Awake & Alive
Grip Strength for Combat Athletes

Grip Strength for Combat Athletes

Grip strength is incredibly important for combat athletes and those that work with their hands. Though sadly this is often overlooked during training, resulting in weak handshakes and skinny forearms. Here are a few suggestions for building monster hands and forearms so you can control your next opponent.

Grip strength has a long history in combat that goes back to the first time a caveman picked up a rock or stick and tried to club another caveman over the head. The point is that grip strength has been essential to combat for a very long time.

In ancient times, grip strength meant life or death on the battlefield: drop your weapon or your shield and you would have more than likely been skewered.

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Today, whether on the modern battlefield or in combat sports, grip strength is still just as important. Even though combat and combat sports have changed since then, humans have not changed “that much”. We still need to be able to seize and hold our opponents. In Chinese martial arts this is called “Chin Na.” We need grip strength to crush our opponent’s will to fight.  

We need to be able to control them while we attack with strikes or throws. On the ground we need to be able to maintain control in much the same way. Every BJJ player knows the importance of wrist control–it allows you to control your opponent.

Every martial art and every branch of the military understands the value of grip. In the military it is trained through pull-ups and rope climbs. In martial arts, each style has its own methods of training, but the reality is that all successful combat arts throughout history at the very least have an instinctual if not intellectual understanding of the value of grip strength.

Grip Strength for Combat Athletes 2

How to start building grip strength

If you are wondering how to get started with grip training there are plenty of cool and unconventional tools. Many of these mimic the ancient weapons and tools used by old school martial artists and strongmen; for example, Indian clubbells, which were originally used by Indian wrestlers and warriors.

Maces and kettlebellsare also great tools, which were originally used by strongmen and mimic stone padlocks used by Chinese martial artists. The wide handles of these implements require constant engagement of the hands and wrists, which is what makes them such excellent tools for building forearms and grip strength.  

If you have a gym membership and wish to train your grip in a more civilized fashion, then dumbbell farmer carries, hex bell holds, and the occasional rack pull or holding the ends of the barbell–the fat part where the weights go–preferably with a friend, can be useful tools. I think I got this idea from Diesel Crew.

Finally, if you’re looking to train your grip on a budget then go old school. Use timed hanging events, tennis ball squeezes, static holds, loaded protein canisters or bricks. You can also build a wrist roller on the cheap. Sledge hammers and similar tools also work great. Just be safe and creative.

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Ben Green

Ben Green

Ben Green has studied martial arts since he was a teenager, was a tactical athlete trainer while in the US Army, has held multiple kettlebell and fitness-related certifications and is currently a kettlebell instructor at Tao Health & Fitness in Austin, Texas.TaoHealthandFitness.com

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