3 Exercises For Grip With Travis Stevens
Judoka are well known for grip strength and in this video we hear Bernado Faria say he even struggles to find words for how strong Olympic Silver medalist Travis Stevens’ grip actually is! This is really something special as Bernado has competed at such a high level in BJJ but even Bernado is saying that Travis’ grip is out of this world! So, how can we learn from Travis and develop our own grip and grip game?
We start off with a counter-intuitive statement about grip strength. Typically with our grip we are pulling whatever we are gripping towards ourselves, be that a gi, a limb, a neck, whatever it may be. So naturally when we think of strengthening our grip we think of pulling exercises that are working our movement of gripping towards our own body. Travis however is recommending we train our grip in the opposite direction, so what does this mean, and why is Travis suggesting this?
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For this first exercise we have our partner move their hand as if they were going to grip the lapel of their kimono and bicep curl, while holding their arm tight against the side of their own body. This will form a small triangle between our partners forearm and bicep. From here we take a collar grip on our opponent at the opposite side of their body than the side they are making this curling motion with.
With the hand in front of this curling motion we now make a spearpoint shape with our fingers and push them into this small triangular gap with the objective to reach out the back of their arm. Once we finish this movement we end up with a type of underhook. Once we get out the other side and have our underhook we quickly retract, and then repeat the process. If we watch closely Travis is not simply making a linear motion to get from point A to point B but instead is sprillaing with his hand and manipulating his fingers so that all elements of his grip are very actively moving and fighting their way through. The fingers here are individually clawing and pulling their way forward as at the same time pulling our partner’s elbow outwards, which our partner is resisting against.
For the second exercise we begin with our partner lying belly down on the mat with his arms in really tight underneath him. This is a standard Judo defensive position, which is where this exercise comes from. Here now instead of moving from the front of our opponents body to the back we are coming through that same triangle between his arm and body but we are going from his back to his front.
Again make a spear shape with your fingers and pummel them through until you come out the other side and gain wrist control on your opponent, at which point you pull your hand back out and repeat the pummeling through to wrist control again. As with the first exercise Travis is not simply trying to punch his hand through. As we can see from the redness on his hand during the exercise every joint of Travis’ hand is clawing and pulling through the movement, while at the same time his whole hand is spiralling and drilling through to gain wrist control. This is a very active form of grip training where we are not simply waiting to see what grips are available but actively forcing the grip we want onto our opponent against their full resistance.
The third exercise is more practically applicable than the first two in that it recreates a position we might find ourselves in. We will be in a kind of half guard position where our opponent has our forearm locked between his calf and back of his thigh. This position will place a lot of our opponents weight directly onto both the extensor flexor muscle on the outside of our forearm and flexor tendons on the inside of the forearm. Barnado notes that in competition he often found himself in this position if a match went to the outside of the mats and it would cause a lot of burning and fatigue in his grip as a result. This exercise us a direct way to turn an unpleasant condition in either competition or rolling into an advantageous training exercise that will help develop a strong all round grip and grip endurance.
With the weight of Barnado on Travis’ forearm extensors and particularly flexor tendons on the inside of the forearm we can see Travis fingers are naturally closed. When Travis is opening his hand it looks like he is quickly closing his own fingers but actually it’s Bernado’s weight on the flexor tendons that’s closing Travis’ fingers by themselves! Under this tendon tension Travis is opening his fingers and individually moving and manipulating each finger to develop huge grip strength and endurance by acting against the tendon and muscle’s natural contraction caused by Bernado’s weight on them. An added bonus to this exercise is that we can also work gripping different aspects of our opponents belt or kimono to give additional training for practical application in this situation.
Bernado is well known for his mastery of the half guard game and he is now adding this exercise to his arsenal because he sees that gaining this grip in his lapel control in half guard is incredibly helpful to shut down his opponents movements and build his own attacks!
If you want to dive deeper into Judo with two Olympic level athletes and coaches then see Jimmy Pedro and Travis Stevens ‘The Judo Academy’ here!