Get a Grip – The Fundamental Strength of a Ninja
by Reko Rivera
Grip strength is one of the most single handily (pun intended) important elements to work on for athletes in just about every sport. In weight lifting, for example, without a strong grip your deadlift record might not go up any higher; if you can hang onto the bar you’re not going to be able to lift it.
Being a Ninja Warrior requires you to hang and swing from obstacles throughout the courses, leaving your success to whether or not you have enough grip strength to make it all the way through. While doing obstacle course racing, sometimes you are covered in mud or water and your grip strength in those circumstances can be determined if you pass or fail an obstacle. The latter resulting in doing those dreaded burpees, exhausting you and your grip even more.
The only way to train your grip sounds simple but can be tedious. The best method is to just start grabbing stuff, No I don’t mean grabbing your favorite finger foods from the grocery store. I'm talking about hammers, rocks, and rice.
This one might seem obvious but rock climbing is probably the number one way to increase grip and finger strength in a small amount of time. But wait a second hot shot, you can't just jump on v7s and start crushing 5.12s. You’ve got to start slow, especially if you don’t know what those are. Try taking an entry level climbing class at your local rock climbing gym and start from there.
The first couple weeks of climbing are going to be hard; your hands, feet, and forearms are going to hurt. Your forearms might freeze up on you and you may fall off the wall straight onto your back, but that's OK. Every time you get back up, you’ll be stronger than the time before. The key is to not quit and stay dedicated. It won't happen overnight but within after going to the climbing gym once or twice a week for a month you should see vast improvements from day 1 to day 10. Even more so from day 10 to day 45.
A little less known grip strength training tool is something known as Thor’s hammer; yes that Thor. You’ll be harnessing the power of the gods in your hands with this bad boy. It’s a hammer, weighing 8-15 lbs. that you can use to increase your grip strength.
Hold the hammer and move it forward, backward and sideways, starting from multiple positions at different angles (over your shoulders, through your legs, etc.) and twist it around while changing angles.
You want to get lots of reps in until you burn out. Start off easy and increase the difficulty as you go. Don’t rush the reps, slow and controlled is the way go. Choose the hammer weight that fits your ability, it’s not about how much weight you can lift, but about how well you can hold it. Once your first hammer gets easy to use, upgrade for a higher weight.
This one is easy, cheap, and you’ll just feel cool doing it! Used by pitchers, fighters, and old school martial artists for years, a bucket of rice is an extremely effective grip and forearm workout.
Fill a large bucket with about 20 lbs. of rice. Stick one hand in at a time move your hand and fingers in various motions such as circles, waves, gripping and releasing the rice. Any way you can think to move your hands inside the rice will create resistance which will, in turn, make your fingers and hands stronger. Start with 8 motions per hand at 30 seconds for each motion. This is also a great warm up for other workouts or your obstacle races.
Grip strength is a necessity for any obstacle courses including American Ninja Warrior. With these grip training techniques, you will be hanging from rigs, crushing apples, and opening pickle jars for everyone in no time!