Improve Your Grip, Improve Your Confidence

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Whether you climb rock, ride motorcycle, practice martial arts or do lots of glad handing having a better grip will increase your ability to perform and improve your confidence. Most will agree that a quality grip is a benefit in life, yet very few take the time to train effectively to improve their grip. In fact, aside from breath control/work (Your Breath is Your Power), grip training is possibly the most neglected area of training. If you hold on to handle bars, twist a throttle, wrestle, etc., a healthy and strong grip is vital. So some of you may be asking what exactly is grip training?

Grip training is movements and exercises that strengthen your hand, wrist, forearm and fingers. Contrary to common belief, your grip strength and development is not limited to just your hand. Actually, much of your grip strength comes from the muscles in your forearm. This combination of muscles gives your hands their strength, while retaining the range of motion of all your fingers. When most people think of grip strengthening exercises what comes to mind is that spring loaded device that we used as kids. But that really only trains one part of the over all grip.

So let’s talk a bit about grip. Your hand is an amazing and complicated mechanism capable of four basic types of grip.

  1. Crush or Power grip— Crushing grip that provides the strength required to close your hand against a resistance.
  2. Pinch grip—Pinching grip  is the strength generated between your thumb and your fingers.
  3. Support or Gripping— Gripping strength is required to hold something in a static position for an extended period of time.
  4. Mantis, monkey or hook grip— The grip used when your fingers and thumb are on the same side of an object forming a hook.

You’re only as strong as your weakest link, and your grip may just be that weak link. In order for your grip to improve your hands have to be used. And it’s best to stay away from straps, resins and assisting devices since these types of aides can lead to your muscle groups becoming out of balance, which in turn can cause ineffective training and result in injuries.

Your grip can be easily trained using everyday movements and simple equipment. I will touch on each of the four grips and give some simple exercises that can help you improve your grip.

Crush or Power grip—The crush grip is the grip between your fingers and your palm—the one you use for shaking hands or seizing an arm or limb. Crush grip can be trained by opening and closing your hand against resistance. The resistance can be created by a tennis ball, squash ball, towel, etc..

  • Exercise 1 Ball squeeze—Squeeze a stress ball or tennis ball, opening and closing hand pause at the point when you have squeezed as far as you can and repeat.
  • Exercise 2 Paper crumble—crumple newspaper page by page with one hand (not the online version).
  • Exercise 3 Towel Squeeze— (My favorite) Find a small to medium sized towel or rag.  Soak the towel in the water. Hold the towel vertically “wring” the towel out by twisting your wrists and squeezing. Squeeze as much water out as possible. Start at the top and work your way down. The thicker the towel the more resistance. Hint–it’s best to do this over a bucket, sink or outside.
  • Exercise 4 Thick Bar Training–This is done by increasing the thickness of the bar you are using for your regular workouts. Just wrap the bar you are using for bench press, back pulls, dumbbells, etc., with a towel. The increased bulk of the surface or circumference increases demand on your hands and forearm 

Pinch Grip —The Pinch Grip is the grip between your fingers and your thumb.

  • Exercise 1  Plate Pinch—Pick up a couple 10-pound plates, smooth sides out, with your thumb on one side and your fingers on the other. Pass the plates around your body from left to right then reverse direction. Repeat this until you feel your grip start to fail.
  • Exercise 2 Pinch-grip chin-ups using bouldering handholds. Perform regular chin-ups holding on to bar or wall with just pure fingers.

The Support Grip — is the ability to maintain a hold on something—like holding a hammer, baseball bat or carrying a suitcase handle.

  • Exercise 1 Flexed Arm Hang–Grab pull up bar with both hands-use underhand grip and pull up until your chin is over the bar. Hold this position until you can’t hold any longer. Increase difficulty by adding weight (by using weight belt, holding a dumbbell between your feet or wearing a weight-vest).
  • Exercise 2 Farmer’s Walk—Hold a heavy dumbbell in each hand and pace back and forth until your grip fails. This exercise can also be used for pinch grip if you use weight plates instead of dumbbells.

Mantis, monkey or hook grip— Mantis grip can be defined as the grip used when your fingers and thumb are on the same side of an object forming a hook. Work the mantis grip on an object that is to large to fit your hands around.

  • Exercise 1 PVC hold— Using a piece of PVC pipe hold pipe horizontally between your hand (formed as a hook, fingers and thumb on same side) and your wrist. As you hold the pipe in this position really flex your wrists down and hold pipe parallel to floor. Increase difficulty by adding sand to the pipe.
  • Exercise 2 Mantis pull-ups— Grip pull-up bar without wrapping the thumb.  Do pull-ups as normal using this grip. This also works on wooden rafters.

I find it useful to set a challenge for myself that includes grip training and to incorporate grip training into my daily workouts. As you start your grip training and pump it up with more resistance and holding positions longer you will feel the after affects. By all means, you need to build your grip training and evolve it as your hands, wrists and forearms get stronger. Make sure you are not doing too much too soon–build it.  What helps and should be part of grip training is stretching and massage of your forearms, wrists and hands with an all natural, topical rub (Warrior Rx and Massage – Perfect Together) .

I hope you found these suggested exercises helpful and if you have others please share them!

The Mind – Body Connection

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So what exactly is the mind – body connection? The mind and body are really inseparable but most people I find are not as in tune with their bodies when they train or work out as they should or could be. This is a topic that I feel is very important when it comes to working out and getting optimal results from your fitness program.

Use Your Art or Hobby to Connect the Two 

As a martial artist, the mind – body connection becomes very evident during training and especially during sparring. If you are not in the moment so to speak and are not aware of your body position, your breathing, your environment, your opponent’s position and movement and are caught up in some random thought process, it’s going to cost you… in many cases with a kick or punch (or several) to your body & that is going to hurt.

That’s what I always loved about martial arts, because they almost force you to link your body and mind into one harmonious unit or otherwise your martial art will never evolve to higher levels. The human mind is super powerful, in my opinion quite frankly probably one of the most powerful forces we have at our disposal as human beings.

It has allowed us as a species to attain magnificent achievements in technology, architecture, medicine etc. It also allows us to do incredible things with our bodies. If you ever heard the term mind over matter, this is only possible if you have a strong awareness of your own mind – body connection…. the body follows the mind.

But going back to the basics of how the everyday person can use their mind to not only enhance their workouts but achieve levels of fitness and attain their personal goals much quicker than most think possible. I’ll give a quick example of how one can do this right away.

Be ‘in’ Your Body

When I go to the gym, I see many people on treadmills watching TV as they run. This is not very productive because what you are essentially doing is putting your mental focus on external stimuli and your results will suffer for it. You should be focused on your body and your breathing and the signals/feeling your brain is sending to your body. Also what you can be doing is visualizing how you are improving your body’s shape and tone as opposed to being caught up in some pointless television show. Of course if you are watching an exercise video or training course that is a different story.

I’ll get into visualization more in another post, but suffice to say you should be ‘in’ your body when working out, whether it’s running, lifting, doing squats etc. Your internal focus on the type of results you are achieving while doing the actual exercise itself can speed up the actual time frame you get those results dramatically.

Be aware of your thoughts; are you thinking to yourself how difficult the exercise is or when it’s going to be finally over? Or are you thinking how much stronger or leaner your are getting, or visualizing your ideal body shape you desire?  Also if you are really pushing yourself and are in pain, focusing on your breathing is so important to not only pushing through but also calming your mind and oxygenating your muscles properly.

Staying Aware Keeps You Safer

Also if you are running outdoors in public, I always tell people to not wear headphones as this decreases your awareness of what’s around you which you really should be aware of. I am a big advocate of music and how it can enhance your workouts and practically give you energy but it should be done in the right place like the safety of your home or studio.

I will get into the mind – body connection in deeper levels in the future, for example moving energy internally and chi kung. This requires that you are intimately aware of your thoughts and breathing while training.




One of the Best Workouts Ever… Mud Runs!

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Just thought I’d make a post about something I just started getting into and now love… Mud Runs! Mud Runs are becoming more and more popular these days as there are many more being created and available every year.

The Tough Mudder was one of the first original mud runs I heard of but there are many more like the Spartan Race, Warrior Dash and the mud run I just did last weekend, the Rock Solid Mud Run (

A lot of people do mud runs now in teams so they can help push each other and help each other to get through and finish which is a good idea because some of these races/runs are grueling, long and very challenging. My friend has done the Tough Mudder for a few years now and originally it was 7 miles I believe and then they extended it to 12 miles which is almost half a marathon!

Use the Preparation to Enhance Your Workouts

Yes mud runs aren’t quite work outs per se as you can’t always just do a mud run when you feel like it… but one of the great things about them is they almost force people to train harder and push their fitness levels up to new heights to prepare for them, just like one would train for an iron man, triathlon or marathon.

Most people that engage in mud runs are usually in pretty good shape already, they are challenging so if you have a hard time running and pulling your own weight so to speak through obstacles you are going to have a hard time.

The nice thing about having more variety in terms of different kinds of mud runs being available now is you can find one that may suit you more than another. Some are more individually orientated like races than others which stress teamwork and camaraderie. Either way, they are challenging and fun at the same time and can really push you to your physical limits.

Be a Kid Again

I think that one of the main reasons that mud runs are catching on so much now and growing in popularity is two-fold: one it gives people that participate a sense of accomplishment when they finish such a challenging course and two, it brings grown men and women back a sense of child like wonder and freedom…. I mean it’s basically an obstacle course for grown ups.

It’s okay to get all dirty and muddy (it’s encouraged practically) just like when you were a kid. And just like the jungle gyms you climbed to see if you could do it and for the fun of it when you were 8 years old, the same holds true at age 25 or 55.

Run With a Goal in Mind

One last thing for me personally is that I am not a big fan of running just to run per se. I honestly find it quite boring… but I love running with a goal in mind, like playing soccer & edging someone else off the ball to move my team closer to scoring the next goal to running after a tennis ball with my racket to get it over the net.

In the case of a mud run, seeing how fast I can get through a challenging obstacle course full of mud before the guy next to me does. They are fun, challenging and will push you to your limits to see what you are made of.

I felt my cardiovascular endurance go up a notch from doing the Rock Solid Mud Run last weekend. When I played a soccer game a few days later, I felt faster and had more endurance than I did before the mud run.

I highly recommend mud runs, you will be a bit sore and banged up afterwards but it’s worth it. We were one of the sponsors at the Rock Solid Mud Run at Raceway Park in Englishtown, NJ and I also ran in it. We had a great time, met some cool people and I pushed myself and got myself in better shape at the same time.

Lastly, I also recommend you get yourself some Warrior Rx to massage on your sore muscles after the race! We gave out samples at our booth got some great feedback from a lot of fellow participants.


Your Breath is Your Power

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Whether you practice martial arts, run marathons, do rock climbing, play soccer, go mountain biking or any other strenuous physical activity, your endurance and power really come down to one common denominator: Your Breath.

How you breathe, its depth, smoothness and rapidity can make the world of difference when you are playing, training or exercising. This is an exhaustive topic, but I wanted to touch upon some basics here in this post when it comes to your breathing.

To start, if you observe children and especially babies and how they breathe you can see they breathe naturally and fully.  They take deep belly breaths. The abdomen and lower diaphragm expands on the inhale, filling up the lungs completely before the exhale.

As we grow older, we tend to breathe shallower and shallower unfortunately.  In many cases people breathe in without filling the bottom portion or lower lobes.  This can ultimately lead to many different problems, but a major benefit of deep belly breathing is that more oxygen is brought into the body which ultimately helps to cleanse out toxins (carbon dioxide) from the body any stagnant air in the lungs. It also helps to oxygenate the blood more which results also in a higher level of performance when one is active.

In other words, when you have no wind, you are dead tired and weak.  A good way to minimize this, or delay it when training or in activity is to train the breath accordingly.  Through regular training our cardiovascular system and conditioning gradually become stronger.

We can augment this dramatically through different breathing techniques and breathing exercises (also known as chi gong, chi kung, chi gung, qi gong etc). This type of internal training can be very powerful and has numerous health benefits, not to mention of course increasing one’s endurance and power.

Two Chi Breathing Techniques You Can Use Anytime, Anywhere

I’m going to mention two other breathing techniques (beside learning to start to breathing deep – long inhale and long exhale belly breathing that I mentioned above) in this post that you can start incorporating on a daily basis to help train and strengthen you lung capacity and ultimately your endurance and power.

The great part is you can do these anywhere, anytime (when you’re not talking to someone or in the middle of an important meeting that is :) like driving your car, taking a walk, sitting on a park bench, etc.

Technique #1

Okay so the first technique, also known as yang chi breathing goes like this: You take a short inhale (still deep breathing) and then a long exhale through your mouth. Your inhale should only last one to two seconds, and the exhale should last a least five to ten seconds. As you get better at doing the breathing exercises, your exhale breath will last longer (15 – 30 seconds and even longer, you will gradually get better control).

I’ve gotten my exhale to last well over a minute just as an example. To make sure you are doing it right you want to make a low audible noise (sub-vocal) sound while exhaling. You should make a ‘hahhhhh’ type sound. If you put your hand in front of your mouth, you should feel your exhale/air only but slightly, just a little bit.  If the exhale is too strong you are exhaling too quick and should slow down.

Technique #2

The second technique is yin chi breathing. This is basically the opposite of the above technique. Here you want to inhale making the same audible noise (‘hahhhh sound) through your mouth. Make sure you are actually taking in air flow and not just making the sound when inhaling and slowly filling up you lungs.

You want to make your inhale (still deep breathing) last as long as you can and then when your lungs are full you want to exhale quickly in a second or so expelling everything.  When you exhale, it will be almost like an explosion, a quick ‘hooo’ type sound. .

I learned the yin/yang breathing exercises originally from an excellent internal mastery program I bought called Chi Power Plus some years back. Both above exercises and deep belly breathing in general should be practiced everyday to gain proficiency and become more comfortable to you. You can practice them in sets, maybe 10 each for example everyday, periodically throughout the day.

The yin chi breathing is supposed to help you attract things and the yang chi breathing repel. Whether that’s the case or not I honestly don’t know. But I can attest personally that I have practiced these exercises and they have definitely made my lung capacity stronger and increased my endurance and power. I’ve notice the difference especially when it comes to running and doing my martial arts.

Advanced Method of Applying These Techniques

A bit of an advanced method of applying them is doing them right in between workout reps (pushups, squats, sprints, weight training etc.) They are obviously more difficult to do then, as you are already shorter on breath thus making them more advanced. What will happen then if you do them in between sets of a workout regimen is that you will intensify your breath training regimen much quicker and really push yourself to the limit.

I would hold off on doing it this way or adding this in until you gain some proficiency and have been doing them for some time already (think a few months at least).  I have some other great breathing and chi gong training exercises I will be sharing in future posts.

But for now try these out, be patient with them and give them some time. You can time yourself on inhale and exhale and you’ll gradually see your improvement as your long inhales (yin breathing) and long exhales (yang breathing) lengthen over time. Try them and see if how work for you!