If you’re into mud runs, grip strength is pivotal in getting through them. Here’s at least 7 obstacles you will have to face in mud runs that are going to test your hand strength:
- Net climbing.
- Rope climbing.
- Pulling weights and holding them.
- Monkey bars and gymnastics rings.
- Helping your teammates get through courses by pulling them up.
- “Shakey” ladder climbs in which they constantly dangle when you’re climbing them.
- Wall obstacles.
Every single challenge there requires that you don’t only have good upper body strength, but also incredible grip and arm strength.
Not into mud runs? If you’re just looking to build hand strength and are not interested in testing it out on an obstacle course, that’s ok, these 5 exercises are still going to be very important for building it!
1) Hold onto any kind of bar and try to hang on it for as long as possible.
This is for people who have very little upper body strength and very weak grip, but it’s a great way to start training it. Typically people who can’t do pull ups or other exercises that involve the arm/upper body training should start from this.
Begin by hanging from a pull up bar for about 10 seconds. Try to maintain a firm hold on the bar you’re hanging on. Many people tend to let the weight of their body reduce the hold they have so they tend to hang by a few fingers rather than their whole hand. Try to make sure this doesn’t happen!
If you can hang on for 10 seconds, take a short break, then try it again. Your goal with this exercise is to keep these reps going until you feel like you can’t hang on anymore. The more resilience you build doing this, the better your hand strength will get.
However, if you’re looking to test yourself in things such as a mud run, then only being able to hang on is not enough, you need to be able to do a number of things with that ability and the next exercises are going to help with that:
2) If you can hold on for at least a minute, test your grip by swinging on monkey bars.
Just hanging on to a bar is pretty easy. Even for the most out of shape people, you can still train it, but it becomes much more difficult when you start moving and swinging your body to reach another bar.
However being able to traverse a monkey bar is really awesome for the arms and fingers and is also the next exercise you want to advance into after the 1st one where you just hang on.
One of the keys to being successful at a monkey bar traverse is first being able to hold on obviously, but the key is to build a momentum when you swing to grab the next bar and use it to build momentum into the next so you develop a constant motion that will make it easier to reach the end.
If you can become good at doing that, the next phase is to not swing yourself, but reach one part of the monkey bar, let your body stop moving and then using only your strength get to the next, then doing it again.
For mud run goers, some of the monkey bars you have to go through in some courses aren’t horizontal in shape and it’s very difficult to find these kinds of obstacles to train on, which is why if you learn the monkey bar swing from both a swinging and strength approach, you’re going to be much more prepared for the mud run version of it.
3) Got the monkey bar challenge completed? Then then try this next grip challenge:
Hit a tire with sticks! It’s a very exhausting, but great workout for your hands. All you’re doing is taking a regular stick and hitting a tire as hard as you can in a X ward motion for several minutes.
This exercise is probably going to give you callus but because each time you’re hitting the tire and there being a recoil from it, it’s forcing your hand to keep a firm hold at all times and this is working all the muscles in the hand.
4) Ah the pull up, how can you not include this in the exercise list?
The pull up takes grip training to the next level from the first 3 exercises above because you’re not just hanging anymore, you’re seeking to use your hand strength to raise your body and this can really hurt your hands so make sure that you’re really good with those 3 exercises before you move into this one.
An advanced way to do pull ups is by adding some weights on your legs while you do it.
More weight on the body means more stress on the grip, but it is also going to help strengthen it! Certainly pull up bars that are wet will make it harder to use, but it’s also another way to challenge yourself.
5) The final and most difficult grip exercise…
Nothing puts more pressure on your hands than rope climbing! Nobody who can’t do pull ups should do this exercise. And if you’re ever going to do mud runs like Tough Mudder and especially ANY Spartan Race, expect there to be a rope challenge of some sort that will require that you have some next level grip strength.
The only thing you may want to try if you’re not good at this is just hanging on the rope. Then learn to use your upper body to climb it and if you get good at that, learn climbing techniques to be able to hold onto it without falling.
There’s plenty of great other grip training exercises!
Usually any kind of exercise that requires that you hold something with weight, including yourself is going to help build up your grip resilience. So whether you’re holding something heavy in your hands and feeling the pressure on your fingers or hanging onto a pole or rope while your body is completely hanging, it’s going to train your hands.
And many of them will also help your upper body muscles as well! If you’re worried about cuts or plan on testing your grip on things such as wood where you can catch splinters, use regular gloves to protect yourself.
Whatever hand exercise you do, always stretch your fingers after!