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Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Weak Link - By Burt Gam

Back in 1993 when I was working in a mail processing facility I landed my dream job in a small post office. No more working nights and weekends! When I got there, naturally I was pre-occupied with learning my new job. I was not expecting to be the victim of a work place bully. Being the new kid on the block I might have anticipated a bit of "friendly razzing", but not the kind of wise-a-- remarks being directed towards me by this jerk. Now to most people I do not appear a likely target at 5'11 and 215 solid pounds. This mail carrier went about a buck 65 and looked like a one punch knock-out. What was he thinking? After a week or two I expected it to blow over. It did not. Now being generally good natured, I decided one day that today will be the last time I would be dealing with this pain in the a--!

Outside, I confronted my nemesis and extended my hand in a friendly manner to say good morning. He looked at me strange and took my hand to shake it. Big Mistake. Tears of pain filled his eyes. After I decided he had enough and released his hand, all he could do was slither into the bathroom to run cold water on his hand and yell for a supervisor. Now assaulting an employee can certainly get you fired, but shaking someone's hand too hard? I honestly believe that management was secretly happy that this problematic individual finally got his just rewards! Not my proudest moment, but needless to say I didn't hear any more crap!

Someone once told me that the true measure of a man's strength is in his grip. Certainly a lot can be gleaned from a handshake, even strength of character. Having a strong grip certainly has its advantages beyond dispatching wise-guys. For a weight trainer, having a strong grip has a lot of carry over to training. Yet after shaking hands with a good many people through the years and some pretty big dudes to boot, I am hear to tell you that grip work is probably the most neglected aspect of training. To me, nothing is more disappointing than a big guy with huge body parts and a weak grip. Back in the day, lifters and strongmen had tremendous strength in their hands and forearms. They were every bit as strong as they looked. Manual laborers too.

As a lifter, a strong grip has many advantages. Exercises such as deadlifts, shrugs, chins, and various forearm exercises with fat bars certainly will work. But sometimes something more is needed.

What can a powerful grip do for you? For one thing, it will help many of your lifts increase. Try doing deadlifts with a weak grip. I have actually missed lifts because of grip failure, which is why I never use straps. Even presses and rowing exercises will benefit. There are very few lifts indeed that do not incorporate the hands. In every day life too. The carry over is obvious. I realized this when I lifted heavy mail all day, carried grocery bags up the stairs, stripped the heads off of nuts and bolts, and opened pickle jars for my wife. Your hands are your most important tool in the box!

But if you are desiring a truly powerful grip of epic proportions, you need to invest in a hand gripper. Not just any hand gripper mind you. I am talking about a variable resistance fully adjustable hand gripper with heavy duty springs. Not the kind you find in typical sporting goods store. I am talking about a real man toy.

While I am not here to endorse any products, I do have a favorite. There are a few on the market that fit the bill. At least one comes in a set with each gripper being progressively stiffer to promote strength gains. My choice is known as "Super Gripper" manufactured by Ivanko. It kind of resembles a closed horse shoe with two thick high tension springs. It is fully adjustable in what ever increments are comfortable for you. I have personally used it for years and believe me it works! My lifts are better, in particular my deadlifts. It can be ordered out of some muscle magazines or online. As stated, there are other products out there and I am not endorsing. As long as they meet the criteria of progressive resistance and fit your hand size you will not go wrong.

As for programming, I train on it 2-3 times per week pretty much like other body parts. I prefer a higher volume work-out using something like 15-12-10-8-6-4-and sometimes 2 with increasing tension, but straight sets work too if that is your preference. Just about any set and rep scheme will work. Just remember to warm up first. It is entirely possible to injure your hand, wrist and forearms just like any other muscles. The wrist and forearm flexors and extensors are worked thoroughly. You will notice a difference fairly quickly, just take it slow and steady in the beginning. In addition, you will notice a difference in your forearms as far as size and vascularity, especially if this is a problem area for you. Remember, the body is mechanically a kinetic chain.What ever type of lifting you do, bodybuilding, powerlifting, or just want to teach wise guys a lesson, don't let your grip be your weak link! 
BODY • MIND • SPIRIT