How to Improve Grip Strength for BJJ - Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

How to Improve Grip Strength for BJJ - Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) involves many variations of submission holds, ground fighting, and grappling. Grappling means gripping or grabbing your opponent. Naturally, the stronger your grip, the more control you have over the fight. Without firm grip strength, you put yourself at a large disadvantage making it that much easier for your opponent to get the upper hand.

In BJJ, having a strong hold on your opponent allows you to control your opponent as well as maneuver from position to position confidently.

Types of Grip in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

So grip strength plays a huge role in BJJ, but what is BJJ grip strength? As a complex martial art, developing one’s grip strength isn’t as easy as doing a few dead hangs on the pull up bar.

There are many variations of grip used in any given match to control one’s opponent. The type of grip you’re able to execute largely depends on the experience level and strength of grip that you currently have.

Below are the types of grip used in BJJ:

Collar and Sleeve - Fairly self-explanatory, this grip requires one hand on the lapel of the collar and one hand on the sleeve.
Hook Grip - This grip is usually utilized when playing in guard. While your 4 fingers act as a hook on the cuff, the thumb curls under the cuff.
Pistol Grip - Much as if you were gripping a pistol handle, this grip is usually utilized to wrap around the outside of the sleeve.
Two-Handed Grip - Used as a defense to control a limb with both hands.

Why Train Grip Strength in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

By participating in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, you will naturally begin to develop some grip strength. Using hand muscles to take down opponents will work them in new ways and develop some strength. But what if you also trained your grip during your off time? Your hands would be more firm, and more secure when it’s time for a match.

If you’re a beginner in BJJ, you’ll likely see tremendous improvements in a short amount of time. But if you’ve been actively partaking in BJJ for a longer amount of time, you may hit a plateau in the strength that you’re able to develop.

This is where external exercises and jiu jitsu grip strength equipment comes into play!

Exercises to Improve Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Grip Strength

In terms of the training regimen for grip strength, it typically includes a set/rep scheme of 3-5 sets of 12-15 reps OR a timed hold of 20-30 seconds, resting 90-120 seconds between each set…

Here are some exercises that you can do to improve grip strength for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu:

Dead Hangs

All you need here is a pull-up bar or some playground equipment. If you want to make it more difficult, you can purchase fat grips that enlarge the circumference of the surface you are gripping. 

By simply hanging from a bar for 20-30 seconds (or whatever is challenging to you) for 3-5 sets, you’ll notice that your grip will begin to be challenged and your forearms will strengthen.

In an 8 week study, it was shown that intermittent dead hangs were effective for improving grip strength and grip strength endurance by 45%.

Hang Board Pull Ups

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu grip strength, and grip strength in general, has a lot to do with your finger flexors (two long muscles in each finger that allow joint movement).

A hang board (also called a training board) is a piece of equipment often utilized by rock climbers. It’s a simple board, mounted to a wall that has tiny holes and ledges for your fingers to hold onto. By utilizing a hang board, you are able to target your finger flexors and forearm musculature.

Performing 3-5 sets of a challenging rep scheme, OR even simply hanging for 30 seconds or so, hang boards can be an extremely effective tool to improve grip strength and finger strength overall! For more on hang board design, finger strength, and climbing training, click check out the sources below.

Gi Pull Ups

Gi is the traditional piece of clothing that one wears in BJJ. It’s usually a thicker piece of material and it’s the material that you will be gripping during a BJJ match.

So, what better way to practice your BJJ grip than to utilize the piece of material that you’ll be gripping in a sparring match? Simply wrap the Gi around a pull up bar, and begin to engage in a set of pull ups or a dead hang…

This can also be accomplished with a towel.

Kettlebell Viking Holds

This exercise is fantastic for exercising the flexor muscles of the forearm and the extensors of the wrist. It can be done with or without a fat grip attachment, however, it must be performed with a kettlebell. A dumbbell would not suffice.

Begin with a light weight for safety, and eventually work your way up to a more challenging weight. Grip the kettlebell with the “bell” part of the weight facing to the sky. You’ll quickly realize that it isn’t only about grip but about balance. It will challenge your wrists to stay stiff, while working your forearms to keep the weight up!

Hand Grippers - BJJ Grip Trainer

Hand Grippers are always a helpful, convenient piece of equipment. They are inexpensive and can be carried around anywhere. Some athletes use them in the car or at their desk. Squeeze the gripper using all fingers until fatigued, and repeat.


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