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Getting That Kung Fu Grip: Free Apparatus Exercises
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Exercises Using Cheap or Free Apparatus
A lot of the tools that will give you a strong grip can be found lying around your
house. I think About.com's Frugal Living Guide would love these. Here's a
few exercises that use free or cheap materials:
- Farmer's Walk: Pick up two heavy buckets (fill them with water, sand,
gravel, or if you're really a farmer, slop for the pigs) and walk around with them until
you can't hold on any longer. Rest for a while, then do it again.
- Newspaper Wadding: Spread a sheet of newspaper out on a table and crumple it up into a
ball with one hand, starting from one corner. Keep your hand stationary and use just your
fingers to pull more paper into your fist. Once you've got the whole sheet as a ball of
paper in your hand, squeeze it tightly until it's compressed. Toss the ball into the recycle bin and wad up another sheet
of newspaper. Repeat with the other hand.
- Bottle Cap Bending: This might be more of a bar stunt than an exercise,
but it's fun anyway. After opening up a bottle of your
favorite beverage, bend the cap between your index finger and thumb. See how many caps
you can fit into an empty bottle until your hands get tired, or you fall off your
- Rubber Band Expanding: Wrap a rubber band around your fingertips and
spread out your fingers against the rubber band's resistance.
- Rubber Ball Squeezing: The time-honored exercise of tennis players everywhere; take a tennis ball or other
rubber ball and squeeze it in your hand. Lots of companies hand out free "stress
balls" for office workers to squeeze during breaks; these are great to start with,
but you might want something with a bit more resistance after a while.
- Brick Pinch Lift: Pick up a brick by pinching it between your
fingertips and thumb and walk around the room, carrying the brick with your arm hanging
straight down at your side. If you want more resistance, balance a brick or two on one end
and then pick up the whole thing.
- Leverage Bar: A leverage bar is any stick that has weight on one end.
You hold the bar by the non-weighted end and move the weighted end around with just your
For example, a sledgehammer makes a great leverage bar. Hold the sledgehammer with your
arm hanging at your side so that the hammer is perpendicular to your body. Flex your
wrist up and down, as if hammering something with the "business" end. If a
sledgehammer is too much weight, try a regular carpenter's hammer, or a broom. You can
always increase the resistance by holding the bar further away from the weighted end. Try
holding a regular kitchen broom at the extreme end of the handle and move the broom end
around--it doesn't seem like it would be much weight, but it's pretty tough.
Do the same flexes with the bar's weighted end pointing behind you, sticking out of your
fist from the pinky side. Repeat with the other hand.
- One-Hand Chair Lift: Again, this is probably more a stunt than an
exercise, but it does give your grip and forearm a tough challenge. Pick up a chair or bar
stool by one leg, grasping the leg as close to the floor as possible. It's easier if you
try a back leg first, as the weight of the back of the chair is centered over your hand
instead of levering out in space.
If you can do the chair raise with someone sitting on the chair, well, you probably don't
need these exercises.
Exercises Using Specialized Equipment
Next time we'll cover exercises with special grip-strengthening equipment, like spring
grippers or baoding balls, and with common gym equipment like cable machines, dumbbells,
and barbells. These exercises will provide additional resistance beyond what's provided by
the exercises we've covered in this article, to really overload those hand and forearm
muscles. Until then, though, use the exercises covered in this article to build a strong
base, and check out the following links for more information.
Feats of Grip Strength
David Gentle recounts the feats of famed strongmen, including guys who could break coins
with their fingers. Spare change, anybody?
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