18 year old Jesse Marunde closing
the IronMind #3 gripper. Training the grip is a specialized form of training which, like any other form of physical prowess, requires keying exercises on specific muscle groups. Grip specialists many times can perform tremendous feats of strength that can not be matched by strength champions from other areas of the iron game.
For example, my young protégé, Jesse Marunde can do several feats of grip and hand strength that can not be matched by men much stronger than he in other physical endeavors. The facts are, there are men that can out squat and bench press Jesse by several hundred pounds but at the same time can not duplicate some of his feats of hand power.
To get a better perspective about how to train one's grip, I've asked Jesse to offer some of his experience on the subject.
Note: this interview was done in the fall of 1998.
JVA- First, how did you come to get interested in this specific type of training?
JM- I broke my right hand and when it healed it was very weak.
JVA- When did that happen and how did you do it?
JM- I was 13 years old and I was rough housing with my younger brother. I punched him in the head and broke the knuckle of my forefinger of my right hand in twelve places.
JVA-How long did it take to heal?
JM- A long time. Actually about three times longer than normal.
JVA- What do you mean?
JM- Well, when the bone at the base of the forefinger of my right hand set, it was an irregular setting. So, they had to rebreak it.
JVA- I bet that was painful?
JM- Not really. I was shot with a local. However, it was quite an experience that I wouldn't want to go through again!
JVA- What do you mean?
JM- Well, first, my right arm was held immobile by one man. Then the doctor held my hand down flat with one hand and with his other hand, he bent my right forefinger back and forth, hyper extending it to where my finger nail was touching the back of my wrist.
JVA- No pain?
JM- No, but the crackling and crunching noise was nauseating.
JVA- When you were healed what did you do for rehab?
JM- I used putty.
JVA- Was that when you started training for the #3 gripper?
JM- No, that was initiated by the breaking of my hand a second time when I was 16 years old.
JVA- How did you break it a second time?
JM- Ha Ha, that was a boxers' punch. I hit a door.
JVA- So, was that when you decided to train your grip?
JM- Yes, but it was a learning process.
JVA- What did you initially do?
JM- Well, when I got the cast off both times from each fracture, my arm had gone through considerable atrophy. I used the putty to rehab the first time, because the tendons in my knuckle were so tight that it took almost a month before I could lift anything with it, and about 3 months before I could close my hand all the way. It wasn't until after recovering from the second fracture that I realized how weak my hand was.
JVA- What do you mean?
JM- I was doing wrist curls, and felt like my forearms were really strong. But when I was doing power cleans I could not hold onto the bar. It was then that I realized that strong forearms don't equate to strong hands.
JVA- So what changes did you make in your training?
JM- I bought some eagle loops. Then, shortly thereafter, I bought the grippers. After about three months of training with the grippers, I bought John Brookfield's book. Then with a new understanding of hand strength, I made rapid gains from then on. As a point of interest, I only used the eagle loops for pull ups.
JVA- What prompted you to go for the # 3 gripper?
JM- Well I got inspired by reading Brookfield and also by the "Captain Of Crush" articles in MILO. With the kind of progress I was making, I felt that there was no reason why I too could not close the #3.
JVA- So, what did you do?
JM- Reps varied as I got stronger. At first I would do about 5 sets of 2 reps with the #2 gripper. I worked up to where I could do 4 sets of 5 reps on any work sets. For about three months before I could close the #3, I would first attempt to close the #3, seeing how close I could come. Then I would do about 3 sets of 3 reps with the #2. Then I would do a negative contraction, resisting the #3's opening. I generally finished a grip workout with a down set of 10 reps with the #1 gripper, sort of a cool down.
JVA- How often did you do this?
JM- Just two days per week.
JVA- I notice, that when you start closing the gripper, you have just the tips of your fingers resting against the handle.
JM- That's right, you can't get good leverage by wrapping your fingers around the handle. You have to pull the handles together starting at full finger length.
JVA- Congratulations. This is quite a feat! Do you have any further advice regarding hand strength training?
JM- The only aspects of grip training that I would stress are; Train your hands just like any other muscle, no more than two hard workouts a week. Get plenty of recuperation, and if you want to close the #3 gripper, don't train for endurance, train for power.
JVA- Do you have any other aspirations?
JM- Yes, I'm working on a one arm deadlift pinch grip with a pair of 45 lb. plates. Also on closing the #3 with my left hand. Right now, I'm about 1/8" away with my left hand. And I just started with the #4 gripper.
JVA- Can't you hold the 45's yet?
JM- Well, I can lift the plates up with two hands and then let go with one and hold on for several seconds with just one hand, but can't quite get them off of the floor from a deadweight start.
JVA- Has your improved grip carried over to some of your other sporting endeavors?
JM- Oh yes, Olympics lifts and deadlifts feel a lot more comfortable.
JVA- What about football?
JM- Absolutely! For example, while playing defensive end last season, I made a key sack on the quarterback. I managed to get just 2 fingers on his jersey, but that was enough
JVA- Great! Do you think that you have particularly large hands to be able to reach this level of prowess.
JM- Not really. My hands are not overly large.
JVA- Thank you Jesse for sharing your experience.
JM- You're welcome and thank you.