Man Up and Get a Grip: Crushing Grip

April 12, 2017
3 mins read

How many times have you shook another man’s hand, and made a judgment call on his character? In western countries, the firm handshake is preferred, and often those who rank higher on the socio-sexual hierarchy take this to another level. Those with weak handshakes enter into a meeting, or negotiations, at a disadvantage.
Crushing grip is the ability to apply force in the handshake motion. As I mentioned in my previous article, those who use their hands for a living in manual labor often have powerful crushing grips, but these men are becoming more and more rare. Innovations in tools and machinery have robbed most men of achieving this ability.
Of the specific types of grip strength I’ve written about thus far, crushing grip, in my opinion has the most carryover to the supporting, pinching and overall grip strength. At the height of my overall body strength (strongman/powerlifting training), I could squat over 700 for reps, bench press over 500 for reps and deadlift over 700 for reps. My supporting grip was outstanding and I could double pronated grip deadlift over 500 pounds for reps. And yet, I could not close the number 3 Captain of Crush gripper. What are the Captain of Crush grippers?
There is one product that is the ultimate test of a man’s crushing grip, the Captains of Crush. These grippers have a rich and storied history that I won’t delve into too much, other than to say they are the pinnacle of the grip sport world. The number 3 Captains of Crush gripper is the gold standard that roughly 150 men have closed under the strict IronMind regulations. The number 4 CoC has only been closed by four men.
IronMind makes 11 grippers that vary from 60 pounds to 365 pounds. A fellow strongman competitor that trained with the CoC loved to bring his grippers to contests and challenge the crowd or other participants. On one occasion, he offered the number 2 to a small, wiry fellow in the crowd. He slammed it shut. Only two other competitors out of the field of 10 could close the 195 pound rated gripper (incidentally IronMind refers to this level of grip strength as “life saving”). My friend was astonished, and asked the man, who was probably in his 50s, if he lifted weights. The man, very proud at his accomplished after being explained its significance, told the small crowd around him that he was a sheet metal worker. His hands were as thick as a large ribeye.
You’re thinking okay, get on with it, how do I get these ribeye hands? The good news: anyone can do this. The bad news is it’s really fucking hard to do.
If your goal is to close a CoC gripper, you’ll have to purchase a CoC gripper. They aren’t expensive, and I’ve had mine for 14 years without a single issue (I have no affiliation with IronMind; they’re just a great company with excellent products). If you’re new to grippers, the best idea is to call or email and talk to customer service, and they’ll be able to figure out what grippers to buy for your current strength level. The best strategy when starting out is to get something you can close easily, and take it with you everywhere you go. Squeeze that bitch all day long. Use the gripper with both hands and really give  it hell. After a few weeks of this, two things will have happened. Your crushing grip strength will have improved noticeably, and secondly, your hands and forearms will be sore. Go for frequent massages, and this will keep you healthy and keep the gains coming.
After this initial phase, you’ll have to design a training program, and begin to warm up before your training session.
I start my grip warm ups by submerging my hands in very hot water for 3-5 minutes. The next step is rotating the wrists 10-15 times both ways. I follow this by goose necking (flexing the forearms) as hard as possible 2-3 times holding it for 5-10 seconds. The last step is bending the fingers backwards towards the forearm trying to stretch the natatory ligaments. Hold this for 5-10 seconds 3 times.
Although there isn’t a consensus on how to train crushing grip, most certified Captains of Crush are advocates of a low rep, low set approach. An example of this would look like the following:
Warm up
– Several sets of 2-3 reps with a gripper that you can close without too much effort.
– Three working sets of 2-3 reps with a gripper that you can barely close.
– Cool down with a squash ball or stress relief ball.
This sounds simplistic, but the best in the grip game advocate this type of training program. Of course, your hand will get sore, but your body should adapt.
Next week I’ll talk about some variations that can be utilized with the CoC that will increase your crushing grip strength, and also assist in building your supporting grip strength.


  1. The best hand training I’ve ever tried is Pavel Tsatsouline’s Kettlebell Simple & Sinister program, from his book of the same name. 10×10 one-hand swings and 5×1 turkish get-ups. The swings are tough due to holding onto a heavy bell as you move ballistically. With the get-up, the challenge is holding the bell statically as your body moves through a large range of motion.
    Both the swing and get-up are stellar grip builders as they activate the hips, glutes, midsection, and lats like few other movements while holding onto a bell with one hand. Working that much muscle mass with a weight in one hand does a number on the grip. Neither move is easy to master, but offers rewards for the patient.
    Good luck with your training!

    • Thanks. I’ll be talking about supporting grip in future columns, and the usefulness of kettlebell training.

  2. I second the CoC. After using a buddy’s CoCs for years, I changed jobs and haven’t bought my own. I was getting ok at the 2, but I had better start out at one of the lighter ones. Much lighter ones.

    • Boethius,
      Maybe you can answer this, as I’m no pistol expert, but there’s a few people online that talk about the advantage of gripping hand strength via CoC in regards to shooting accuracy and endurance. Would you say this is accurate? Of course, this is relative as you wouldn’t need to be able to close the #3 in order to shoot well.

      • Endurance for sure. Depends on the caliber of course, a 9mm isn’t going to have the same kick as something in a .45 or larger, but it does hammer away at you hand and wrist.
        And the pistol sizes vary. The smaller frames are easier to grasp but have more movement in them because they are lighter while the full-sized frames have more to grasp but less overall movement.
        Getting a good, solid grip is more of a matter of hand position than it is of raw strength.
        That said, a stronger grip will always help, but it won’t make a mediocre shooter suddenly an expert. That only comes from consistent and mindful practice.

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