Do you really need “Gorilla Grip”?
One of the more important physical aspects to Obstacle Course Racing, or OCR training in general, relies heavily on grip strength. Developing, maintaining and working superior grip strength is a great way to help you perform your best in any OCR setting or event, as well as give yourself an edge over competition. Plus, having Gorilla Grip is also super cool at any recreational event – opening jars and bottles at barbecues becomes show off time!
Here are what we found are a few great training tools to help you develop your own Gorilla Grip. Of course, there are others (we’ll have much to say on this topic!) and this isn’t an exhaustive list – and it’s always important to realize that you may find some easy and others challenging depending on where you fall in the grip strength spectrum. Also, make sure you are healthy before trying or doing any exercise, and always warm up/cool down properly…just to keep yourself away from injuries.*
Ex 1: Pullups w/Catch & Release
A really cool alternative to pull-ups to build explosive power and grip strength, use a standard pull-up movement and include a quick release of the bar/hold at the apex of the movement. The release and the corresponding catch will help build overall grip strength, but also help boost the fast clench grip strength often used with rig and grab events.
Ex 2: Pullups to Single Arm Dead Hang
Dead hang exercise is a perfect way to build grip endurance. Adding a pull-up with a short dead hang and working single arm dead hangs bump the difficulty, but also add a little stabilization requirement. This is a creative way to bump up the grip training intensity. If you can do 5 pull-ups, try adding a 10-second dead hang between each.
Ex 3: Horizontal Bar Traverse
Horizontal traverse exercise is a perfect way to build overall grip endurance but also maximize grip strength during movement. If you can find a bar or wall edge that you can work a pull-up, working a horizontal movement is extra challenging as you incorporate multiple back and forth passes. Try getting fluid and quick with your traverses to build strength but also accuracy with your movement.
Ex 4: Forward & Back Bar Traverse
Forward and back traverses exercises are a challenging alternative to horizontal traverses. Using a short or long bar, you can alternate between forward and back movement. What’s even better is that this exercise mimics some of the rope or horizontal traverses you often see with rigs and rope obstacles at many events. Becoming proficient in this movement not only works your grip, but also benefits your performance at these specific obstacles.
Some tips before and/or after your exercise:
Tip 1: Try doing just 1-2 of these exercises per day after either your typical OCR training or on a rest day. Don’t do all in one day or you will burn your forearms out for the next day’s training.
Tip 2: Make sure you warm up your fingers, wrists, forearms, shoulders, and back before doing these. You will find you be able to maximize your grip training on a warm set of muscles and reduce injury!
Tip 3: Make sure you STRETCH out your forearms before and definitely after any grip training. Missing this aspect will usually take it’s toll over time…limiting your progress, and also set you up for injury or chronic fatigue.
Tip 4: For Dead Hang movements, try keeping your shoulder tight and contracted as much or as long as possible. In other words, try not to just let your body hang on your arms, pulling your shoulders of your socket. This will likely allow your hang to endure longer, but also reduce fatigue and injury in the shoulder joint.