Dave Goes Barbarian: Here, Hold This

*The Kilted Barbarian stumbles into the firelight. His helmet sits askew on his head. Ash smudges one cheek and reddens the eye above it. His tunic is rent through and blood – not his own – stains his clothing. His shoulders slump and he drops onto a log as though his legs suddenly lost all strength. *

Sorry. It’s … it’s been a week. The school year is ending all over the place (though some places don’t end for another week or two. Or three) and here at Caer Dave, things are no different. Domesticity is hell, you savage horde. I’ve baked, cooked, cleaned, and I’m still behind. I swear this isn’t going to be a long-term pattern. On the other hand, Mrs. Dave heads back out into the howling wastes in the near future, so who knows what’s going to go down.

I *have* managed to keep up with my push-ups, and considering the manner in which I’m doing them (rings, with some Perfect Push-up variants to practice internal forearm rotation in the up position in anticipation of continued gymnastic work) I’m getting a mess of abdominal work. I’ve been researching local rock climbing options as well. There’s a genuine gym “nearby,” but it’s about 45 minutes away, so that’s unlikely to be a regular thing. There is also a climbing experience that happens about twenty minutes up the road, with discrete classes, so I’m going to be looking into making time for those. And funds.

Dave, why are you looking to add *yet another* hobby to your ever-growing list? Actually, I’m not sure if you said that, or if that was deep inside my head. Either way, more and more I’m convinced that grip and forearm strength are the key to a lot of physical capability. Have you watched Arrow? Or more usefully, the folks who complete the American Ninja Warrior courses or the CrossFit Games workouts? To a person, they spend a LOT of time clinging to scant support using mostly their hands. When gymnasts perform their insane routines (the whirly-twirly, if I lose my grip, lotsa somethings are gettin’ broken kind) it all comes apart if their grips slip. Well, rock climbing seems to be the single best option for increasing the power of your handshake, and I want in on some of that action.

Incidentally, old-time strongmen thought the same thing. They were constantly working on their grip. For one, it helped them perform wild feats of strength like tearing decks of playing cards in half. Contemporary strongman competitors do much the same thing. Not tearing decks of cards in half, so much as train their grip to grant them a competitive edge. And it turns out that rock climbing is amazing for this. Shockingly. No, really: this is my shocked face.

Fortunately, there are a number of less … expensive ways of training your grip. MovNat style outdoor jaunts are a great way, using your hands and arms monkey-style to pull yourself through trees and up and over rocks. Alternatively, if your weather looks like the dismal, gray, and drizzly mess ours does today, you can do as Edward Aston used to, and lift a chair by the leg, or grip a door. (I’ll be instituting these into my training, I suspect.) Alternatively, just hanging from a pull-up bar (you*do* have a pull-up bar, don’t you?) for an extended period of time is going to fatigue your hands and forearms. The ring push-ups I’ve been doing also work the grip, as do mace, club, and kettlebell swings. And farmer walks with heavy weights. When you’re getting to rival Popeye for forearm girth, you can start doing your push-ups on your fingertips, like Bruce Lee.

Climb trees, and ropes. Wrap a towel around your pull-up bar to thicken your support, or grip the hanging ends of the towel and do pull-ups from there. Anything you normally do can be altered to work your grip by making whatever you’re holding thicker, or odd. There are grips for your barbell that force you to hold a spherical shape, for example. Fat grips, cannonball grips, conical grips, and rope grips. There are a truly dizzying array of options.

NB: while working your grip, don’t forget to work your extensors. While I normally decry isolation exercises, simple wrist curls and reverse wrist curls are useful, here. If you want to get more old school, get a bucket of sand, thrust your stiffened fingers into it, and then open them. Over and over, again. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some lazy forearm muscles to punish.

Author: Tom

Tom is a husband, father, novelist, opinion writer, and former Navy Corpsman currently living in Georgia. He's also someone who has lost almost 60 pounds in a safe, sustainable way, so he knows what he's talking about.

2 thoughts on “Dave Goes Barbarian: Here, Hold This”

  1. I agree completely. My grip is a profound weak point of mine, one I’m constantly working to overcome.

    An easy grip exercise is to take a couple of weight plates and hold them together, smooth sides out. Start with 2.5 lbs plate and work up from there.

    At least, that’s what I’m going to be doing. 🙂

    1. Then, go for a walk. Hold them to your chest, out at arm’s length, over your head, in one hand. Do a duck walk holding the plates over your head. Gonna make you STRONG, re-cru-it!

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