sport with equal attention. You must
do the same. Train for your sport first, and then add bits and pieces to your schedule in a
way that benefits your ultimate goal.

Before Starting
Now that I have thoroughly beaten the mere thought of most generic programs into the
ground, you might be wondering what I suggest for a lower arm routine. Personally, I
do not follow a lower arm program however. It is also incredibly rare for me to ever
prescribe a set lower arm routine to any of my athletes. I strongly believe that the best
lower arm training takes place without a defined program. In other words, the bulk of
an athletes lower arm training can take place without a separate routine.
Fortunately, adding lower arm training to an existing schedule is not nearly as
complicated as many imagine. As evident throughout much of this book, there are
countless opportunities to develop the lower arms through indirect lifts, warm-up sets,
odd object training, finisher sets, and mini-workouts.
To successfully add lower arm training to an existing routine, it is important that you
do the following.

I. Write It Down
First and foremost, it is useful to map out your existing routine. Whether you opt for a
spreadsheet or a piece of paper, it is helpful to write down the exercises or lifts that you
already perform throughout a typical week. You dont need too much detail in terms of
sets and reps, but rather a general overview of your primary routine. For instance, how
many days per week are you focused on strength training? What type of split do you
follow? What are your primary exercises? What do you do for conditioning? Are you
involved in a sport, and if so, how often do you practice?
Once you have outlined this information, it becomes easier to identify possible locations
for lower arm additions or modifications. For example, suppose you have a goal to
improve thick grip strength. As you look through your weekly plan, you identify two
days that include pull-ups. One of those days is an ideal candidate for a lower arm
modification (ex. rotating thick grip pull-ups). Without a written plan, it is much more
difficult to accurately identify these potential opportunities.
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II. Weak Links and Athletic Needs


Next, it is important to identify any potential weak links in your armor. A nagging
lower arm injury is a prime example. Suppose you are a boxer who has had wrist
problems in the past. Clearly, wrist strength is a weak link, thus requires immediate
attention. You will need to address the weak link with direct work. Therefore, wrist
training should take precedence over other lower arm goals. It would not make sense to
follow a program that emphasizes another lower arm skill (ex. crush grip) if that skill
offers little assistance to the weak link.
Athletic needs must also be considered. For example, if you are a rock climber, finger
strength is essential to your sport. Much of your lower arm training will likely target the
fingers. You have sport specific needs that require direct work. It is important to
identify these needs so that they can be accounted for within your weekly routine.
Furthermore, if you dont have any glaring weak links or athletic needs, that is okay.
You can focus on a broader range of exercises that align with personal preferences and
goals. For instance, perhaps you want to increase forearm size. To satisfy this objective,
you would naturally include more direct forearm work. Wrist curls and wrist rolling
would be ideal choices. Once again, identify what is important to you and then plan
accordingly.

III. Equipment
It may sound obvious, but you also need to consider lower arm equipment availability.
For instance, do you train at a commercial gym? If so, there is a good chance that you
will not have access to some of the homemade devices demonstrated within this book.
Or perhaps you train solely with calisthenics? If so, you may not have access to the
weights necessary for certain lower arms exercises. Support grip for you may mean
hanging from a bar, while support grip for a lifter may mean heavy farmers walks.
There isnt a right or wrong choice. Ultimately, the ideal answer depends on equipment
availability and personal preference.

Nine Possible Modifications


Once you have written down your existing schedule, identified weak links and needs,
and thought about equipment availability, you can begin to put some pieces into play.
If you are brand new to lower arm training, you will not need more than a few initial
modifications. Naturally, if you are more experienced, you can handle more work
below the elbow. Regardless of ability however, be sure to proceed with caution

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whenever adding new or different work to your current routine. You are not expected
to include each of the suggestions that follow on the pages ahead.

I. Indirect Lifting
My advice is to develop at least one lower arm strength quality through traditional
strength training. Support grip is an ideal candidate to target through indirect lifting.
An abbreviated list of exercises to develop support grip include the following:
x
x
x
x
x
x
x
x

Double overhand grip deadlifts


Suitcase deadlifts
Dumbbell snatches
Kettlebell swings
Farmers walks
Bent over rows
T-bar rope rows
Shrugs

If you perform any of these exercises within your routine, include at least a few sets
where support grip is challenged. Performing even one or two of these exercises each
week will develop adequate support grip strength for most athletes.

II. Warm-up Lifts


Another theme that I emphasized throughout this manual was the opportunity to target
the lower arms through warm-up sets. These sets would be performed before heavier
(traditional) lifts. For instance, if you are scheduled for overhead lifting today, it is not
as if you will begin the session with a maximal effort attempt. Lighter, warm-up sets are
naturally required. It is during these sets that we can target the lower arms with a
related lift. Therefore, we essentially target two objectives. We prepare the body with
lighter weight while challenging the lower arms.
A few examples include the following:
x
x
x
x
x
x
x

Bottoms up kettlebell press before heavier overhead pressing


Pinch grip clean and press with concrete blocks before heavier overhead pressing
Block weight clean and press before heavier overhead pressing
Pinch grip rows before bent over rows
Towel rows before bent over rows
Block weight rows before bent over rows
Pinch grip swings before heavier T-handle or kettlebell swings

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Towel swings before heavier T-handle or kettlebell swings

Performing just one or two of these exercises via warm-up sets each week can
eventually lead to considerable lower arm development. Two or three warm-up sets per
exercise will typically suffice before proceeding to the heavier (traditional) lift.

III. Replacement Lifts


If you wish to focus more attention to the lower arms than what a few warm-up sets
provide, you can replace the traditional lift entirely. Training with a thick handle is an
excellent substitute for a traditional lift. In fact, I believe most athletes would benefit
significantly by performing one thick grip exercise per week.
A few examples that were seen within the book include the following:
x
x
x
x
x

Thick handle deadlifts


Thick handle pull-ups
Thick handle rows
Thick handle farmers walks
Thick handle curls

Swapping a conventional bar for a thick handle could not be any more straightforward.
Simply look through your weekly plan and find one of the above listed exercises. On
one day, perform all sets of that exercise with a thick handle. This single modification
will lead to significantly stronger lower arms.

IV. Odd Objects


Lifting, loading, and carrying heavy odd objects all but guarantees improved lower arm
strength. In other words, if you add an odd object lift to your schedule, you can expect
lower arm strength to improve.
As for placement within a routine, I generally perform at least one odd object lift as part
of my weekly strength training. Odd objects are also useful as a finisher. Finishers will
be discussed later in this chapter. Any of the exercises below could be used within a
strength workout or at the end of a session as a finisher:
x
x
x
x
x

Stone clean and press


Stone loading
Stone clean and throw
Sandbag clean and press
Sandbag loading

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x
x
x

Sandbag shouldering
Water ball lifting
Heavy carries (with any odd object)

Please note that odd object training requires a unique blend of strength. I would not
suggest these lifts to beginners. Heavy odd object training is typically reserved for more
advanced athletes.

V. Bodyweight Considerations
Thus far, most of the suggestions have been modifications to weight lifting exercises. If
you are a bodyweight enthusiast, you may be feeling left out. Fortunately, you can
apply many of the ideas to your bodyweight training. For instance, traditional pull-ups
can be modified with variations such as the following:
x
x
x
x
x
x

Rope pull-ups
Rope climbing
Towel pull-ups
Thick handle pull-ups
Rotating thick grip pull-ups
Finger pull-ups

Any of these exercises could be included as a replacement or in conjunction with


traditional bar training via warm-up sets. Similar modifications could also be made to
bodyweight rows. In other words, whenever you perform a pulling exercise, there is an
opportunity to challenge the lower arms.
Bodyweight opportunities also exist during push dominant sessions. A few examples
include the following:
x
x
x

Finger pushups
Knuckle pushups
Wrist pushups

One arm variations could also be performed if you wish to focus more attention to
strength. For example, refer back to the one arm knuckle pushup discussion. One arm
pushups from the fingers, knuckles, or wrist will develop upper body pressing strength
with secondary lower arm benefits.

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VI. Mini-Workouts
The lower arms can also be targeted through mini-workouts. A mini-workout is a brief
session that is performed separately from your primary workout. For instance, suppose
you perform your main workout each morning. A mini-workout could be a ten to
fifteen minute session that you add to the end of the day. These sessions are naturally
brief so excessive volume is usually not a concern. The brief nature certainly does not
limit the potential of these sessions however. Refer back to the discussion on page 36 for
a reminder about the accumulative nature of such work.
I have successfully performed mini-workouts for many years. I strongly believe that
these brief, separate sessions have allowed me to accomplish much more than what
would have otherwise been possible. In fact, it is rare for a day to pass without me
performing a mini-session. As for options, I target several objectives through miniworkouts. These sessions are not limited to lower arm training. For instance, if I
perform six mini-workouts per week, two might target the lower arms, two might
target the neck and core, and two might be dedicated to a unique modality such as
isometric training. The specifics of each mini-session will vary based on whatever goals
I am targeting at the time.
As for lower arm options, individual needs must be considered. For example, you may
wish to target finger strength separately during a mini-session. What makes sense for
you depends on what you need extra time developing. Personally, I tend to favor wrist
training during these sessions. Wrist strength is quite important to me as a boxing
coach. I also do not need much time to warm my wrists before performing work sets.
Clearly, warm-up needs vary between individual athletes, but I prefer to perform miniworkouts that do not require much time for warming up. I typically begin my minisessions with a few pushup variations* and then proceed to target the wrists directly.
I target the wrists with exercises such as side levering, overhead levering, and front
levering. Depending on available time, I perform a few sets of each variation. I then
finish with an exercise such as wrist rolling. The session does not require a lot of time,
thus does not interfere with my primary training.
In summary, if you opt to perform a lower arm mini-workout, I suggest the following:
1. Isolate an area that is relevant to your goals and needs
2. Choose exercises that do not require extensive warm-ups
3. Consider your remaining workload so that the mini-workout does not interfere


*

Asamplewarmupset:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jyiVF2253yc

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VII. Finishers
A relative to the mini-workout is the finisher. A finisher is performed at the conclusion
of a workout. It is a brief addition that will typically last between five and ten minutes.
The finisher is short like the mini-workout, but often more intense as you are already
warm from the primary session.
For instance, suppose you have just worked through a dedicated strength workout.
Your primary session is over, but you want to squeeze out a few last benefits. The
addition of a brief finisher can prove useful. As for options, the list is literally endless.
What you target with the finisher will depend on your needs. The finisher certainly
does not need to be lower arm based. It is actually more common for the finisher to
include a conditioning component. A classic example would be to swing a moderate
sized sledgehammer for time or reps. Such work provides one last physical and mental
challenge.
I typically tack on a few finishers throughout my week, with at least one targeting the
lower arms. A few examples of lower arm finishers include the following:
x
x
x
x
x
x
x

Farmer's walk
Odd object lifts or carries
One arm hangs
Sled pulling
Thick handle lifts
Rice bucket training
Sledgehammer handle walking

Another option for a finisher is to target one specific grip style. Therefore, rather than
performing a single exercise, you may perform a few movements that target one of your
desired objectives. Personally, I like to target pinch grip with this approach. At the
conclusion of a strength workout, I may set aside ten minutes to train pinch grip.
During this time, I may work with block weights, hub lifts, and/or one of my
homemade pinch grip tools. The specifics will vary depending on my goals and
available time, but I always keep the finisher brief, yet intense. I attack the session with
a goal of accomplishing as much work as possible in the short block of time.
Therefore, it is worth noting that these finishers should be added with considerations
for your remaining workload. Using myself as an example, I always spread out my
thick grip and pinch grip training. I do not have large hands so thick grip training is
quite taxing to my thumbs. I prefer to leave a few days between training thick grip and
pinch grip. For instance, if I target thick grip during a strength workout on Monday, I
may wait until Thursday to perform a pinch grip finisher. Leaving a few days between
these sessions gives my thumbs time to recover. In summary, just because a finisher is
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brief does not mean it should be performed without conscious planning. Intense work
should always be planned in advance.

VIII. Spare Time


Unlike an intense finisher, it is often possible to target less challenging movements in
your spare time. Such work could certainly classify as another mini-workout. I consider
this work to be unique however as it is rarely planned in advance. It is usually just a
random set or two at various times throughout the day or week.
Bruce Lee is actually one of my inspirations for this idea. Many years ago I recall
reading about how he would keep a dumbbell in his office for forearm training. He was
said to randomly train the forearms in his office whenever the mood struck him. This
work was performed in addition to his primary lower arm training. It was not planned
in advance.
If you opt for spare time training, I urge you to minimize intensity. You certainly would
not want to perform an extremely strenuous exercise at various points throughout the
day. Personally, I prefer working with exercises such as rubber band extensions. I
perform this work randomly at my desk. I will perform a few sets and also manually
stretch my fingers and wrists. Doing so allows me to knock off one of my objectives
(extensor training) and also gives me a reason to stretch out my lower arms. This work
is done without eating up any gym time.
Another spare time example would be to keep a handheld gripper in your vehicle. As
mentioned previously, the bulk of my gripper training takes place in my truck. If you
opt for a similar approach, I suggest working with a gripper that is not extremely
challenging for you to close. This is particularly true if you are the type of person who
has a hard time putting down the grippers. Volume must be kept to a minimum. For
example, I may perform three sets of 3 to 5 reps per hand. That is only 9 to 15 attempts
per side. Such low volume allows me to perform this work somewhat randomly with
little premeditated planning.
Clearly, if crush grip was more pertinent to you, it would not make sense to target this
objective in your spare time. Your crush grip training would naturally be more intense,
thus would require more planning. In summary, if you opt for spare time work, focus
your attention towards less intense movements.

IX. Idle Time


Yet another option for lower arm training is during what I consider to be idle time. For
instance, suppose you are performing a heavy lower body workout. The upper body
will be minimally involved during this session. You will also need ample rest between
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sets of exercises such as barbell squats. It is during that time when I may target a single
lower arm objective.
In other words, rather than sitting idle in between sets, I kill two birds with one stone.
While resting the lower body, I am also performing a lower arm exercise. I typically opt
for an exercise that is not extremely intense as I do not want to distract from the lower
body routine. One example for me would be to target finger strength and dexterity (ex.
sledgehammer handle walks).
Once again, I always consider my remaining workload. I am careful that the idle work
does not interrupt my current session and future sessions as well. For instance, I would
not perform an intense lower arm exercise during idle sets today if there was a chance
that it would interfere with the work I have planned for tomorrow. As a result, I target
finger strength and dexterity as I am able to recover from this work quickly without
hindering any follow up sessions.

Summary
As you can see, there are ample opportunities to include lower arm training without
ever following a dedicated program. Do not confuse lack of a program with lack of
intensity however. The lower arms can receive a significant amount of work by
including even just a few of the suggestions discussed on the previous pages. Lack of a
dedicated lower arm routine does not free you from the possibility of overuse.
As highlighted throughout this manual, I encourage you to make subtle additions to
your existing routines. Do not feel as though you need to accomplish everything at
once. You can always add more work in the future. Start conservatively and then add to
the puzzle if or when necessary. Realistically, most athletes will not need more than a
few of the previously listed suggestions.

Advanced Athletes
Naturally, as you become more advanced with your lower arm training, you will be
able to handle more intensity and volume. For example, there was a time when I only
included two or three of the following nine options.
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.

Indirect Lifting
Warm-up Lifts
Replacement Lifts
Odd Objects
Bodyweight Considerations
Mini-Workouts

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7. Finishers
8. Spare Time
9. Idle Time
At this stage in my life however, it is not unusual for me to include each of these
options within a week. And not only do I perform more frequent lower arm work, I can
also direct more intensity towards individual exercises. My work capacity specific to
lower arm training has slowly, yet significantly increased over many years. I can handle
much more work today than I could in years past.
As a result, there are times when I occasionally expand upon some of these individual
modifications. For example, rather than targeting a single objective during a miniworkout, I may instead expand the brief session to target multiple attributes. The
session still remains relatively brief, but the focus expands beyond a single quality. This
option may be worthy of your consideration if you are not interested in including as
many of the nine suggestions from above.

Extended Mini-Workouts
Next, you will find four examples of extended mini-workouts that I have used in the
past. Please note that the specifics of your own mini-workouts should depend on
individual goals. I am not listing these samples with hopes that you perform them
exactly as is. On the contrary, I am providing these samples to simply illustrate a few of
the countless options that exist for mini-workouts.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Extended Mini-Workout #1
1. Pinch grip + finger pushups (3 to 5 sets of each)
2. Grip machine (3 to 5 sets)
3. Wrist roller (3 sets)
For this brief workout, perform any pinch grip exercise (ex. plate pinch lifts) followed
by a set of finger pushups. Keep the rep range low for the pinch grip lift if you prefer
continuous reps or simply hold a near maximal lift for time. You will then superset the
pinch grip exercise with a set of finger pushups. Perform three to five sets of each.
Next, you will shift gears to the grip machine. Perform three to five sets per hand (less
or more depending on individual goals, available time, and work capacity).
Lastly, finish with three sets of wrist rolling. Work both directions evenly, rolling the
weight all the way up 3 to 5 times in each direction.
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+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Extended Mini-Workout #2
1. Block weight lift (3 to 5 sets of 3 to 5 reps per hand)
2. Plate curls (3 sets of 5 per hand)
3. One hand sledgehammer handle walking (3 sets per hand)
For this brief workout, you will begin with one hand deadlifts using a heavy block
weight. Perform three sets of approximately three to five reps per hand.
Next, you will perform plate curls with an actual plate or the homemade device seen
earlier. Perform three sets of five curls per hand.
Lastly, finish with three sets of sledgehammer handle walking. Stop each set just short
of failure.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Extended Mini-Workout #3
1. One hand rotating thick grip deadlift (3 to 5 sets of 1 to 3 reps per hand)
2. Finger curls using finger straps (3 sets of 10)
3. Towel pull-ups (3 sets)
For this brief workout, you will begin with one hand deadlifts using the rotating thick
grip handles. Perform three to five sets of approximately one to three reps per hand.
Next, you will perform finger curls using all four fingers within the homemade straps
seen earlier. Perform three sets of ten reps per side.
Lastly, finish with three sets of towel pull-ups. Stop just short of failure on the first two
sets, while performing as many reps as possible during the third.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Extended Mini-Workout #4
1. One arm hangs (3 sets)
2. Pinch grip door rows (3 sets of 5)
3. Finger pushups + wrist pushups (3 sets of each)
For this brief workout, you will begin with one arm hangs from a bar, towel, or rope.
Stop each set just short of failure.
Next, you will perform pinch grip door rows for three sets of five.
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Lastly, you will perform three sets of finger and wrist pushups (from the back of your
hands). Superset these final two exercises stopping each set just short of failure.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Clearly, these samples only scratch the surface of the options that exist for extended
mini-workouts. If you opt to create your own, be sure that you do so with careful
consideration of your remaining workload. Just because you may have experience with
lower arm training does not free you from the potential of overuse.
Regardless of experience and ability, meticulous planning is always worthwhile.
Randomly performing intense work will never reap continuous results without injury.
Therefore, if I am to perform an extended mini-workout, I typically do so on a day
where I have not included one of the previously suggested modifications. I may also
need to exclude modifications that would have otherwise been made on the day before
or after the extended mini-workout.
For example, it would not make sense to perform an extended mini-workout that
includes thick grip training if I have just finished performing a replacement lift with a
thick handle. I also would not want to perform a thick grip mini-workout on Monday if
I have plans to perform a thick grip replacement lift on Tuesday. Instead, I must plan
the extended mini-workout for a time when I am not compromised from previous
work, and with considerations for future work.
Speaking from experience, I have had the best success performing extended miniworkouts at the conclusion of one of the following:
1. Conditioning workout
2. Lower body strength workout
3. Push dominant strength workout
I have found that these sessions leave me in a position where I am warm from the
previous work, yet still able to train my lower arms with maximal intensity. The same
could not be said if I had just performed a heavy pulling session with exercises such as
deadlifts, rows, or pull-ups. With the latter examples, my lower arms would have
already been challenged during the primary session. As a result, I would not get as
much out of the extended mini-workout.

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Failure To Plan Is Planning To Fail


My performance of an extended mini-workout comes with consequences that must be
considered in advance. If I blast my lower arms today, I will likely need to reduce some
of the lower arm modifications that I may have otherwise included throughout the rest
of the week. For example, I may need to cut back on some of the indirect lifts or warmup lifts that I often perform. And it is for this reason that I only perform extended miniworkouts on occasion. While I enjoy the dedicated lower arm work these sessions allow,
I prefer to perform the bulk of my lower arm training through the nine previously listed
modifications. I find such modifications to be more convenient for athletes who are
already busy training multiple objectives. Once again though, it is always nice to have
multiple options available. There is no single right or wrong approach. Ultimately,
whatever you choose for lower arm training must align with your interests, goals, and
existing schedule.
And while budgeting lower arm workload may initially seem like a daunting task, it
remains relatively straightforward as long as you are patient with your progress, yet
calculated with your planning. By making small, subtle additions, you give your body
an opportunity to adapt and a fair chance to provide accurate feedback regarding the
work. You are never in a position where you are overwhelmed with new or different
forms of training. Instead, you can carefully analyze the feedback that your body
provides regarding the subtle additions that you have made over time. It is through this
feedback that you eventually learn what is ideal for your body. You slowly gain an
understanding of how much work and what type of work is best for your development.
Regrettably, there are no shortcuts to acquiring such knowledge and experience. You
must roll up your sleeves and consistently get your hands dirty over a long period of
time. Fortunately, if you are willing to pay the price, your hard work in the trenches
will eventually reward you with strength and knowledge. And it is that type of
experience that is truly worthwhile. It cannot be purchased or acquired any other way.
It must be earned one day at a time.
Sadly, many athletes fail to ever uncover this treasure chest of wisdom and strength as
they are not willing to consistently put in the work that is necessary. It is my sincere
hope that you do not fall into this trap and instead remain persistent and diligent as the
weeks, months, and years pass.

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Final Thoughts
To conclude, whether you opt to add lower arm work through some of my suggestions
or instead follow a more dedicated program, be sure that you remain patient and
consistent with your training. Development of the small muscles and tendons of the
lower arms cannot be rushed. Rome was not built in a day, and true lower arm strength
is not either. It will take time for you to develop considerable strength, but the fruits of
your labor will be savored for years to come. Speaking as an athlete who once had
feeble hands and wrists, I only wish I had begun training the lower arms earlier.
I truly hope that this book will help you to avoid making the same mistakes that I made
as a young athlete. Recognize the potential of the lower arms and capitalize on this
powerful, yet often hidden source of untapped strength.
Lastly, if you ever have any questions regarding the material presented within the manual, feel
free to contact me directly at ross@rosstraining.com.

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EXERCIS( LIST
Indirect Lifting
Deadlift
Suitcase deadlift
Dumbbell snatch
Swings
Hand to hand swings
Bottoms up press
Farmers walk
Bent over rows
Odd Objects
Stone clean and press
Stone loading
Stone clean and throw
Stone pinch grip rows
Stone catch and release
Stone curls
Concrete pinch grip rows
Concrete clean and press
Concrete farmers walk
Sandbag clean and press
Water ball substitute
Sandbag loading
Sandbag shouldering
Sandbag catch and release
Wheelbarrow finisher
Log shouldering
Log carries
Ropes and Towels
Towel pull-ups
Two towel pull-ups
Towel pull-up modifications
Rope pull-ups
Rope modifications
Double rope climb
Rope climbing
Rope body rows
Towel body rows
One arm rope body row
One arm towel body row
Rope tricep extension
Rope and towel hangs
Rope sled pulls
Towel swings
Towel curls
Towel rows
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13-15
16
17-18
18-19
20
21
22
23-24
29
30
31
32
33
33
34
35
36
38
39
40
41
42
43
45
45
47
48
49
50
52
54
55
56-57
57
58
58
59
59-62
62-63
64
65
65

Towel farmers walk


Rope curls
T-Bar rope rows

65
66
66-67

Pinch Grip
Door pinch
Door body rows
Pinch grip band rows
Band resisted static holds
Pinch grip sled drag
Pinch grip sled row
T-handle 4x4 lift
Pinch grip swings
T-handle 2x4 lift
T-handle hub lift
Plate pinching
Thin plate pinching
Scrap wood lifts
Block weight deadlift
Block weight velcro addition
Block weight band assistance
Block weight partial lifts
Double block weight lift
Block weight rows
Block weight snatch
Block weight clean and press
Block weight release and catch
Block weight curl and press
Block weight farmers walk
Two hand block weight lift
Inverted dumbbell lift

70-71
72
76-78
79
80
81
83
84
85
86
87-88
88-89
89-90
93
94
95
96
97
98
99
100
101
102
103
103
104

Thick Grip
Thick grip pull-ups
Commando pull-ups
Thick grip attachment pull-ups
Towel thick grip pull-ups
Thick grip trap bar deadlift
Thick grip farmers walk
Thick grip body rows
Thick handle dumbbell deadlift
Thick handle dumbbell rows
Thick handle dumbbell curls
Rotating thick grip deadlift
Rotating thick grip rows
Rotating thick grip swings
Rotating thick grip pull-ups

109
109
114-115
116
117
119
120
124
125
127
131
131
132
133-135

UNTAPPED STRENGTH
Rotating thick grip body rows
Rotating thick grip deadlift
Ball grip pull-ups
Ball grip body rows
Wrist Training
Wrist curls
Reverse wrist curls
Thick grip wrist curls
Thick grip reverse wrist curls
Rack mounted wrist rolling
Suspended wrist rolling
Plate curls
Plate curls with DIY tool
Plate wrist curls
Plate wrist curls with DIY tool
Side levering
Overhead lever
Rear lever
Front lever
Chair lever
Static holds
Broom lift
Chair lifts

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135
136
137
138
141-142
142
143
143
145
146
149-151
152-153
154
155
156-161
164-165
166
167-168
168
169
170
170-171

Sledge lifts
Sledge swings
Sledge swing and halt
Knuckle pushups
One arm knuckle pushups
Wrist pushups
Rice bucket wrist training

172-173
174-175
176
177
177
178-184
185-186

Fingers and Crush


Grippers
Grip machine
Spring clamps
Homemade finger exerciser
Extensors without equipment
Extensor band training
Rice bucket extensor training
Isometric extensor training (velcro)
Weighted extensor training
Finger pushups
One arm finger pushups
Finger pull-ups
Finger strap pull-ups
Finger strap curls
Sledge handle walking

189-190
191-194
195-198
199-201
202-203
203
204
205
206
208-209
210
211
212-216
216-217
218-219

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