Race day has arrived. You eagerly approach the starting line, jump over the wall into the corral, and AROO your way onto the Spartan course. Your legs carry you from the start line, you jump over a wall, and you continue to run. It’s not much longer before your upper body comes into play, on the Monkey Bars, the Multi-Rig, the Rope Climb, and the Hercules Hoist.
Suddenly, your grip is taxed, but you venture on. You continue to run and grip, grip and run. Finally, you see the Fire Jump and that finish line. You have one more obstacle to get through. Your arms are burning and you question if you have the grip strength to pull yourself across one more obstacle. You step up to the final challenge, take a deep breath, and...
This is why Spartans train their grip strength.
Grip Strength Isn't Important — It's Critical
You do not need to be a runner to run a Spartan race, but if you are lacking in grip strength, you are destined for burpees, burpees, and more burpees. It is impossible to make it through a course without stressing your grip.
When thinking about grip strength, most people equate grip strength to hand strength. Grip strength is not about how strong your hands are, though. Grip strength is the neuromuscular force required to hold objects firmly. This force is generated through your upper body, particularly your hands, wrists, and forearms, but can extend up through the upper arms, shoulders, back, and core. In obstacle course racing, we use our grip for swinging, climbing, and carrying.
Most often, when people train their grip specifically for obstacles, they learn how to static hold a weight. This means that they will hold weight in a fixed position, such as a dead hang, for extended periods of time. The longer you can hold a weight — whether it's your body weight, a rope, or a kettlebell — the stronger your grip is, right? Wrong.
Core, Core, Core
One of the biggest factors in grip-strength training is core training. Being able to swing across a monkey bar or pull a weighted sled does not depend on how much weight you can hold in your hands. Rather, it depends on how much weight you can hold in your core to minimize the work being done by your hands. If you can contract your entire body to stay tight while you’re swinging, gravity plays less of a role in pulling down against you, and your hands have less resistance placed on them through the obstacle. This same philosophy carries over to any and all grip obstacles you will encounter on the course.
Related: How to Improve Your Grip Strength
The Grip-Strength Circuit
This workout trains your grip and, more importantly, your core. It works your unilateral strength and stability to improve your single-arm grip strength and cohesive core. The workout targets grip muscles and synergists, which stabilize while our grip gains strength.
You will need a kettlebell and a pull-up bar. These are phenomenal grip-strength tools because they require core training to support all weight placed on the body, and they tend to vary in diameter based on the type and style of each. When you train with a wider handle or bar, you require more grip strength.
Pro Tip: We are Spartan. Spartans take on the toughest of challenges. Challenge yourself today. Find a thick pull-up bar and a wide kettlebell handle, and train harder than you plan to race. When you approach that final obstacle standing between you and the Fire Jump, your grip will thank you for putting in the hard work.
Perform 3 rounds for this circuit.
Dead Hang with Shoulder Taps - 5 Each Side
Single-Arm Kettlebell Swing - 10 Each Arm
Single-Arm Farmer's Carry - 10 Yards Each Side
Single-Arm Kettlebell Bottoms-Up Press - 10 Each Arm
Hanging Leg Raise - 10 Reps
Negative Pull-Up - 10 Reps