It’s been over 10 years since I started taking grip training seriously. I’ve been lifting since the age of 15 (starting in 1980) so it’s 32 years and then some to date. I recall my first experience of grippers and grip rehab came after a foolish childhood stunt me and my brothers dreamed up.
It involved a ‘see who can kick the highest’ contest and the aim was to see if we were flexible enough to hit the light fitting in my parents lounge. I’m sure, had my parents found out we’d have, as my mum still says, got a ‘thick ear’. Anyway I won. However, the win came at a price. In order to reach the fitting I more or less toppled over. As my foot, thankfully lightly, touched one of the glass shades over I went. In order to stop myself having a horrid crash landing out went my right arm fully extended. Down I came and I doing so ALL of my bodyweight (then 150lbs) went on my hand. This hyper-extended it’s normal spread and, as the docs told me, I managed to split the soft tissue at the middle and third finger base knuckle (where the fingers go into the fist).
The fingers very quickly swelled up to banana like proportions and having gone ‘oh f**k!’ off the hospital I went. I knew I’d done something because they swelled up real quick. X-rays etc revealed the damage mentioned above and I recall that over the next few days and weeks I had to visit the out-patients clinic a few times. Squeezing soft foam balls, putty, using ice and heat baths and so on as well as keeping my hand up via a sling to bring down the inflammation all formed part of the therapy. One of the directors at the company I worked for in those days, near to Finsbury Square in central London, brought in an old wooden handled spring gripper (us grip guys call these traditional grippers TSG or Torsion Spring Grippers) to help with the recovery. That would be my first taste.
Years later, around late 1998 or early 1999, I was reading the UK edition (as was then briefly available) of Ironman magazine and it included an article by Ironmind owner Randall J Strossen entitled ‘Captain’s of Crush’. It was about the first two so-called Captains Richard Sorin and John Brookfield. The UK publisher had thoughtfully included an ad for both Randall’s book and the three grippers he then sold (the 1, 2 and now legendary 3). For whatever reason this whetted my appetite I was, as they say, sold. Pennies were saved and sent off, book and grippers brought.
I’d read years before in a comic book about a well-known, for that time, footballer who had injured his knee. He’d sit in front of his TV and do rehab exercises for the damage during advertising breaks. So I decided this would suffice for my efforts (how little I knew then ha ha) and worked hard at squeezing my grippers. I had some talent I guess as I was able to rep the 1 more or less immediately and was able to do a single max rep with the 2 more or less from day one. So, much like my training now, I’d warm up and then try a mighty effort during the adverts.
Regardless of how basic it was I made some head way (as many do in the beginning) and at some point after about 10 months or so found myself one session actually managing a single max rep with the 3! Was I excited or what??!!
I immediately signed up via email on my, as then, new PC (the internet being fairly new to me) for an Ironmind Certification attempt. Then, as now, you needed to visit a well-known Iron Game ‘face’ (someone trustworthy) and Randall arranged for me to visit Pullum Sports based in Luton and have my chance there. Anyway, to cut a longish story short, I wasn’t ready. The one off effort before failed to become a regular thing at that time and Wrist rollers it wasn’t until the following March at an OHF dinner that Iron Game historian David P Webster witnessed both myself and David Horne squeezing for all we were worth. Indeed David went first and he became the UK’s second Captain of Crush and myself the 3rd (Scotland’s Mike Daly was first and I think Nick McKinless 4th).
My usual networking skills were put to good use at the event and both that and the reports in magazines and online forums revealed that not only was closing grippers a big deal there were actual grip competitions too.
More on that another time…