The set, or how you hold the gripper before beginning the squeeze, is very important in gripper training. What set depth you use in your training will be (to some extent) dependent on what your goal is. Do you want to certify on the #3 with Ironmind? If so, you’ll need to get used to the credit card set (CCS) or no set (NS). If you’re not interested in the Ironmind cert you’ll get more bang for your buck (assuming you have to choose between one set or the other) by doing the “deep” sets. It might sound counterintuitive, but there is enough anecdotal evidence from many #3 closers on the Gripboard that shows training with deep sets has more strength carryover in any stage of the gripper close than training with no set exclusively. If you’re able to, it’s best to use both deep sets and no sets in your training program, even if you’re not interested in certifying on the #3.
As for hand health being negatively affected by deep sets, I dispute that. And many others that actually train frequently with grippers would dispute that. As simple as grippers seem to be, the stronger you get – the more you’ll see that there are subtle techniques that will help you get even stronger with small tweaks in form and hand placement and some other variables. For a great video tutorial on how to set a gripper, Paul Knight has one of the best videos around. He has closed the #4.
YouTube – How to set a gripper
Here’s a short video of me no-set closing a #3, then a #2, then a #1, then the Trainer. All back-to-back. The video angle shows pretty clearly how I like to “juggle” the gripper into position using only the gripping hand.
YouTube – TNS Medley: #3, #2, #1, Trainer – all right handed
Some tips that help for no-set gripper closes are:
- Make sure your thumb is actively “reaching” towards your fingers to help “seat” the gripper in your palm during the no-set attempt.
- Use chalk on the gripper and on your hand. Not the end of the world if you don’t, but it helps keep the gripper from sliding all around. That being said, sometimes you can take the opposite route and purposely oil your gripper handles to train in an unstable gripper close. I’ve submerged my easiest #3 completely in vegetable oil and no-set closed it in a few workouts. I have a video of me doing it with a #2 but I need to get a video on the #3 since I get a lot of requests for that. More of a parlor trick probably, but it does make any no-set training you do with chalk feel that much more stable.
- Speed is your friend! Don’t try to do a slow close since you’ll just eat up valuable strength and the gripper is more likely to slip out of the “sweet spot” the longer the close takes.
- Try “stacking” the bottom of the gripper handle on your pinky at the beginning of the close. That puts it into a better position to exert force for the “average-size” hand. I can put up a picture of that if that’s unclear.
- Perfect practice makes perfect. Just like with any other strength drills, it pays dividends to practice the technique often and even in warmups. Any time I’m focusing on no-set strength I like to put in at least 1 workout a week devoted exclusively to no-set gripper closes. I usually don’t do reps for any of the working sets since the gripper starts to slip after the first one anyway. But reps aren’t necessarily bad because they will teach you to keep exerting force even when the inevitable happens and the gripper does slip in your hand into a spot that’s not optimal.