The most common extension gripper is the Ivanko Supergripper. This gripper is approximately the size of a pad of paper and provides an almost unlimited range of difficulty for little more than the cost of a single torsion spring gripper. The tool is not as popular as the torsion spring grippers, largely due to complaints over the comfort of the handle.
Low strength versions of the torsion spring grippers can be purchased at almost any sporting goods store. Most trainees progress to heavy duty versions of these grippers for serious grip training. A variety of manufacturers produce heavy duty torsion spring grippers, the most widely recognized being Ironmind with their Captains of Crush line of hand grippers.
Gripper difficulty will primarily be determined by the diameter of the spring and distance between the gripper handles. Torsion spring grippers typically have a single strength, but are highly portable.
The distance between the gripper handles after setting the gripper has a significant impact on difficulty of closing the gripper. The most common styles of gripper sets are parallel, credit card width, and no set. The further the handles are from close after the set, the more difficult the gripper will be to close. Outside of the greater closing distance, the leverage on the gripper handles is reduced via less favorable positioning of the gripper with wider sets.
Impact of hand size on closing a gripper with varying set widths is often debated. An individual with small hands will have greater difficulty obtaining good leverage with a wide gripper set than an individual with large hands. Practice is needed to learn to generate maximum power with any setting style and largely offsets the impact of hand size.
In order to maximize power of the parallel set, it is important to have strong thumbs on both hands. The thumb on the closing hand can be flexed prior to setting the gripper, providing a wall to hold the gripper handle in place on the crease of the palm. A strong thumb on the setting hand is essential to being able to bring hard grippers down into the parallel set position.
Introduced by Ironmind in response to concern over individuals using a parallel set on their certification, closing a gripper with a credit card set requires the ability to dominate the gripper. The Ironmind certification actually requires a credit card to be passed between the grippers handles prior to the close. Those individuals with small hands may find it easier to position the gripper with a deep set, allow it to open to credit card width, and then perform the close.
Due to the poor leverage on the gripper during the close, training no set as the primary approach for developing crushing strength is not encouraged. Risk of injury due to poor hand positioning is increased. Consistent of hand position is also more difficult to obtain, increasing difficulty of tracking progress over time. Some gripper manufactures produce grippers with a narrow spread in order to facilitate no set training for individuals with smaller hands.
Weights ranging from a few ounces to several pounds are typically used on this exercise. Using more than ten pounds of weight should be avoided on this exercise due to the excessive stress that will be placed on the wrist during the close. It is much better to perform a lighter strap hold with a harder gripper. Most will be able to perform a strap hold with a gripper one level below the one they are trying to master.
Filing a gripper voids the warranty of all gripper manufacturers as it increases the possibility of the gripper spring breaking. Caution should be used when working beyond the range with filed grippers.
When filing a gripper, be sure to file down a single handle, removing a small bit of material at a time. Resistance will increase quickly. Filing both handles will result in the palm getting pinched between the handles during the close. An inexpensive solution for filing down a gripper handle is to use a bastard mill file, which can be acquired at a hardware store for a few dollars.
Locking the gripper into a partially shuts position allows for practice of explosive closes and severe negatives on a gripper stronger than one would normally train with. Typically gripper handles are choked to distances ranging from one inch to almost completely shut. Leaving a gripper choked for an extended period of time should not impact its strength. It is possible for a strong gripper to break a weak hose clamp.
Working with choked grippers has the advantage of allowing for high volume or intensity work without the need to set a gripper on every attempt. When working with a gripper at or beyond an individual's maximum closing strength, this can greatly reduce stress on the knuckles from setting the gripper and releasing it after a negative. Chokers are excellent tools for injury prevention.
Severe negatives can be very hard on the hands and should be broken into slowly. In order to minimize training risk, consider using a choker collar to prevent the gripper from opening further than needed. Chalk will be valuable in minimizing slippage of the gripper during the negative and reducing the risk of skin tears.
Specificity of training does require that one practice applying strength developed on grip machines to grippers before carry over will be seen. A grip machine is not a necessity to build a strong crushing grip and close hard grippers.
In an effort to train on an implement of known resistance, some individuals will season a gripper prior to training with it. An appropriate method for seasoning is to slowly close the gripper handles with two hands until they barely touch, then allow the spring to open. Another option is to simply season the gripper by training with it over time.
The following approaches to seasoning a gripper may damage it, resulting in a lower resistance than the normal range for the specific model of gripper:
These factors are not part of normal gripper seasoning and must be taken into account when referencing “seasoned” grippers. Most often seasoning problems of this nature will occur when an individual passes a rod through the gripper spring and stomps on it repeatedly in order to season it.
It is not unusual for one gripper to be ten percent harder than another gripper of the exact same model. Differences in the tightness of the spring coil, spread of the gripper handles, and depth with which the spring is set all influence how hard a gripper will be. Further complicating matters, variations in the batch of spring steel and cooling process used also impact the gripper strength.
Guidelines can be established for progressing in difficulty from one gripper model to another. These are primarily based upon spring size and individual experience trying grippers from multiple manufacturers. Current gripper progression charts can be found on the Gripboard and will not be maintained on this site. Manufacturer published ratings cannot be relied upon, as each manufacturer measures their gripper strengths in different ways.
An engineering firm called PDA attempted to create an accurate numerical representation of the strength for an individual gripper. Even with extensive testing and access to the most experienced grip enthusiasts in the world, accurate numerical calibration for the difficulty of closing a gripper could not be established. Anyone interested in attempting to devise a method of comparing grippers is encouraged to review PDA’s calibration work first.
Captains of Crush – Produced by Ironmind, these are the most popular heavy duty grippers and the standard by which all other grippers are judged. Knurling on the handles is middle of the road, with average gripper spread between 2.75” and 3”. Spring durability is high, with limited seasoning impact on gripper strength and spread.
Beef Builder – Hand made by Warren Tetting and distributed by Weightlifters Warehouse, these are the most popular grippers for bridging the gap between the Ironmind grippers. Knurling on the handles is more aggressive, with average gripper spread between 2.75” and 3”. Spring durability is high, with limited seasoning impact on gripper strength and spread. The following models are typically used to bridge the gap between Ironmind grippers:
Warren Tetting originally produced the Ironmind grippers and has been hand making torsion spring grippers longer than anyone. He may be contacted personally to order custom grippers with any possible variation, including narrow spreads, extended handles for negatives, and steel handles to reproduce the feel of the original Ironmind grippers.
Heavy Grips – The gripper for those on a budget, Heavy Grips can be purchased new in sets for as little as $13 a gripper. The spread is narrower than an average Ironmind gripper, typically seasoning down to 2.25”. The knurling is quite a bit smoother than any of the other gripper manufacturers. Spring quality is lower, resulting in greater variance of gripper difficulty and spread as a result of the seasoning process.
Baraban – Produced by Robert Baraban in Austria, these hand made grippers provide the most extensive range of options for those looking to customize. Grippers can be ordered with steel handles, brass handles, colored handles, chromed springs, and engravings. Knurling is similar to the Ironmind grippers. Baraban gripper handles do have a slightly larger diameter than other gripper models. Spring variation after the seasoning process is greater than found in the Ironmind or Beef Builder gripper lines.
PDA SOS – Produced for a limited time by PDA, the SOS grippers were an attempt at producing a line of grippers with consistent, predictable ratings. High engineering tolerances were used in an effort to solve the problem of gripper variance. It didn’t work. PDA no longer sells these grippers, but they may be purchased used online. Quality of finish tends not to be as high as the Ironmind grippers, but they are a piece of grip history.