Keep those joints warm!

In the last year I have made a real effort to get my squat going again.  At 45 I’m not looking to set any records or even personal bests.  The goal more than anything was and still is to have a healthy lower body that allows me to do full range motion lifts without injury.  My progress is gauged more than anything by how heavy and how many sets can I do without tweaking a groin, feeling the onset of patella tendinitis, or spraining the SI…all ailments that have plagued my squat training since the beginning.  I decided I would try something a little different with my squatting – a three day a week program.  I figured if I kept the volume and frequency high I would give myself a break on the poundage and not feel so bad about how light I was keeping the weight – again the goal was injury free training that improves, not tears up, the back and lower body.  Well this worked.  Yes there have been a few tweaked groins along the way and a bizarre oblique strain but for the most part my knees feel great and back is getting stronger.  I found with this experiment of squatting Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, that Monday is the worst day pain wise and Friday is the best.  As long as I keep the volume in check and the intensity low on Wednesday my Friday workouts usually go really well with far less time necessary for warm-ups than my Monday workouts.  Squatting again has my energy high and has really got my gym intensity going again. The healthy knees have me feeling younger and more athletic – even keeping up with my girls on the basketball court!

While multi-day squat training was new to me I have always used this approach in my grip training.  I recently watched an interview with a popular strongman that advocated a much more conservative approach to grip training.  When I trained and competed in strongman I would agree that one day a week on specific grip training is appropriate because all the event training really fries your forearms and hands.  However as a general weight trainer or powerlifter your hands can take much more.  I have always excelled at pinch training and I’m at my strongest waskWadehen I am training pinch multiple times a week.  Recently I have been training Two Hand Pinch on Mondays, Grippers on Wednesdays, and Thick Pinch on Friday’s.  After adjusting again to the volume I have hit some big numbers on these three lifts recently knocking on the door of my personal bests.

My hands, like my knees, feel best when they are “warm”.  Warm comes when there is some fatigue and maybe even some stiffness, but the joint is ready to go with just a little light warm-up. This is opposed to “cold”.  Cold comes when there has been no recent joint activity.  The joint might feel fine but once you start warming up the joint feels brittle and prone to injury.  I’ve had the good fortune to represent GNC Live Well for the past 14 years at over 50 fitness expos, running the GNC Grip Gauntlet contest.  At these events I will end up lifting the grip implements 100+ times over the 2 or 3 day event.  I’m typically strongest on the last day…when I’m “warm”.

Keeping with the theme of staying warm, my favorite pre-workout supplement is GNC Pro Performance Beta-Alanine 3200.  Beta-Alanine gives me a nice flush that warms the whole body up and energizes me for the entire workout.  There’s nothing like the feeling of being warmed up before you event touch a weight.

I’m not too old to remember the good old days of going into the gym and warming up just because it was habit and what you did to get to your heavy set…not anything you really needed to do. I remember the “old guys” that would stretch and roll and do endless sets to try to get loosened up.  I guess I’m one of those old guys now.  Weight training is as much mental as it is physical and as you advance in years the mental part becomes more about preparation and planning than execution and intensity.

Train Hard and Live Well!

Wade

Negatives

This is a classic post from 2011 on The Gripper Superstore page…
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Q: Wade – I was reading your blog and noticed that you mention TNS and deep set negatives. How are these performed? Whenever I’ve performed negatives I cheated the gripper closed on my leg.

A: I only do negatives with grippers that I can assist closed with the off hand – rather than closing on my leg. I always used to use my leg but found two things: 1) I had a lot of pain in my knuckles – like small sprains – when I did this because of the pressure on the knuckles against the leg; 2) if the gripper is too strong to be closed with my off hand it is too strong for me to do a good negative.

TNS (table-top no-set) negatives are done by picking the gripper up and not touching at all with the off hand. You then bring the gripper as far as you can with no touch, then force it closed with the off hand. The gripper is in the same position as required for a no-set or credit card set close. This exercise builds strength through the full range of motion. It will require a lighter gripper or lower setting on the adjustable gripper because the handles are in a weaker (leverage) position in the hand. Hope this helps!

Wade Gillingham, founder of Gillingham High Performance and the GHP Brand, is world-renowned for his incredible grip. Wade answers hundreds of questions a year on the subject of grip strength. Ocasionally we will share some of his answers in this column. If you have a question for Wade please send us an email at wade@gillinghamhp.com

Gripper Advice

This is a classic post originally on The Gripper Superstore page in 2011…
askWade
Q: Could you give me any advice on forearm/wrist/grip training in general, and towards closing the CoC #3 in particular? I am about 1/8″ away from getting it and have been stuck there for over a month. I think my finger length is causing problems as my hand completely engulfs the gripper. My had measures 10-1/2″ in spread, and that last little bit has been a sticking point on every gripper I have closed to this point. I have been doing 3 sets of 10 reps each with the trainer to warm up then 4 sets of 10 reps each with the heaviest gripper I can get 4×10 with which is currently the 2.5 for the first one then the 2 for the next three sets. I have been resting two days between workouts

A: It sounds like you have the same problem I do with finishing grippers. With a big hand that last bit is really hard to develop. The stronger you get overall the stronger that finish will get but it comes slow. Some things you can try:

  • increase gripper workout frequency – up to daily or even twice daily workouts
  • no-set workouts in the morning before your heavy workout at night
  • negatives with a regular or extended handle gripper
  • negatives on a plate loaded gripper – two hands up, one hand negative down
  • negatives with the secret weapon
  • “beyond the range” sets with 5/8″ or 16mm diameter gripper handles from Beef Builder and Robert Baraban

I am a big believer in a high volume of low reps. I don’t work reps at all except the 1-3 rep range.

I have a lot of grippers and know how they stack up in difficulty. When I am training for a big close I will do 8-10 sets of no-set work in the morning ususally ending with a gripper that I can just get closed. These are low intensity workouts at my desk and with no chalk, M-F. Then in the evenings on MWF I will do heavy grippers to failure starting with something fairly hard. I will burn out after 4-5 singles usually. I will follow this up with either 5-10 negatives with a gripper or 10 negatives on either the ironmind go really grip or the secret weapon. The other variation I will put in is singles with a choked gripper. I don’t recommend this as it is dangerous so proceed at your own risk when using chokers.

I hope this helps.

Wade Gillingham, founder of Gillingham High Performance and the GHP Brand, is world-renowned for his incredible grip. Wade answers hundreds of questions a year on the subject of grip strength. Ocasionally we will share some of his answers in this column. If you have a question for Wade please send us an email at store@gillinghamhp.com

Deadlift Grip

This is a classic post originally from 2011 on the Gripper Superstore page…
askWade
This question comes from an Assistant Strength Coach at a major Division I University.

Q: I train my grip hard, but don’t ever seem to make much progress. I try to be well-rounded with my grip training and specific, but it’s hard to master. Any tips on training the grip for deadlift?

A: As far as deadlift grip, this is complicated. Some things work and some don’t – like everything else – depends on the person, or the person’s hands more specifically. Here are some suggestions that I think work for me:

1. My top exercise for someone that asks me this question is heavy dumbbell rows – high reps using a 1 3/8″ handle. I work up to a max set of 20 then add 10 pounds and start over. My best on this is 167×20 and 177×16. Recently I did 187×10. I have really good carry over on these because as my grip starts to fail I can still hold the handle in the tips of my fingers and thumb and perform reps. I don’t get the same feel doing barbell rows – once the grip goes on BB rows the bar pops out. This has allowed me to hold some deadlifts that have started to open up my hand.

2. My next best exercise for this is to work up to a set of 5 double overhand no hook. Do this on a light week – it will give your back a bit of a break but will still make you work because as your grip fails the weight starts feeling really heavy! Once a month or less is fine for these – you want to inch that record up every time. My best here is 570×5 with no belt.

3. For double overhand hook grip I would suggest a one arm deadlift on a thick rotating handle like the Rolling Thunder, FBBC Crusher, Country Crush, etc.. I normally train this for singles but have had recent success on this lift with one set of 10 once a week – always pushing for a small max increase (1-2lbs). For over/under mixed grip I would suggest plate pinching to build your thumb strength for clamping down on the index finger. I always do pinch grip for heavy singles with some occasional endurance things like passing around back or hand to hand until you fail.

4. Finally for either type grip – hook or mixed – I would suggest torsion spring grippers. Stick to low reps or singles on these either during the pulling part of your workout or right away after. You wont have much consistency if you do them after taxing your grip on other supporting grip or pinch grip exercises mentioned above. If you have the time you could also do these on off days or days that you aren’t pulling. I have had real good results training grippers every day as long as you keep the reps low. I am currently using a program that has me doing grippers twice a day – light in the morning and heavy at the gym while lifting. Grippers are great for hand health and general grip strength – it is one of the only grip exercises you can do that is dynamic – most everything else is static – so it helps balance you hand strength and build mind-muscle connection with your hand that carries over to all sports. Hope this helps!

Wade Gillingham, founder of Gillingham High Performance and the GHP Brand, is world-renowned for his incredible grip. Wade answers hundreds of questions a year on the subject of grip strength. Occasionally we will share some of his answers in this column. If you have a question for Wade please send us an email at wade@gillinghamhp.com