by Sean St. Onge
No, I am not referencing the 1993 Aerosmith album “Get a Grip.” While some would argue the band’s last good album, I am not one of those people. Yet, it did bring us some wild music videos featuring a very young Liv Tyler and Alicia Silverstone.
Grip can been an issue for many lifters from the uber experienced powerlifter, to the everyday American just like Dusty!
Specifically when it comes to deadlifting, I know many of the “average joes,” aka typical gym enthusiasts, have a hard time handling the bar. The grip on the bar, for the less experienced lifter, can be a limiting factor for adding more weight and progressing to their strength potentials.
What is the fix?
“Suck it up!”
“Use a ton of chalk.”
“Wear some gloves, that will help!”
Other than the regular rigors of having a tough time dealing with grip strength concerns, there could be a couple of reasons WHY your grip strength has not just returned magically.
1: “Soft tissue may be is the issue.”
There are so many muscles that intersect the two major joint areas when it comes to grabbing something with your hands and holding on for dear life. Between the wrist and elbow there is a literal “Zone of Convergence” where muscles, soft tissue, fascia, tendons, Lex Lugar Steel plate, and foreign objects all live and work in a small space.
Think of just the musculature like your triceps (Latin for “Three”, I made that up, but it can’t be too far off) braccioradialis, biceps, brachialis, all converge to meet by the elbow and pronator teres, common flexor tendon, among many others all live in that space between your wrists and elbows.
It is basically NYC in there, but with Boston Streets.
That busy area needs some attention. Think of everything you do with your hands these days. From driving to texting, to texting while driving, typing, and pressing buttons galore like the Jetsons. In this new fandangalledsupercrazysillyfresh electronic world, our hands, wrists, and forearms need some massage.
You can most definitely roll out your forearms using a tool like a P-Knot, running your forearms on both sides. Palms? Yup! Take a lacrosse ball and push down digging into that palmar fascitis. Triceps? Most definitely!
Stress can be extremely debilitating not just emotionally and mentally, but especially, physically. That need to decompress and be removed from any and all situations associated with stressors plays an large role in strength and physical activities.
Many studies have been done that indicate mental stress can affect concentration and performance in and out of the gym. Even if you should be able to get into your routine and manage to make it through your warm up and into some working sets of lifts, the completion of exercise drills can be impeded because of a lack of total concentration. I can account for many missed lifts, be it deadlifts, squats, and high load presses being due to a loss of concentration. Let's face it, with 200 plus on your back for a squat, you want to be thinking of the cues that help you stand up at the bottom of that squat or you will be one with the floor.
Our brain takes in our physical and mental fatigue exactly the same way. So, our brain tells the body the same message. Time to unplug or change the mindset.
So the whole, “get your mind right” mentality is justified. IF one can control the stressors and channel a better mindset, it can be beneficial. Yet, seemingly a “bandaid” approach as the stressors are external post training session and are literally waiting for you at the door.
Stress correlation to grip strength is definitely a major issue, so you are probably asking yourselves, “how can I combat it and FIGHT stress when something as simple as a training session and exercise are supposed to allow me to GET RID of that part of my life?”
As coaches we know that not everybody moves the same way, not everybody deals with exactly the same issues and lives day in and day out. But, it is on us as your coaches to make the most and best of all situations and get you to your goal. So, we change the exercise.
Changing the drill, or literally taking the grip out of your hands, can be a huge game changer so the exerciser can still effectively train and still work towards destressing their lives. For example, when holding a bar for deadlifts, if the limiting factor is your grip we can address that with assisting gripping the bar via applying a tacky surface like a thin mini super band. Or changing the drill or lift altogether- a straight barbell conventional deadlift can, for a period of time, be swapped for a rack pull or trap bar deadlift. If those do not apply then, in order to maintain the importance of the movement, we would try barbell glute bridges to keep the hinging movement intact.
So all is not lost. Try to dial in to what does and doesn’t work for you. It is always a trial and error process and it is always optimal for it to be progressive despite setback. Do something always.
SOAP BOX OUT…