Over the years I’ve pushed myself over and over. I tested my limits and kept grinding forward. Frankly, it’s awful – A form of self abuse that walks the fine line between insanity and genius.
This testing has highlighted two problem areas over and over. I see it in myself and 99% of the people I work with – The mental strength and grip strength.
During this self abuse. This testing of the limits, there is a frustration that inevitably builds.
It starts slowly, building like water coming to the boil. But it’s there. And it’s building and building.
This frustration is the mind. It’s not the body, but purely in the mind.
The frustration and negative thoughts lead to nothing good. It’s a weakness that needs addressing. The mind is more often than not the weakest link in the chain, the chink in the armour, the element holding you back.
I talk about the mind a lot.
It’s hard not to when I see weakness in the mind of too many athletes I train and I wholeheartedly know that strengthening it is the key to unlocking unfathomed strength. It actually doesn’t end there though. In too many people, self-doubt and a negative outlook expand beyond the confines of training and become a full-time occurrence.
Addressing this in training will positively affect your day-to-day life. Training is life. There is no disconnect. Having negative thoughts, plenty of self-doubt and possessing zero resilience is damaging. The mind is as trainable as any part of the body. If it is weak, attack it, train it and make it stronger. Mental strength is a very real thing.
The second issue is the grip.
I struggle to walk into a commercial gym nowadays without wanting to start a riot. Just turning into a giant ginger hulk and tearing the place apart.
I’m sick of seeing wrist straps to assist with grip work. Ok, so you’re a competitive powerlifter chasing a 900lb deadlift and overloading the movement to strengthen the rest of the body. You are not the guy I’m on about. I’m on about the guy who is bent over rowing with 90lbs and using wrist straps. You already have wrist straps, THEY’RE CALLED HANDS!
Having a frail grip is another weak link in the chain. In terms of grappling, the grip is the first point of contact with an opponent. You could be the strongest guy in the gym, but if you can’t grip onto your opponent, you have nothing. It’s more than grappling though.
In most sports, the hands are the connecting point to the force generated by the body. In baseball, the hips generate the power but it’s a strong grip that transfers the power to the bat. Throwing a ball is the same. Gripping for a tackle in football or rugby is the same. Swinging a golf club, gripping a tennis racket and climbing are all the same.
Yet, despite all this, people still have a weak grip.
I could spend hours outlining a detailed plan on how to build the mind and strengthen the grip. Give countless examples and programs. But, I like to keep things simple. I have one movement I like to use to address both issues in one horrible hit. The mind will get tougher and the grip will certainly get stronger.
What am I talking about?
Hand-over-hand rope pulls.
Heavy rope pulls are absolutely brutal. Expect to feel it in you back, shoulders, legs, midsection, your heart and lungs as well as your mental strength and grip. A few rounds of heavy pulls and your strength endurance will be through the roof, a major component in the fighting arts, as well as improving your overall conditioning levels. Not to mention increasing your anaerobic threshold…
Before the excuses start flying, get an old tire, loop some chains around it, feed a thick rope around the chains, throw some weight into the tire and you’re good to go. If the rope is pretty short, just work hand-over-hand until the tire reaches you, jog backwards and keep pulling until the distance or time determined is covered. You’ve all heard the saying “bigger is better”, here it is.
- A bigger tire is better – it’s heavier.
- A thicker rope works better – it’s tougher on the grip.
- A heavy sled is better – It’s harder to pull, the more you work.
Going bigger is going to be tougher, but tougher works you harder. Harder you work, the more you gain. You get the idea…
Generally, the toughest part of the pull is the beginning. Getting the sled moving can be tricky, but once you get it on the move, establish a solid rhythm and try not letting the momentum stop until the sled reaches your feet. Keep the pulls fast, forceful and with long strides. Reach out with the hands and pull right in to the body. The goal is to get the sled to cover as much ground as possible with each pull.
It’s going to be tough. I guarantee it.
Your grip will get fried. Your forearms will feel like they’re going to explode and your head is going to be screaming “just stop”. You’ll be fighting for breath and wondering just how it’s possible your lats hurt that bad.
Embrace the struggle.
Fight on through past your mind and failing grip. This is how you develop mental strength and grip strength.
In a Workout
As far as programming pulls goes, I like two warm-up sets, two working sets. That’s all.
For the distance I like 100 foot. Why? Well, it’s a nice big number and it’s a distance that is challenging. In the warm-up sets use under 50% of the working set weight. For the two working sets ramp up the weight and go all out – 100% effort, focus and drive.
Throw it onto the end of a session. Train it alone on a separate day from your main training. You want a solid grip and mental strength that won’t quit, you’ll find a time and place to get it done.
Train the body hard. Train the mind hard. Get tougher both physically and mentally.