Destroy the Competition in MMA with a Powerful Grip
The early 90s saw the popularization of mixed martial arts with the debut of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Now known as the UFC, this organization is responsible for what MMA is today – brutal, effective, and exciting to watch.
MMA consists of both striking and grappling, derived from different schools of TMA (or, traditional martial arts). How hard you can hit and how well you can grapple will directly affect your success in MMA, amongst other factors.
Grip strength is an incredible asset for folks in BJJ, Judo, Sambo, wrestling, and other grapple-centric fighting stlyes. With these styles essentially comprising of “half” of the sport, grip strength is exceptionally important in MMA. With that said, it make sense to dedicate time to training grip for MMA.
What it Takes to Build Grip Strength for MMA
The simple act of holding onto something – whether it be crushing it or hanging on for dear life – is what needs to be improved. Pretty much, grabbing stuff and not loosing it from your hands is the goal here.
This can be trained in two ways: through static holds, and through pulling. Static holds replicate the act of grabbing stuff and amplifies it with volume and intensity. Pulling accomplishes the same thing, but also involves dynamic movement of the elbows, shoulders, hips, etc. By focusing on those two types of exercises, your hands will become monstrous.
Some folks may have plenty of resources, and some may have nothing, but there will always be ways to get your grip stronger. Let’s look at different ways you can train in different financial scenarios.
Scenario #1: Zero Money and Equipment
If you’re broke, it’s likely you have zero access to any gyms or the cash to spend for fancy equipment. It’s a mystery how you’re even able to train for your sport. However, all’s not lost and you can still train your grip strength for MMA.
First thing you’ve got to do is step outside, and find something you can hang from like a monkey. Tree branches, metal fence railings, apartment fire escapes, ledges, the roof of a shed – anything will do. If there’s a park that’s local, see if it has pull-up bars, monkey bars, or jungle gyms. Once you find something suitable to hold onto, perform an absurd amount of pullups, chin-ups, and dead-hangs. Using the environment around you is free and gets the job done.
If that bit of advice weren’t enough, you can also scrap some change, go to a local Home Depot or hardware store, and purchase two things: 5-gallon buckets with handles and bags of sand. Two buckets and three bags of sand should only cost you $10-15. Go home and fill the buckets with sand – 5 gallons should hold about 60 lbs of sand. Find some old rags or towels and wrap the handles with them. Now you have make-shift farmer’s carry equipment. Hold onto both buckets, and walk around with them for time, and watch your grip strength grow. to make the exercise harder, make the handles thicker with additional rags.
Scenario #2: Access to a Decent Gym
So you’ve got a little bit of cash and can afford a gym that has barbells and a pull-up bar. Perfect. In reality, this will get you far and make training grip strength for MMA a breeze. All you’ve got to do is emphasize your grip during heavy lifts.
That means you’ve got to do heavy rows, shrugs, deadlifts, weighted pull-ups/chin-ups, etc., with a non-mixed strapless grip as much as possible. If you have to resort to straps or a mixed grip for your max effort deadlifts and shrugs, make sure to include more submaximal work after with a standard grip, or static holds. this will make up for the fact that straps or a mixed grip is helping you lifting beyond your regular grip strength.
One good way to make sure you’re training your grip strength properly while using assistance is make sure your unassisted-grip lifts and assisted-grip liftsprogress proportionally. By this, I mean if you currently can deadlift 85% of your 1RM with a regular double-overhand grip, make sure you are still able to DOH the same percentage or greater of your 1RM when your deadlift gets better. Makes sense?
Fat Gripz are a grip training tool that you can slap onto most barbells, dumbbells, and pull-up bars. They increase the diameter of the object’s handle, effectively making it much more difficult to grip. By doing this, you not only make grip more of a limiting factor in certain lifts, but you place more stress on the phalangeal joints in the fingers. Also, they make gripping “less than perfect”, which is ideal because grappling is never perfect.
You can also jam one end of the barbell in a corner, and do bent-over rows while grabbing the 2-inch end of the bar. For obvious reasons, a larger diameter would increase the impact on your grip.
Scenario #3: Unlimited Money and Equipment
If you’ve got money, access to an awesome training facility, or both, the sky’s the limit for training grip strength for MMA. You can do everything listed in the previous scenarios, plus some more.
While there’s plenty of luxurious options out there, one tool that can do wonders in the pursuit of building grip strength for MMA is the 2-inch diameter barbell.
The fat barbell immediately turns any exercise into grip strength builder. Unlike the Fat Gripz, which take a little time to set-up and limit your hand position, an evenly-shaped thick diameter barbell is ready-to-go and doesn’t dictate your hand-positioning. Deadlifts, shrugs, rows, etc. instantly become much more difficult, and your grip will adapt.
Is it a little spendy and unnecessary? Sure, but having a thick barbell is an awesome luxury and adds a fun challenge to training. I don’t own one myself, but have used them a number of times before. If you can afford it, get it! Amazon has one online that’s cheaper than most thick barbells out there.
Anyone Can Get their Grip Stronger for MMA
You have no excuses – no matter what your financial status is, you can find a way to dedicate improving your grip strength for MMA. Don’t let weak little hands and wrists stop you from dominating in your sport.