The Functional Hand Strength Gripper Buying Guide

A plastic gripper next to the
Ironmind Guide Hand Gripper

Our mailbox is constantly flooded with letters from folks looking to start some serious hand strength training with Ironmind hand grippers but who don’t know which ones to get first. In order for you to choose the right grippers to get started with, we put together this page with some tips and other important gripper-related things to keep in mind.

We will begin by looking at the hand gripper level that most trainees are most familiar with: the “sporting goods store hand gripper.” As pictured on the right, these kinds of hand grippers usually have plastic or wooden handles and are ridiculously easy to close. While they do have their place, (warming up, for example) they are just about useless when it comes to building a powerful grip. The average poundage on these is around 30-45 lbs- not enough to get a real workout in with.

A trainee with only average hand strength can usually close one of the sporting goods models at least a few hundred times or hold it closed for several minutes. If you want to get the job done right, you will need a gripper that is a little more challenging to close.When it comes to developing “beyond natural” levels of hand strength, the Ironmind Captains of Crush hand grippers are your best training option.

The Ironmind Captains of Crush Grippers currently come in ELEVEN different strength levels, ranging from “easy” to “near impossible” (at least for most people). In the chart below, you can see how these grippers stack up and the best place for you to begin:

Our suggestions:

In the next section, we are going to make some gripper choice suggestions for various types of people. Before we begin, please keep a few things in mind:

1. We have found that to train with the hand grippers effectively, it is best to have at least three hand grippers at your command; one that you can close easily for a number of reps; one that you can close for a moderate amount of reps and one that you can just barely close or can’t quite close yet. Having a selection of grippers to work with will provide great variety in your program.

(We have heard reports of someone who bought several hand grippers (not from us, thank goodness) who opened them up one by one. He tried them in order and immediately asked for a refund for the ones he could already close which is the kind of attitude that will never allow someone to get strong hands.)Lighter grippers certainly have their place…

2. In case you’re wondering, strength developed in most other types of training does not “carry over” to gripper training and vise versa. For example, just because you can deadlift a lot of weight doesn’t mean that you will automatically be able to shut the #2 or #3. It is going to take specific training with grippers to get good at them. The whole point of having hand grippers is to use them as a training tool…a tool that will allow you to gradually build up your hand strength levels. Develop the strength so you can apply it effectively in a particular sport or activity. Skill work, however, can only come with practice of that activity.

3. If you have been active with your hands or have been training for several years, chances are you will have the strength to close the #1 gripper at least once. For training purposes we recommend starting with a gripper one level below the one you can close at least one time. Again, the key concept to remember here is “training”…It is very difficult to train progressively with a hand gripper that you can only close once, this is why it is a good idea to have more than one level of gripper to train with. (Just about every serious grip trainer ends up getting a full “set” eventually.) It is important to have as many training options as possible.

If you are new to gripper training:

We recommend getting the Guide, Sport and Trainer. The lighter grippers are simply a better choice when starting out, especially for those with little or no experience. With these hand grippers, you will be able to develop your technique as well as use them for high-rep skin “toughening” training which is especially important for rock climbers where tough skin is very valuable.

Toughening your skin is also necessary if you ever hope to become a master at tearing phone books or tearing playing card decks or driving nails with your hands or closing heavy grippers. Those who are adept at these advanced strength stunts will tell you how important it is to have tough skin.

If you have prior hand training experience but not with hand grippers or by training with sporting good grippers:

We recommend starting with the Trainer, #1 and #1.5. (Keep in mind that almost everyone gets a whole set at some point so it is probably a good idea to get them all at once.) As we mentioned previously, the lighter grippers can be incredibly valuable. Don’t underestimate their importance.

More Lessons From The Oldtime Strongmen

More lessons from the Oldtime Strongmen

I am continually amazed by just how much great training information the oldtime strongmen and physical culturalists knew. I also laugh at those folks who say that they won’t train a certain way because it’s “too old fashioned.”

Even today with all the glitz and glamour of “modern” strength training methods, it is the basics that you can count on to be effective. What worked back in the day will work just as effectively now. Of course, somewhere along the way, lots of people got the idea that “success” comes before “work” (only in the dictionary, Jack.)

At any rate, I just ran across this pretty amazing bit of forgotten lore… Just take a look at what this individual had to say and the experiences and knowledge that he gained through his training. Compare and contrast what you see here with what you will find in the information in the “muscle comics” out there. Examine what is written here and then think about what this gent is really ‘saying.’

“During these nine years, while endeavoring to promote my physical welfare, I have made the following discoveries:

1st – That whatever increases my strength improves my health.

2nd – That one means of improving my health was to increase my strength.

3rd – The stronger I became, the healthier I became.

4th – That it was easy for me to increase the strength of my body as it was that of a magnet.

5th – That, by developing the body harmoniously, I could preclude the possibility of hernia , or any other serious injury, that otherwise might arise from an extremely violent action of my muscles.

6th – That lifting, if properly practiced, was the surest and quickest method of producing harmonious development; while it was also the most strengthening of all exercises, and consequently the most healthful.

7th – That it was better, while exercising, to perform twenty different feats once than one feat twenty times.

8th – That it was possible for me to take, in fifteen or twenty minutes, all the gymnastic exercises that I should need in twenty-four hours.

9th – That I could gain faster in strength by forty minutes exercises, once in two days, than by twenty minutes of the same day.

10th – That too much exercise is the same as not enough.

11th – That, as my strength increased, any exercise should be more intense, but less protracted.

12th – That increase of the muscular power was attended with increase of the digestive.

13th – That one means of increasing the digestive power was to increase the muscular.

14th – That many articles of food had formerly proved injurious to me, not because they were really unwholesome, but because I was unable to digest them.

15th – That a person may become possessed of great physical strength without having inherited it.

16th – That, by increasing strength, a predisposition to certain diseases may be removed, and diseases already present removed or mitigated.

17th – That increase of strength cannot long continue on a diet exclusively vegetable.

18th – That increasing the strength made excretion take place less from the skin, but more from the lungs and other emunctories.19th – That what benefits a part of the body, benefits more or less, the whole.

20th – That, long before I succeeded in lifting 1100 lbs. With the hands, or in shouldering a barrel of flour from the floor, I had ceased to be troubled with sick, headache, nervousness and indigestion.

21st – That a delicate boy of seventeen need not despair of becoming, in time, a remarkably strong and healthy man.”

These words were written in 1860 by George Barker Windship, the famous Physical Culturist of the North East. It just goes to show that good advice never gets old.

I find it amazing how insightful those words are. If you never read another piece of training literature besides what is listed there. you would know just about all you would ever need to know. Hard work, perseverance, healthy habits, eating good foods. A balanced approach, the big picture… These are lessons that few people learn. Try to get any amount of training information out of the “muscle comics” and you’ll realize what I’m talking about very quickly.