Heavy Grips Intermediate and Advanced Program
Are you ready to take your hand strength to the next level? Has that knurling on the handles ground its way into your palm more times than you can count? Are you ready to learn how to develop the crushing horsepower necessary to make what you can’t close now something you can close for reps in a short period of time? Then read on…..
So you’ve been working with your Heavy Grips grippers a few times a week for a few weeks now and are getting the hang of it. If you’re new to the grip game, you’ve probably noticed how sore your hands can get and how even doing something like using a stapler after your grip workout can make your tendons ache. Good! Now it’s time to increase the frequency, volume, and workload of your training to make more gains. You can’t keep doing the same old thing in your training or else your gains will go stale. By this time, you may already be ‘repping’ your goal gripper like a toy and ready to move up to the next stage, the HG200 or HG250, so the workouts listed below will be modified to reflect that.
In this article, we’ll explore more of the tools and means with which you can keep gaining strength with your grippers, as well as some time-tested ‘assistance exercises’ to bust through plateaus.
Negatives are as much a mental exercise as they are a physical one. To perform a negative, take a gripper that is one level above the one you haven’t closed yet (e.g., an HG200 if you are trying to close an HG150), and use both hands and/or your legs to get the gripper closed, or as far closed as possible. ** Then try to keep it shut with just one hand! The gripper will of course open up on you but try real hard to hold it for 5-7 seconds. These are brutal and should only be done sparingly until you get your hands used to the workload. I’d only recommend using a gripper that is only one step above what you’re trying to close or else the stress might be too much. (**Beware that spring failure is always a possibility and can occur at any time. Keep the spring away from your body when performing these exercises)
BRACES AND CHOKERS
The funny thing about any hobby is the lingo some of this stuff has. “Chokers” is not an exercise where you crush someone’s throat, and “braces” in this case are not what you put on your teeth.
There are several ways to do a 'braced close' and I'll go over one of the techniques here. Set the gripper in your hand as described above, but this time instead of letting your other hand go, keep that other thumb pressing the handle into your palm very firmly and squeeze the gripper shut as in Figure 8 below. The reason why ‘bracing’ the gripper makes it easier to close is because as you squeeze the handles together ‘un-braced’, they try to rotate in your hand. ‘Bracing’ the gripper keeps those handles from rotating in your hand and you can exert more force that way.
A ‘choker’ is a simple device that fits over the top of a gripper spring that “chokes” the gripper down so the handles are closer together. I wish I could say that I was clever enough to think this up, but I’m not! The cheapest and most effective choker I’ve found are actually oversized washers that I bought from a hardware store. They were about $.90 a piece. The hole on the inside of the washer is 1.5”, so it is big enough to accommodate all your Heavy Grips grippers except the HG400 and HG500. If your gripper spring does not fit in the hole of the washer, then you can do like I did and clamp the washer in a vice, take a round file, and file a notch in the washer about 1/8” – 1/4" deep. It took me less than a minute to do this by hand. Once the gripper is choked, you can get your hand around it and get a better set. You should be able to get noticeably closer to closing your goal gripper with a choker on it. The choker is a useful training tool but should not entirely replace your regular ‘un-choked’ gripper squeezes.
Frequency and Volume
Now that you’ve built a base of hand strength by working with the grippers for a few weeks, it’s time to build upon that base even more. To do this, we’re going to increase the frequency (number of workouts per week) and volume (number of squeezes per workout). After your third week on the program, you should add another workout day per week, bringing the total to 4 times per week. Not only are you going to increase the number of times you work out, you’re also going to increase the amount of squeezes. The increase isn’t huge, but with that extra day of work in there you will definitely kick start some gains. Before you advance to the next stage of this program, you will want to take a few days off just to rest your hands and prepare them for the work to come.
Your fourth week may look like this:
- 6-8 repetitions on a very easy gripper each hand.
- 6-8 repetitions on very easy gripper each hand, but this time do it inverted
- HG100 Closes – 3 each hand, and 3 attempts inverted
- HG150 Closes – 1-2 each hand and 1-2 inverted
- HG200 (goal gripper) Attempts – 7-10 each hand, and 7-10 inverted too
- Negatives with HG250 – 5-6 negatives each hand, holding for 5-7 seconds each time
- Braced or Choked Attempts on HG200 – 5-7 each hand depending on how tired your hands are
As described in the Beginner article.
If adjusting to this workload is difficult for you, drop the choker and/or braced closes from the routine altogether until you get used to it. You’ll notice that the warm-up hasn’t changed, but the attempts at your goal gripper have gone up. Perform this routine 4 times a week for 2 weeks and then give yourself a good 5-7 days away from the grippers to let your hands rest. Raw, puffy hands need to heal.
Where Cowards Fear To Tread
Now that you have trained hard for 6 weeks and taken almost a week of rest, it’s time to turn up the volume and frequency even higher! Instead of crushing 4 times a week, we’re going to increase that number to 5 times and we’re going to increase the number of squeezes again!
- 6-8 repetitions on a very easy gripper - each hand.
- 6-8 repetitions on very easy gripper-each hand, but this time do it inverted
- HG100 Closes – 3 each hand and 3 attempts inverted
- HG150 Closes – 3-4 each hand and 3-4 inverted
- HG200 Attempts – 10-15 each hand, and 10-15 inverted too
- Negatives with HG250 – 10 negatives each hand, holding for as long as possible
- Braced/Choker Attempts – 10-15 with HG250
As described in the Beginner article
Five times a week AND 10-15 squeezes per workout? Is that possible? It’s very possible and you may be surprised how well the hands can recover after a hard workout like that. Anyone who can remember their first manual labor job can remember how tired their hands and back were after the first day on the job. Stiffness so bad it was almost paralyzing! But then they went back to work the next day and it got better. In a month’s time, that person’s body has adapted to the workload.
Note that I’ve modified the last part of the workout to where you now have the option to either do negatives with one gripper higher than the one you are trying to close now OR doing ‘braced closes’ and closes with a ‘choker’ on. Doing both would be far too much work and only serve to burn you out.
I’d only recommend using this high-volume workout for one week and then take a week off and test yourself on your goal gripper. If you aren’t closing your goal gripper yet, step back down to doing what you were doing in Week 4. Do that for 2 weeks like before, take a week off, then come back and hit that higher volume stuff again for a week.
Assistance Work for Busting Through the Plateaus
If you’ve been through the cycle a couple of times and just haven’t broken through that plateau, it may be time to put down the grippers and do some assistance work.
Let’s start with the foundation that the gripper handle will sit on – the thumb pad. A larger thumb pad will provide a more stable area for the gripper handle to rest on during the squeeze. Your genetics play a large role in whether or not you will develop a “turkey leg” for a thumb, but regardless of genetics you can build up your thumb pad to some degree. And these exercises will help in other aspects of grip strength too. The exercises I recommend for building the thumb pad all involve narrow pinching.
Hub lifting is a great way to build the thumb pad. The tricky part is finding plates with a good hub for pinching. The deeper the hub, the better. Chalk up your fingers, grab the center hub, and lift! When a 45lb plate becomes too easy for you, you can stack some smaller plates on top to increase the difficulty. Besides deadlifting it, you can also clean & press the plate as well as snatch it if your hands are strong enough.
Block weights are another good tool for building hand strength that carries over very well to grippers. A block weight is the cut off head of a dumbbell. If your friend or training partner is interested in grip strength, you can split the cost of the dumbbell and share the block weights from each one which makes it a bit more affordable. The only downside is that the paint on most of these blocks are slick so you either have to scuff them up to get any kind of grip on them or put a couple strips of athletic tape over the blocks for a better grip. If you’re on a limited budget and can only afford a few smaller blocks, practice ‘timed holds’ with the block using only your pinky, ring-finger and thumb. You can also toss and catch, clean and press, snatch, and perform a myriad of other exercises with them. Below is a picture of a 50lb York Blob.
Plate pinching with the pinky and ring finger is fantastic for not only making the pinky and ring stronger, but blowing up the thumb pad like a balloon. Start with a pair of 25 or 35lb plates and turn them so the smooth sides are facing out. Pinch the plates with these 3 fingers on each hand and lift. Once you can lift 2-45lb plates in this manner, run a pipe or bar through them to add additional weight and make it even more challenging. In the picture below, I am lifting the 45lb plates with my pinky, ring, and thumb and have my index and middle fingers crossed over each other and off the plates to keep them out of the way.
Another way to build your crushing strength is to strengthen the extensors in your hand. The extensors are the tendons that open your hand and go from the back of your hand all the way up to your elbow. Although you may not think that the tendons that open your hand have anything to do with crushing a gripper, they do! There are a couple ways to exercise your extensors.
The first way is simple. Use large rubber bands on your fingers and open your hand as shown below.
And I saved the best for last – dexterity ball rotations. These are also called Chinese therapy or Ben Wa balls. There are many companies out there that sell them and you should find the heaviest ones possible to really make your extensors and forearms burn. I like to use two 2” steel bearings that I wrapped in athletic tape. The tape not only keeps my hands free of the rust from the bearings, but also makes it a little more difficult to rotate them in my hand without them teaching each other.
After spending a couple weeks with these exercises, you should notice an increase in gripper strength once you start training with them again. Give these a try!Written by Clay Edgin