NOV 4, 2020

Struggling to improve your grip strength?


Imagine having iron grips that stay glued to your opponent all round long... 

Everyone knows that grip strength is important for BJJ. But what type of grip strength is needed, and how exactly do you squeeze it into your workouts?

Contrary to popular belief, the maximal isometric (squeezing) grip strength of elite BJJ athletes is not much higher than the general population. How can this be?? BJJ athletes train grip all the time!

BJJ is much more about being able to MAINTAIN a high percentage of your max grip strength for a long period of time, also known as local muscular endurance. This quote from research by Andreato et al. on grip strength in elite BJJ athletes helps highlight this fact: 

"Maximum isometric strength does not seem to be an important characteristic in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, due to the fact that athletes who practice this sport, do not reveal substantial handgrip strength, although the athletes are able to maintain a high percentage of their maximum isometric handgrip strength until the end of the fight." 

There are three main types of grip: crush grip, support grip, and pinch grip. Crush grip involves gripping between the fingers and palm (think crushing an aluminum can in your hand). Support grip is the ability to maintain a crush grip for long periods of time (imagine bringing all your shopping bags into the house in one trip) and pinch grip involves gripping between the fingers and thumb (more on this later).

In addition, the grip can also be trained from various positions: pronated (palms down relative to your torso), supinated (palms up), mixed (one palm up, one palm down), and neutral (palms facing each other). While crush and support grips from pronated and neutral positions are most common in BJJ, it’s important to include all three types of grip from a variety of positions in order to fully maximize your grip training and increase transfer to performance on the mats.

Below we used these underlying principles to provide a free full-body workout with a focus on grip endurance. Check out the video link below for a walkthrough with Coach Bryce showing proper exercise technique!

1 Snatch-Grip Romanian Deadlift: 3 sets x 6 repetitions, :02 pause

This targets the entire posterior chain, and the wide grip allows for additional emphasis on grip strength.

2️ Dumbbell Floor Press: 3 sets x 8 repetitions

While grip may not be developed in a traditional sense, proper execution of this exercise develops wrist stability. Many gi grips require as much strength through the wrist as they do from the hands.

3 Towel Inverted Row: 3 sets x AMRAP (As Many Repetitions as Possible)

Addition of towels to this upper body horizontal pull allows an individual to develop gi-specific strength relative to their bodyweight.

4 Dumbbell Walking Lunge: 3 sets x 8 reps each

This knee-dominant, single leg exercise develops strength from deep knee and hip flexion (crucial for guard), while the hands support any additional load.

5 Plate Pinch Carry: 3 sets x 45 seconds each

Pinch grip is the most under-trained type of grip (versus crush grip and support grip) and while pinch gripping itself is not common in BJJ, training it can eliminate a weakness and has direct transfer to other grip types.

6 Rice Bucket: 3 sets, 1 minute each (full description below)

Commonly prescribed as a metabolic finisher, this tool resists any motion of the hands and wrist. Extension of the fingers and wrist is an often-overlooked pattern that can help with the constant flexion of the fingers seen in BJJ. Our setup is a paint bucket filled with 20lbs of dry rice.

  1.  Radial/Ulnar Deviation: a great choice to begin a rice bucket session, because the forearms are being activated without use of the fingers. For BJJ athletes with a current finger injury, this may be the only movement possible.
  2.  Anti Flexion/Extension: an isometric movement that is far more challenging than it looks. This is not only an isometric for the digits, but for the wrists as well. Depth of hands correlates with resistance/difficulty.
  3.  Pronation/Supination + Flexion/Extension: a combination movement of pronation/supination and flexion/extension of the digits.

Give this workout a try and let us know what you think!