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Getting "Back on Your Horse" After a Layoff

Dear Friend,

Whew! Am I ever sore this morning. I had an outstanding workout last night and hit Pr's in every lift. Nobody really knows what soreness means. It is my opinion that soreness is just a sign of your body adapting to your workout and I always seem to get stronger after this happens.

I also had a good session practicing a little something for Night of Strength III. You'll just have to be there to see what that might be ... Anyhow, on this beautiful Friday morning in Ann Arbor, I'm going to tackle a great question that our buddy Rob Nouvell set us a little while ago.

John,
It's good to have found your site, and solid info. My question regards re-building grip power.

From 98-02' I worked as a timber-framer, that's large timbers; not 2x6's but 8x8's and up to 10x16 sometimes, and most cases 12-22ft in length. All week I lifted, rolled, and handled timbers, and large power tools. When you timber frame, the tools are big, the timbers are big, the cutoffs are big, and as a result my hand and forearm strength grew without even knowing.

Long story short, after leaving that work in favor of college, my grip strength dropped to shameful levels, even though I have not stopped my overall training. About 3 years ago, upon receiving my #2 COC gripper I could just touch the handles together with my stronger hand right "out of the box" and come about 3/16 of an inch with the weak hand. Today, I can only close the handles about half way!

The #2 may not be much in the land of grip masters, but it was a start. If you can take the time, what advice could you give me getting back on the grip horse? My goal is to close the COC#3 and lift the "Inch bell" (one like it) within 3 yrs. I will be focusing on my grippers, Iron Mind's trainer, #1 & #2 for the next few months while overseas. But other equipment will be sparse if not all together absent.

Thanks again for a good site.

Rob Nouvell


Hi Rob,
people that work with their hands frequently, such as you did with your timber-framing job, tend to have a good base for gaining hand strength. There is a natural adaptation to that kind of work and assuming that your recovery ability is able to handle those demands, a natural system of progression as well.

Getting started again after a layoff can be a tough thing. Your mind can often be your worst enemy.

Let me explain.

During every season while I was still playing football, my hands would get pretty mashed up. Understand, I was able to use my hands better than anyone else on the team and when you actually use your hands as "weapons" in the line, they can get pretty beat up. This is one reason why hand strength is critical for the game of football.

It was often very disheartening since just a few months before I was repping the #3 and at times, my hands were so beat up I could barely close the trainer.

So once the season ended, I was always starting back from zero and this is where your mind starts playing tricks on you. You will have to back track and start over again with lighter weights.

You start telling yourself things like "I'm so weak, how I will ever get back to where I was?"

As long as you also keep tell yourself that this is just a temporary situation and just a stepping stone to bigger and better things, you'll be fine. Don't even let negative mental mindsets get the better of you.

Another thing that will happen is that you will not be as "into" your workout since you are not using the "big" numbers that you once were able to do. When faced with this situation, I like to start out by just doing something, anything, to get back into it. This may mean that my workout will only consist of a couple sets or exercises.

What will happen though is that once you put a half a dozen or so solid workouts together, you will find that your hands (and everything else) will "bounce back" pretty quickly. When it comes to grippers, the important thing to remember is that with a little practice, gripper skill will come back too. It sounds like you aren't all that far back of where you once were and just jumping back into it with some consistency will help out a lot.

It's kind of like when you get back into a sport again after the off-season and you feel a little "rusty.'"

It's just a matter of getting back in the groove. My advice to you Rob would be to just get back into it and the strength will come. While you are overseas, you'll need to be able to workout a system of progression using just the grippers. Be sure to also not neglect recovery and active rest between workouts while you're there.

By working hard, having a sensible "battle plan" and focusing on getting a little stronger each and every time you train, you will hear those #2 handles clicking in no time. If all you have to work with is the #1, I would also recommend getting the Trainer and the lighter grippers as you need to have more "working" grippers.

Well Rob that should about cover it. Good luck overseas and keep us posted on how your workouts are coming along.

Train hard,

John Wood signature
John Wood

P.S. Developing an "Iron Crusher" grip should be tops on the list for every football player and combat athlete. If this is what you're after, click here



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