Build Your Grip, Enhance your Confidence!
All the women in the beauty salon were aghast when I proclaimed that I couldn't have long fingernails because it gets in the way of making a good fist. After all, I have my priorities! Besides, how could I practice catching my iron palm bag with long fingernails?
While long fingernails may be considered sexy by some, having shorter fingernails is much more practical. Besides not having to worry about getting your fingernails caught on something and ripped off your finger in a fight or on a fence, keeping short fingernails enables you to have more options when it comes to gripping. It is definitely harder to control or influence an opponent if your fingernails get ripped off to the nail bed, or you're worried about that happening. Having good grip strength is an especially important skill for persons who carry a gun.
Improving hand and grip strength also enhances confidence, which makes you a much less likely target to begin with.
Women have some general cultural and physical disadvantages here, but they are pretty easy to overcome, and with practice, you can see VERY quick improvement. If you want to see the cultural disadvantage, watch a woman pick up a soda or beer bottle, and watch a man pick up the same bottle. Women generally use their finger tips to hold it, while men use their whole hand. Multiply this over the years of "training" since infancy, and you'll see one way that this disparity occurs.
The obvious physical disadvantages include smaller fingers, hands and arms, as well as smaller primary muscles. While having generally smaller limbs and digits can't be changed, strengthening and conditioning can still make a huge difference, especially for the littler, secondary muscles, which when properly coordinated can somewhat compensate for size. Once women recognize this and begin working on building their grip strength, they can make rapid gains.
But grip strength problems are not just limited to women, and there are many effective and fun exercises that can be used by both men and women to improve their grip. Here are some I have used, and found beneficial.
One of the favorites of Modern Warrior students is the Iron Palm Bag. This is a stop sign shaped bag, made of red canvas, which is filled with either lead or steel shot. (Remember if you use lead, you need to use all the standard precautions, including avoiding eating, smoking or handling children until after you wash hands thoroughly with cold water.)
The grippers that you purchase in a sporting goods store can be used effectively to supplement this training, although the best gripper (in this author's opinion) is the "Captains of Crush." There are five levels to these grippers, and the average person can't close the first level - the Trainer. The level one is tough for most weight lifters. This tool is awesome, and I highly recommend it.
Like other exercises, you want to start off slow, and build. The manufacturer of this tool recommends training with it only once or twice a week - like doing heavy squats!!
I've used Exercise Balls effectively in the past. This is a single pair of steel or jade balls which you manipulate in your hands in different directions to build the secondary muscles. It's excellent for building dexterity.
Power putty, is a convenient grip and finger strength builder which I've used in the past. Also used as a rehabilitation tool, it comes in varying strengths so that you can choose the consistency you need for maximum resistance at your level of conditioning.
Another toy I've found to work on grip strength is called Eagle Loops, and this is used for practicing pull-ups and chin-ups from hanging bars but here's the catch: you just use the grip strength of your fingers. This is one of my favorites, and along with the Iron Palm Bag, I plan to be using this for a long time to come.
If you want to work on building your grip without having to purchase any gadgets, here are a few that you might try:
1. Dynamic Tension Exercises. Stand at attention with your knees relaxed and your hands at your side. Using isometric tension (fighting yourself, as if you were trying to make your movements with your hands stuck in taffy) slowly squeeze your fingers into a tight fist.
2. Squeeze a tennis ball. Some people will keep one in their car, and use it while they drive to and from work. I use the dynamic tension exercise when I'm driving long distances and it helps keep me awake, but many people like the tennis ball idea. Also fun - the snowball. This is a black colored, rubber covered gripper which feels like you're compressing an icy snowball. It's very cool, but costs a few more dollars than a tennis ball.
3. For the least expensive option, and one that can help rid your desk of all sorts of unnecessary forms, paperwork, miscellaneous scrap paper: take a sheet of paper, hold it by the corner, and then crumple it up in your hand until the whole sheet is crumpled. Believe it or not, this really does work.
With all these different options, and a little creativity, ANYONE can build their grip strength. Remember to check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program. If anyone would like further information on these exercises or the equipment, please call or email the author: 1-888- M-WARRIOR or info@ModernWarrior.com.
(For easy to follow info on training with pull-ups and chin-ups, see www.ModernWarrior.com and click on the Pull-up Article, written by Trainer Jen Haas.)