David Horne's World of Grip
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By David Horne

There may be some readers who have not got the luxury of their own gym in the garage or cellar, and yes it really is a luxury. Nick McKinless has told me that when he recently moved to another house and was away from the gym that he had trained at, his routine was to train when the energy was high, sometimes twice a day, other times twice a week. He had a kind of sixth sense and knew when to train, not when he was meant to train in the constraints of the gym. The home gym allows you to have a quick workout without the time consumption of travelling to a gym. It also allows you to put together a useful array of training tools; especially grip related ones. From pinch lifting apparatus to thick barbells and dumbbells, grip machines to wrist rollers, whatever area you want to train you can have your apparatus sitting there ready and willing. No need for exercise machines that you do not require or do not find useful.
But at a commercial gym where someone else runs the show for the benefit of the public, or even at a hard-core gym for bodybuilders or weightlifters, the likelihood of finding any specialised apparatus for training your hands is negligible. Unless you know the gym owner well, and even then the likelihood of him allowing you to keep any kind of apparatus at his gym is small due to health and safety. But you should be able to put together a good grip workout with the machines and weights that are already there. Obviously, if you are not allowed to use chalk, realise that this may affect the amount of weight that you can handle, but it doesn’t really matter, as a period of training with no chalk will work wonders for your hands.
I’ll now list the usual pieces of equipment found in a commercial gym and a brief description of the exercises you can do with these to train your grip.


WRIST CURLS can be done by holding the pulley bar (preferably with a thumbless grip), with your arms at full stretch like you are going to commence a pulldown, then bending your wrists downwards as far as they can go. This is a good style of the wrist curl, with no need for a spotter to hand you a heavy bar. It is also an excellent finishing exercise, done by doing 20 reps on each weight block as you go lighter on each set. Do this non-stop, only resting to select the next weight.

GRIPPING exercise can be performed without any fear of cheating like a plate loaded grip machine on the floor, here only the finger flexors work. Holding the pulldown bar as above (no need for a thumbless grip unless you want), using your finger strength close your hands, then let the handle go till your hands are nearly open, then close again.

RECTANGULAR FIX or REVERSE CURL can also be effectively done on this apparatus. In fact it feels very different to its barbell version as the tension is at its highest at the full contraction. I call this exercise LYING PULLEY REVERSE CURL. As it states this exercise is done lying down on a bench, so you will have to ask someone to pass you the pulldown handle, and take it when you have finished the set. Once you are handed the bar you will reverse curl the bar to your forehead using a supinated (overhand) grip. I find that this is best done using a thumbless grip and also bent wrists. This seems to allow me to train the areas I want (brachialis, brachioradialis, biceps brachi, pronator teres and quadratus) before my wrist extensors tire. It is

most important to keep the upper arm stationary with your elbow pointing upwards throughout the curl, so that you do not get any assistance from your back, thus getting maximum benefit for the previously mentioned areas.

Any loose training on any of these three exercises is a complete waste of time; try to keep the form correct. I would advise to practise between 8-20 repetitions.


Obviously many exercises can be performed using an Olympic bar, but it is the exercises that use the ends of the bars that I’m interested in. The exercises in particular are pinch lifts and thick bar One Hand Deadlift.
PINCH LIFT (One or two handed). If using the row machine, put two 5kg discs (with the two flat faces outwards) on the bar. You now have your pinch apparatus. To add extra resistance take off the discs, add the weight, and then replace your pinch discs. It is basically the same with the Olympic bar, except that you have to weigh the other end of the bar down. Fastening a couple of 20kg discs on the other end does this. See illustrations. You can use whatever size discs you want for the pinch discs, but remember that the thicker the width of the discs the tougher it will be, unless of course you have very large hands, where a thick pinch may be more suited. I’ve found it best to stand at the end of the bar to lift, facing it, as the weights and bar do not get in the way. You can perform your pinches with one hand or two, with thick or thin discs, to knee height or pulled a little higher.

ONE HAND DEADLIFT Of course you could just use the end of the bar for 2” bar One Hand Deadlifts, like John Gallagher used in training for his attempt at the Inch Dumbell. You follow the same advice as above for weighing one end of the bar down, and adding your extra weight. Though if you want a handle as thick as the Inch Dumbell, or similar to Ironmind’s Rolling Thunder, then you can get a short length of metal tube to fit over the end of the bars. The one I use fits and revolves perfectly; the dimensions of this are 8” long, just over 2 3/8” wide, with the tube wall being 1/8” thick. This short length of tubing can easily be carried in your training bag. A normal or thumbless grip can be used. With the former your thumb will be the weak link so it will train this area nicely, and with the latter your wrist and fingers will be taxed.


HANGING FROM THE BAR You can use either of these to perform weighted holds, obviously the thicker the bar the harder it will be to keep hanging on. One or two hands can be used. The weight is best fastened to your belt or a web belt around your waist.

FINGER CHINS/HOLDS If the bar is 1” in diameter, you can perform finger holds or chins. This is a tough exercise, especially done with just one finger of each hand, and is best done with more fingers to start with – building up to this point slowly. It is easier to use a reverse grip than an overhand or underhand.

I hope that these few ideas make it a bit more grip productive to go and train at a commercial gym.

Copyright David Horne 2006