Crush Your Opponents by Jim Smith

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When you think about the sport of MMA, you think about the need to build a serious level of grip strength. This is an indisputable fact. Sometimes athletes are unprepared for the specific demands placed on their grip during a fight or match. High lactate levels, unorthodox wrist postures or even generally weak hands (thumbs, ring finger and pinky are the weakest links) all predispose the athlete to either losing the match or becoming injured. The athletes must train specifically for the metabolic and physiological demands to achieve the adaptations required for the fight. If they do this, they will become successful and have longevity in the sport.

If you lose your grip, you lose your ability to control your opponent. If you lose your grip, you lose your ability to strike your opponent without seriously injuring your hands or wrists (or any other link up the kinetic chain.)

In this article I will show you innovative ways to immediately improve your grip and ability to absorb forces - which will have carryover to your ability to express strength during the match (and in your training.)

Let’s get started.

Rolling Thunder Grappling
This exercise is excerpted from my Building the Ultimate MMA Manual.

What you’ll need is two IronMind Rolling Thunders (RT) - a revolving 2” support device, 4 Jumpstretch bands and 2 carabineers.

Attach 2 bands to each other and you’ll end up with 2 long bands. Then attach the RT to the long bands with a carabineer. Attach each long band to a fixed object; a power cage, pole or even have a partner hold them.

Now you are ready to begin. Grab a RT in each hand and start by taking some big steps back - getting some tension into the bands. Now start moving! Take a shot, grab a leg and explode up, hit a back lunge into some back rows or turn around and start punching!

During this entire exercise the RT’s will be simulating your opponents wrists! They’ll be twisting and turning and trying to rip out of your hands. The tension in the bands and the wrist postures will begin building your grip into vises!

This exercise movement will allow you to:

    - Hit Reverse Movement Patterns (reverse movement from forward striking) building some serious time under tension (TUT) for your synergists and antagonists and creating balance in the upper back musculature.
    - Hit Random Movements simulating a match. When you’re controlling your opponents wrists, you’ll be pulled into bad angles that will test your thumb and wrist postural strength (ulnar, radial, supination, pronation.) In a match, you will not be restricted to only linear movements!
    - Hit some quad-extension! Start in a deadlift starting position and extend (ankles, knees, hips, shoulders (actually flexion, but you know what I mean) = quad) ending with the RT’s over your head. You’ve just explosively (speed-strength) engaged the musculature involved in throwing someone!.

Shot Rotations

Nothing says hand health and dexterity like shot rotations. But like everything else – here is a twist. We aren’t going to do rotations with the 2 little metal Chinese medicine balls you see in the head shop. We are talking about doing shot rotations with weighted shots used in track and field. Depending upon the size of the shots and the size of your hands – these weighted shot rotations can be done with 2, 3, 4, 5 or even 6 lb shots!

Make sure you hit clockwise (CW) and counter clockwise (CCW) rotations.

Another great variation is to do golf ball rotations while hitting a contrast bath. Get 2 – 5 gallon buckets and fill one with hot water and one with icy cold water. Submerse your entire lower arm into the bucket and do rotations with 2 golf balls. Great for recovery and rehab! I discuss this in my Pulling Big III article.

This exercise movement will allow you to:

    - Increase your hand dexterity
    - Provide TUT for your hand (palm) and finger flexors
    - Increase your wrist stabilization
    - Improve the balance of your lower arm musculature
    - Provide relief for carpal tunnel and epicondylitis (medial and lateral)

Sledgehammer Work

Talk about shock training! Start smashing a sledgehammer into a tractor tire, car tire or tree stump. You will be very thankful in the 3rd (or 5th) rounds when you are still crushing down on your opponent with dominating hand control. The sledgehammer is an excellent tool for general physical preparedness (GPP) for any athlete (a level of conditioning whose benefits include; development of weaker muscles, improving work capacity and improving recovery.)

It is also very versatile training tool.

You can lever it for specific wrist strength (all postures, see above) or start hitting big things. Either way, you’re going to be breathing heavy and you won’t be able to hold onto your toothbrush that night!

One Arm Slams

Two Arm Slams

Two Arm Baseball Swings

Two Arm Levering

One Arm Levering

These exercise movements will allow you to:

    - Gain insane support grip strength and endurance
    - Gain postural wrist strength and endurance
    - Get the benefits of vibration training – when striking the tire you will be absorbing small vibrations with each impact. Controlling this will carryover to the density of your tendons and ligaments and your own ability to absorb impact forces
    - Movement into explosive movement patterns – hip flexion, extension and rotation
    - Gain high levels of conditioning pushing the lactic acid threshold (LAT) further and further, also see GPP above
    - Gain another tool to add to your circuits, complexes and other energy system training

Kettlebell Work

Kettlebells can be substituted for all dumbbell exercises – which makes them very versatile. Kettlebells are not the be-all, end-all – but they are an essential tool that should be included in your arsenal. Unlike typical dumbbells, kettlebells have unique benefits, some of which include:

    - The center of gravity (COG) of the bell stresses the wrist and forces unique postures while pressing, pulling and throwing
    - The thick handle is great for providing world class support grip strength
    - Substituting kb’s instead of dumbbells will increase the difficulty of the exercise immediately
    - They can be used to load a sled or they can become a sled by hooking them directly to a thick rope.

There are a ton of “standard” exercises (bench press, military press, b/o rows, pullthroughs, etc.) that can be done with kettlebells, but there are some other unique exercises like the Turkish get-ups, front racking 2 kettlebells while dragging a sled or combining kettlebells with other odd-objects – that will provide you with other kick-ass alternatives.

There are literally hundreds of possibilities.

The Irradiation Series I developed in our Advanced Kettlebell Training II – The Final Chapter manual, discusses an athlete’s ability to train to absorb, generate or create impact force. By pre-loading the athlete, it creates a co-contraction or “bracing” of the body mechanism that will be our foundation to generate power.

Check out of few of these exercises.

KB Clean & Press (with Sandbag load)

KB PullThroughs (with Sandbag load)

These exercise movements will allow you to:

    - Create high rep muscular endurance in the posterior chain (hamstrings, glutes, hips, erectors) and grip
    - Provide your athletes with the ability to absorb or generate force, by demanding they learn how to “brace” the musculature of their torso (from their lower chest to their knees – otherwise known as the all encompassing core!)
    - Easily integrate into your circuits, complexes or any of your energy system training

There you have it. Four quick and easy ways to turn your hands (and your body) into smashing machines! By improving your grip strength and incorporating complex exercises into your strength programs, you will be able to control the match, generate explosive forces (in multi-planes) incorporating “bracing” and greatly improve your ability to strike without getting injured (but if you do get injured, you will improve your ability to recovery quickly!)

Integration is the key. You can either focus on specific aspects of grip in isolation to bring up a weakness or you can integrate more challenging (complex) exercises into your strength program for improved performance.

Good luck and get Diesel!

Jim Smith ‘Smitty”, CSCS, CFT, USAW
The Diesel Crew
www.DieselCrew.com

Jim Smith, a member of the Elite FTS Q&A team, is a strength coach with the Diesel Crew. He dedicates himself to studying, developing and enhancing athletic performance through the utilization of conventional, non-conventional and grip strength training protocols. Helping athletes of all skills levels attain their goals and “Achieve Beyond Potential”, Smitty is also an amateur strongman competitor, lecturer and author whose writings regularly appear on EliteFTS.com, TotalPerformanceSports.com, DragonDoor.com and many others.


Submitted by DMorgan on Mon, 12/17/2007 - 10:40pm.

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