Grip Strength Training Basics for Grapplers with Daniel Strauss AKA The Raspberry Ape

Grip Strength Training Basics for Grapplers with Daniel Strauss AKA The Raspberry Ape

Journalist Lucy Wynne investigates basic grip strengthening tips for grapplers for The BJJ Box with ADCC, EBI and Polaris veteran, UK BJJ 2nd Degree Black Belt, and grip training connoisseur, Daniel Strauss AKA the Raspberry Ape. We can’t go too into detail as there is a lot to cover and there’s a plethora of ways to increase grip strength but we are going to focus on the basics. If you want to find out more you can purchase Strauss’s instructional ‘Ape Strong: Grip Training For Grapplers’ by clicking on the link here.

Grip training is important to all grapplers to not only improve their performance on the mats but to help keep them injury free, increase their longevity and as Daniel Strauss also says – it’s a lot of fun too.

Why is grip training important for BJJ?

Anyone who has ever done a round of grappling sparring, in Gi or No-Gi will understand the importance of a strong grip. Grappling is a very pull based activity, you are more often looking to pull your opponent closer than you are to push them away. For this reason having the ability to generate strong force through the lower arm and transfer that into your opponent is incredibly valuable, as is the endurance to do this for prolonged periods.

Strauss explains, “The most important reason for a grappler to train their grip is not performance based at all, or at least not directly, this is for injury prevention. Doing the same movements over and over again in any activity will naturally create imbalances in your musculature, and these often express themselves as injuries. By doing supplementary training you are able to mitigate these issues through balancing out the areas that your sport isn’t hitting. In this case the musculature of the lower arm.“

SAFEST way to practice grip training at home

Like anything in life, there is usually a risk involved; so what is the safest way to practice grip training at home? Strauss expands,

Injury is generally caused when working outside of your current ability. Having some common sense goes a long way in terms of safety. However extra care should be taken when training finger strength specifically, as fingers can be damaged easily and take a long time to recover. Some of the safer exercises will be training support, such as bar holds/farmers walks, as there isn’t much that can go wrong unless you’re working above your capabilities. As well as very low impact grip exercises such as rice bucket movements, it would be essentially impossible to injure yourself, the swimming of grip training.”

Rice bucket movements – ‘the swimming of grip training’

Arguably the simplest and safest grip strengthening exercise – rice bucket training/movements. Anyone can do this, anywhere, with any funds.

“Rice bucket training is a great exercise/training tool. It is also very simple, all you need to do is stick your hand or hands deep into a large bucket full of uncooked rice and make various movements with your hand/s. You can do; grabbing, extending fingers, grabbing and twisting (both directions), flexing wrist, extending wrist, rotating hand, and basically any other movement you want to do. It works because the rice will provide slight resistance however you try to move inside it. This is probably the safest exercise you can do and is great for gentle rehab/prehab and can be challenging if done for extended time and good for muscular endurance.”\

Cupping/ Hooking Grips

Cupping and hooking are movements you will frequently use in BJJ, more specifically in No-Gi to help grip your partner. When training to increase your strength in these areas Strauss gives the below advice,

“Cupping is creating a shape with the hand by bending your straight fingers forward 90 degrees from the hand (the knuckles that connect the fingers to the hand). Whereas hooking is bending the hand 90 degrees forward from the wrist. Both these positions are very valuable on the mat, especially in nogi. Some basic ways to train cupping is doing things such as sandbag or plate pick ups where the hand is making the cupping shape. I also use a two-inch thick piece of wood as a handle, which allows me to maintain the cupping shape in my hands very effectively. Hooking is best done with thick handled implements or bars using a thumbless grip and grabbing deep around, keeping the hooking position. You can do any pulling movement like this such as cable rows or pull ups.”

No ‘Equipment’? No Problem!

For a lot of things you need a standard set of equipment to get you started, and it’s usually pretty pricey but due to the various ways you can train your grip, ‘specialized’ equipment isn’t necessarily needed. There are numerous ways you can get that grip stronger without making your wallet weaker. Strauss expands,

“Grip can be trained in so many different ways, and specialized equipment is not needed. Lots of training can be done with things you would find in a regular gym such as plates and barbells. It can also be done with things you may have around the house such as hammers and towels. If starting with nothing I think that the most bang for your buck purchases for training your grip would be a sledgehammer, a resistance band, something that can be used as a weight, a towel, and one rotating, maybe thick, handle. With just these five things for very little money you could get a lot of things done.”

Advice for Those New to the World of Grip Strength Training

“Buy my instructional hahaha. In seriousness, I created my grip training instructional to give all the basic information to someone who has zero idea what they’re doing, so that they can know everything they need to to get started training their grip. The main points are that grip is a broad term that describes many different ranges of motion and shapes the lower arm can make; and that all of these various types of grip should be trained to have strong and healthy fingers, hands, wrists and forearms. Work well within your limit to begin with and be careful not to overdo it as this can lead to injury, as with all physical training.”

Grip strength is an integral part to BJJ, and increasing your expertise in that area will not only improve your performance on the mats, but it will also prevent injuries which means you can train with longevity – something all BJJ players are after – a lifetime on the mats. To learn more, you can buy Strauss’ instructional ‘Ape Strong: Grip Training for Grapplers’ here.

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