By: Greg Chabot
Photos: Daniel C
Age is the great equalizer that rears its ugly head in all aspects of our lives, especially in our physical strength. Grip strength is often a neglected concern as we age. There are many factors that contribute to loss of grip strength. Injury, arthritis, and lack of exercise are a few examples. Being on the wrong side of 50, I started to notice my grip weakening due to injury and age, especially while shooting big bore handguns. I had difficulty controlling the weapon during follow up shots. This concerned me enough to implement grip exercises into my workout program.
Grip is often overlooked in shooting, but, in my opinion, it is more important than caliber or choice of weapon. A good grip not only helps mitigate felt recoil, but it also provides a stable base for your weapon, which helps with accuracy and follow up shots. A strong grip is also beneficial in all aspects of everyday life. The focus of this article is on building and maintaining a strong grip. Many of the described exercises can be done in the comfort of your home. Full disclosure, I am a “Gym Rat” and consider physical fitness an important factor in shooting proficiency.
- Squeeze grips are one of the easiest ways to give your hands a great workout. They can be purchased in most sporting goods stores. They come in various weights. I recommend trying them to find one that works for you. I use one with a 150-pound rating. I tend to use mine throughout the course of the day. When starting, I recommend 5 sets of 10 reps for each hand. As you get stronger, add more reps.
- Dead hanging is another simple exercise that is an excellent strength builder. Using a pull-up bar or tree branch, grab it and just hang for as long as you can. While hanging, try your best to keep a tight grip. I do this exercise multiple times during a workout.
- Dumbbell holds also build grip strength. Stand a dumbbell on end; squat down; using your fingertips, grasp the dumbbell; and stand up. Hold for as long as you can. Set it down and repeat for 10 reps. Due to shape, no dumbbell will fit your hand perfectly, but you can find one that somewhat fits your hand.
- Olympic plate walk is like the dumbbell hold. If your gym has the rubber Olympic plates, stand them up, grasp with your fingers, and walk across the room. Turn around, walk back, and set the plate down. That is one rep. If you do not have access to Olympic style plates, you can also use a dumbbell. The movement while walking makes this a very challenging grip exercise.
I have been doing this program twice a week for six months and have seen positive results. My recoil mitigation and accuracy with handguns have improved considerably, along with control while shooting rapid fire drills. The biggest gain for me has been shooting magnum revolvers again, without worrying about controlling the recoil these calibers are known for. If you are having difficulty with recoil mitigation or grip strength in general, give the above exercises a shot. If you stick with them, you should see improvement in a month or less.