Ladies and gentlemen, I have a confession to make.
It’s something I’m rather embarrassed and ashamed of.
It's about training.
Specifically, grip training.
You see, I’m fully aware of the importance of grip training. A stronger grip can favorably impact upon just about any task that involves your hands, be it other weight training exercises or everyday activities. For example, if you have a weak grip, then your deadlift will royally suck. Which means in order to pull meaningful weights on deads, you’ll need to wear wrist straps. In a hardcore gym, that’s only a few short steps down from showing up to training in a pink chiffon.
Grappling is another example of a popular activity where a butter-fingered grip is going to put you at a huge disadvantage. The ability to get a good grasp of your opponent is critical in many grappling scenarios, such as applying a submission hold or stalling your opponent while you manoeuvre out of a vulnerable position.
And let’s not forget that dedicated grip training can work wonders for your forearm development. Muscular forearms look downright rugged and manly, which means every bloke should have a set. Let’s face it, Popeye didn’t pull Olive Oyl by virtue of his worldly manner, symmetrical facial features or expansive vocabulary. It was those bowling pin forearms that got him the girl.
The bottom line is that no-one needs to convince me of the importance of grip training.
And that’s the problem. Despite knowing how important it is and being keenly aware of all the wonderful benefits it delivers, I rarely do it.
Yeah, I know - you all thought I was such a responsible, conscientious and hard-working lad.
And now you find out I haven’t even been training my grip.
I’m sorry, everyone, I really am.
So how did things ever get to this point?
It’s not for lack of training devices. I’ve got all manner of grip training devices in my gym. And I do use them – occasionally, in sporadic bursts. I’ll remind myself how my grip training has fallen by the wayside, resolve to start training my lower arms more frequently, then after a few weeks my good intentions are history.
The real problem is time. These days I’m lucky if I can spend a solid hour in the gym. By the time I’ve ploughed through my major exercises like squats, deadlifts, benches, rows, or cleans, then worked through supplementary movements for abs, delts, arms, neck, rotator cuff, or whatever else, I’m not only feeling hammered but typically looking at the clock and reminding myself that I still need to shower and eat before heading off to whatever pressing commitment I’ve got lined up.
And so something like forearm training which, quite frankly, doesn’t exactly top anyone’s bucket list of “Awesome Things to Do Before I Die!”, tends to get lost in the rush.
Judging by all the nodding heads I see out there (yes, I have Superman-style vision, so behave yourself when you’re reading my site), I’m obviously not alone. Many of you know exactly where I’m coming from. You’re busy folks whose life is filled with other commitments like work, study, family, kids, sports training and more. Your teenage years, where life pretty much revolved around looking good in a tank top, are well and truly behind you. You’re all grown up now, and have far more pressing commitments, like earning a living, raising a family, and maintaining a household that doesn’t look like it was recently raided by the DEA.
If only there were some way you could work your grip without having to do extra, dedicated grip training.
As it turns out, there is.
No, I’m not about to give you the largely useless advice to simply grip your barbell and dumbbell handles tighter when you lift weights. I don’t know who made this one up, but it seems to have stuck around despite its general inefficacy. Imagine if I told people who were looking to build their glutes to simply clench their butt cheeks harder during squats. You jokers would think I’m bonkers.
The reality is that a regular 1" thick barbell only demands a certain amount of neuromuscular activation in the forearm to get through a set. For most folks, trying to build a vice-like grip and a killer set of pipes simply by grabbing a thin bar harder is a bit like relying solely on chest and lat work for arm development or thinking you can sufficiently work your core just by doing squats. Some people can, but the overwhelming majority of us won't stand a chance.
If extra grip training just doesn’t happen because of time-constraints and that end-of-workout-blah feeling, and if simply gripping your weights harder doesn’t do the trick, then what will?
Embrace the Girth
More specifically, increasing the diameter of your weight handles. This markedly changes the grip dynamic of your exercises. Instead of mindlessly trying to grip a regular thin bar harder while a little voice inside your head asks, “Um, what exactly is the point here, Einstein? The bar ain’t going nowhere!”, all of a sudden you are forced to engage your grip at a far higher level than previously.
That’s because a thicker, fatter barbell or dumbbell handle provides not just a novel stimulus but, unless you are 7’10” with paws to match, it also places your hands at a mechanical disadvantage. Gripping a fat bar is, quite simply, much harder, as anyone who’s tried to deadlift with a thick barbell will readily attest.
Sounds great, but the trouble with the whole fat bar approach is it’s damn expensive. A 7’ Olympic fat bar with a 2” diameter will set you back the best part of $300. If you also want a fat trap bar and thick-handled dumbells, then unless you happen to frequent a really well-equipped gym whose owners tend to stay on the cutting edge of training technology, then the expense for most people will become prohibitive.
But do not fear, Captain Anthony is here! And I’ve got an inexpensive solution that will work for both home trainees and folks who work out in commercial gyms. Yep, feast your eyes upon these babies:
These sturdy, handy little units are known as TrueGRIPs, and they’re made by a most awesome company called Iron Bull Strength.
I never believed in all that telepathy mind-reading bollocks until the day their sales manager, Frank, emailed me, asking if I’d like to try out some Iron Bull TrueGRIPs. His email arrived smack-bang in the middle of one of those periods where my grip training had pretty much gone to hell, and I knew it. It also arrived shortly before I started university, a development that would combine with all my other commitments to strain my time management abilities like never before. I’ve had to completely overhaul and consolidate my training regimen in order to arrive at a workable compromise that allows me to keep on top of my studies without becoming an unfit lard-ass.
Spending extra time on forearm training? Yeah, right!
So Frank’s offer simply couldn’t have come at a better time.
When my TrueGRIPs arrived, I literally ripped them out of the box, raced out the door, tripped over Ramone, knocked over a couple of those outdoor Ikea chairs I scored cheap on ebay, then barged into my gym.
Yes, I was excited.
They were even a cool lime green, which is the exact colour I would have picked. I told you Frank was psychic.
Test Driving the TrueGRIPS
The really cool thing about TrueGrips is that you can pretty much affix them to anything with a handle. OK, coffee cup handles might be a problem, but dumbbell handles, olympic bars, trap bars, pulldown bars, you name it, they’re all ready and willing to match up with some TrueGRIPs.
Trying them out the first few times was a lot of fun. And interesting. Deadlifting with these grips is a rather ego-deflating endeavour, as you’ll be lifting a lot less weight, so don’t drop your top end regular bar work. But there’s no end to the exercise variations you can come up with - so far I’m really liking these babies for arm work. The TrueGRIPs don’t seem to negatively affect the amount of weight I can curl or press, yet the burn and pump in my forearms is crazy – it’s something I haven’t experienced for a long time using standard thickness bars. Whether this eventually results in Popeye-like forearms that attract women named after Mediterranean plant oils, I’ll have to wait and see. I’ll be sure to post a longer term review, hopefully with some photos of my new, beefier forearms.
Suffice to say for now, I love these things. They blast my forearms and work my grip quite nicely without requiring me to spend any extra time in the gym. In addition to giving my forearms a good tickle, they’re inexpensive, convenient, easy to attach and remove, not to mention portable – if you’re going on a trip, you can easily take them with you.
TrueGRIPs are available in three different models:
TGrip 2.0 (2” thick, recommended for beginners and folks with small hands = $35.00)
TGrip 2.5 (2.5” thick, for advanced lifters and those with medium-sized hands = $41.00)
TGrip 3.0 (3” thick, for hardcore mofos and those with large hands = $47.00 )
For any fellow Aussies reading this, shipping Down Under will range between $10 and $50 depending on the model (obviously, the TGrip 2.0 is lighter than TGrip 3.0), and whether you choose regular Freight or International Air delivery.
To learn more about TrueGRIPs and other nifty training gear from Iron Bull Strength, you can visit their website: http://www.ironbullstrength.com/shop/true-grip.html
Copyright © Anthony Colpo.
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