How to Get Involved In Grip Strength Competitions
by Robert “Eisenhans” Spindler
Once one has trained his or her grip strength for some time, they might decide they want to test their level of strength and compare it to others. One way to do so would be an attempt at certifying for a recognized grip strength feat. Another would be to take part in a grip strength ("GripSport" or “Armlifting”) competition. In this article I want to give some advice on the necessary steps to be taken and share some general thoughts on this field.
Why Grip Strength Contests?
A good place to start would be to ask yourself why you want to enter a grip strength contest in the first place. To achieve a title (“Austrian grip strength champion”)? To measure yourself against others? To be part of a community? If you are truly great, you might want to enter a grip strength contest to aim for a title, but I think it is better to be humble and see the benefit in a grip strength contest first and foremost in giving you a goal in your training. Grip strength training can be quite a solitary endeavor, often taking place in a dreary home gym – a dusty cellar, a dimly lit garage, or a cramped workshop. A grip strength contest gives you a concrete date and number of exercises to train for, which focuses your training. Add to this the pressure of measuring against friendly competitors and you have a great motivation to enter your workouts with new vigor. In the course of the contest you will get into contact with other grip strength enthusiasts and experts, and this experience will boost your training after the contest with the tons of advice, insights, and ideas you gain from this personal exchange.
Which Grip Strength Competition Should You Enter?
Which grip strength contest you should enter depends mostly on your location – although there are “remote” contests and challenges where you take part via video. You can definitely try this, once you have become somewhat familiar with the matter, but again, nothing tops the experience of a personal encounter with others. You also have the option to travel, of course, and if you are willing to do so for a grip strength contest, I can by all means recommend that you go to England to take part in one of the contests organized by David Horne some day. The amount of experience, hospitality, and charisma that comes together in David Horne's World of Grip is astonishing. This being said, some other grip strength hotspots have evolved over the years, based on a grip strength authority and/or excellent gyms, and you might want to become familiar with the one closest to you.
Some people who are worth contacting: In Britain, besides David Horne, you might want to get into touch with Rob Blair, in Austria with Sirko Petermann and Patricia Luxner, in Finland with Arto Joronen or Harri Tolonen, in Canada with Eric Roussin, and in the USA with Jedd Johnson or Andrew Pantke. These people, so I have heard, have incredible gyms with tons of grip strength equipment and lots of experience. There are others, of course, and I have by no means a complete overview of all grip strength authorities and gyms in the world. There seems to be a huge grip strength scene in Russia and its neighboring countries. These people seem to have the admirable quality of understatement and keep their astonishing achievements relatively on the down-low, instead of bragging about them on the Internet and elsewhere. Of course, grip strength events or record attempts can also be part of a larger strongman event.
If you have at least something to show, like some good records or achievements, I believe all of those names I have mentioned will welcome you at their contests with open arms.
When Should You Enter Grip Strength Contests?
When are you ready to enter a grip strength contest? Or, to put it differently, what sort of strength level should you have reached before you sign up for a contest? In principle, if there are no “limits” or anything of that kind, you can theoretically enter a grip strength competition as a total newbie and still profit from the experience and exchange with others. It is a personal consideration you will have to make that depends on your attitude. In any case, if you are still at a beginner's level, you should at least maintain a humble attitude. Remember that grip strength is a sport that is not as institutionalized as other sports yet, and still a relatively small, manageable scene. Word of the wrong attitude can spread relatively fast. Also, if you compete internationally, remember that you are also representing your country. Then it is all the more important that you at least show good conduct, and it is desirable that you also demonstrate an acceptable level of performance.
I, personally, would try to build at least a commendable level of strength before I showed up at a grip strength contest. A good example is that you can at least close an Ironmind #2 hand gripper.
How To Train For Grip Strength Events?
I just mentioned the IronMind #2 hand gripper because it is a very well-known grip strength training tool. This being said, however, it would not be an adequate preparation for a good grip strength contest to only train with such hand grippers. A good grip strength contest usually consists of a number of diverse events. Today, there are tons of different tools with illustrious names to test and train one's grip strength, and a good contest organizer will vary these to keep his contests exciting and challenging: the Vulcan, the Flask, the Rolling Thunder, the Crusher, the Inch, the Blob, the Moontop, the V-Bar, etc. Obviously, it cannot be expected of you that you have all of these at home. Thus, there are several possibilities: Either you 1) find a grip strength gym in your vicinity that has at least a large part of all of these different devices and train there with a variety of these regularly (or with the ones that will be tested at an upcoming contest), or you 2) purchase the individual pieces of equipment whenever a grip strength contest comes up and announces the devices that will be used, or 3) you make sure that your grip strength training covers a basic variety of different types of grip strength so that you are generally well prepared for any grip strength contest at any time.
If you decide to go for option 3), I would recommend that you at least do an exercise in each of the following categories:
- Crushing grip (like with a gripper)
- Pinch grip with a wide grip
- Pinch grip with a medium grip
- Pinch grip with a very narrow grip
- Thick bar lifts with a rolling handle
- Thick bar lifts with a fixed handle
Ideally, you train all of these for maximum strength and strength endurance. Of course, you will never be ideally prepared for the great variety of grip strength training devices there is, as they all work and feel differently. But you will have a good basis covered. Mind you that in some grip strength contests there are also nail bending and other wrist strength categories, which is obviously a very different story.
Conclusion: Are Grip Strength Competitions A Good Thing?
I am not the last authority when it comes to grip strength contests, but I believe they have their positive and negative sides, and much depends on one's individual perspective. Taking part in grip strength contests can cost you a lot of money, or you can, in theory, make money, if you organize them. A grip strength contest can be a good way to compare strength levels, to gain a title, or to simply establish who is the best, but they can also be misused to provide a wrong picture. If, for example, you enter a national grip strength contest with three weight classes, and there is one participant per weight class and they all become national champions, it obviously doesn't say much. It would mean more to the individuals if they achieved a certain bench mark, certification, or record. Through such an approach, one could become a world authority in grip strength without ever taking part in a contest. This being said, a good grip strength contest organized by an authority in the sport is probably the best setting or context for any such certification or record attempt. At the bottom line, and to repeat myself, I think the most positive aspect of regularly taking part in grip strength contests is that it can boost your individual performance with motivation, experience, and exchange.