The internet age has brought forth a whole generation of “grip guys.” When I say “grip guys” I mean the folks out there who do grip training…and nothing else!

No curls, no squats, no nothing, just all grip all the time.

This situation, of course, is incredibly ironic because an intense focus on only grip training while excluding all other training, will severely limit the amount of progress that is made in the grip department.  People may not like the “other stuff” but if building the strongest possible set of hands and forearms is the goal, then it will be necessary to engage in a well-rounded program.

One of the areas of development that is always downplayed or ignored is conditioning work… if you are scratching your head as to what conditioning work could possibly have to do with grip strength, keep in mind that the body is a unit. Many different systems have to together to build muscle.  The cardiovascular system, heart, lungs  arteries etc, transports oxygen, nutrients, hormones and the like throughout the body.  Keeping these areas in tip top shape will help you get more oxygen to the muscles which, in the long run, means more reps on a per-workout basis.  Over the course of a sustained period of time, this may leads to a potential improvement of perhaps 10-20% over the course of a year.

Yeah, it starts to add up very quickly, especially when you are talking about a very small muscle group like the gripping muscles in question. Faster recovery is also an added bonus,  and I believe that regular, vigorous conditioning work helps in digestion, meaning a more efficient and effective delivery system for the nutrients from the food you eat, again, the end result being better results.

You certainly can be out of shape and still build a very strong grip, but you sure won’t be doing yourself any favors… and whatever the current level of performance happens to be, it would be much higher if the cardiovascular system were in check.

Aside from all the anatomy and physiology stuff I mentioned, I’ve certainly found that regular conditioning work acts as a form of “active rest” for the gripping muscles.  Given the relatively small “cost” in terms of time/effort and the rather large upside, a little extra conditioning work is a smart investment regardless of your training interests.In case you are interested, here’s what last night’s workout looked like:

This is an interval session with the Concept2 Rower – one of my favorite conditioning methods, especially in the winter months. On tap was 7 rounds of 1500 meters, with 1:00 rest between each. You can click on either one of these images to see a larger version.

Here’s what the splits looked like. I bonked a bit at the end, around the 6th interval, but overall I’m pleased with the results. For my people who speak “Concept 2,” if you wanted to try this one out yourself, you can easily program it into your performance monitor. I should also mention that my damper was on 5.5 (which is just how I like it.)

According to my heart rate software, in the 44 minutes and 50 seconds that this workout took, I burned 1043 calories A little math will tell you that this translates to just over 23 calories per minute. — that’s even more than cross-country skiing uphill or running at a six minute mile pace– Amazing!

That’s also without factoring in EPOC, hmm. Somehow I put up some pretty decent numbers on the Concept2 despite all the “non-functional” training that I do.

Either way, I woke up this morning feeling like a tank and ready to put a hurtin’ on tonight’s lifting workout (which will finish out with heavy negative singles with The Secret Weapon.) Many “Grip Guys” may not want to hear this, (which is fine), but a few hopefully will: if your grip training happens to be at a standstill, I believe a little more conditioning would be a smart move (and for a variety of reasons beyond just the grip work.)

Train hard,

John Wood