Why GRIP STRENGTH is important for the TACTICAL athlete and how to improve it

Why GRIP STRENGTH is important for the TACTICAL athlete and how to improve it

Could GRIP STRENGTH be a limiting factor for our Australian Defence Force recruits & members? Grip strength is important for the tactical athlete as its needed across the board for multiple tasks. Here we expand on why you need it and ways to increase your strength to become a better teammate.

Why we need grip strength and when we might use it?

Here are some examples of when grip strength can benefit you:

  • Pull ups
  • Awkward object carry (e.g. human)
  • Deadlift (picking stuff up)
  • Marksmanship (handling weapons)
  • Rappelling and fast roping
  • Grip endurance (performing in selections)
  • Reducing risk of injuries
  • Medical emergencies (stretcher carry)
  • Hand to hand combat

5 strength tools to increase grip strength

  • Farmers carry – This popular strongman movement is perfect! To get started all you need is two objects of equal weight with a handle to grip. Making sure correct technique is used to pick the weight up of the ground, lock in the core and take small steps, aim for a set distance and over time your body will adapt to the load. This movement should be a common sight in proper strength and conditioning gyms or on any military base. Not only does this develop freakish grip strength but will turn your core into a riot shield and maximize performance whether it’s moving a object from point A to B, carrying a stretcher in a medical emergency or in a selection type scenario.
  • Captains of Crush – Made out of aircraft-grade material, designed by CoC in 1995 this small but highly effect piece of kit can produce vice like grip. This piece of equipment can add some more targeted grip strength training and can be packed in your deployment trunk or in your gym bag. A good rule of thumb is when you can do 10 to 12 full, consecutive reps on one gripper, then it’s time to go to the next tension level. We have seen using this type of training can carry over to increasing the tactical athletes weapons handling stamina when the operator is required to spend long periods of time engaging targets.
  • Plate Pinch – This exercise is targeted at pinch power of the hands vs overall grip strength. To start off all you need is two smaller metal plates, pinch them together and hold for time in the standing position with arms fully extended by your side. This can also be performed walking as the added movement can be more difficult than a stand still plate pinch. To gauge your progress either record hold times or slowly pinch together heavier plates. This can be a great accessory add on to your program with minimal equipment required.
  • Towel Pull Ups – This is a more advanced movement requiring the athlete to pull their own body weight using a towel wrapped over a pull – up bar from the dead hang position. Giving the softness of gripping surface and more general movement in the pulling and lowering phases, this requires a firm grip more so than a standard pull-up. Adding a different stimulus to your training program could see yourself improving with quality reps in preparation of recruit school, a selection or pre-deployment work ups.
  • Fat Gripz – This tool can be attached to your standard barbell, pull-up bar and even carrying handles. These grips are shown to improve mind muscle connection and therefore allowing better neural output. If lacking weight (which is a common problem whilst deployed) using them whist deadlifting can add an extra challenge to the movement. Constantly using fat gripz then moving over to a conventional bar seems like child’s play. Fat gripz train not only grip strength but tendons too. Injury and elbow tendonitis is common in the ADF, adding a grip strengthening tool where the tendons are directly trained can be a great pre-hab or even re-hab idea.

Given the nature of the tactical athletes job, it’s rare to come across a “normal” gripping surface. Get creative, adapt to your environment and what you have available to you! Get busy building coconut crushing hands!!

Within the Tactical Fitness League we train for variables just like this. We can make sure that physically there is nothing you can’t do or handle, mentally is then up to YOU!

Here’s an example workout from TFL – building grip strength and training skill under fatigue.

  • Farmers carry with > 1.5 BW total. Tie a knot (practice your knots!) to each handle.
  • 800 m, every stoppage you must perform 20 burpees. Then undo both knots and tie them to the opposite handle. Your time limit for this exercise is 10 min. DON’T STOP!

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