Ways to get a better grip to become a better wrestler

Updated: July 3, 2024

Photo: Sandbag lifts from the ground will force the grip and fingers to work in conjunction with full body strength.

By Zach Even-Esh

Recently I saw an athlete at my high school using a weightlifting belt and wrist straps before deadlifting. This was common for me in high school as well and my goal is to help wrestlers avoid the mistakes I made over 30 years ago. Yet, we still see wrestlers and wrestling coaches training the wrong way. 

The wrestler must have a strong grip. The type of grip strength exercises we implement at The Underground Strength Gym are a blend of grip / hand-specific movements as well as exercises that build grip strength combined with full-body strength. Below are a list of exercises and tips to use with each of them to develop the type of strength that punishes your competition.

Sandbag Lifting – Any sandbag lifts from the ground will force the grip and fingers to work in conjunction with full body strength. Some of our favorite sandbag exercises are clean and press, shouldering, bent-over rows and curls. We use old Army-Navy duffel bags but there are companies that sell sandbags that are sturdy and have Velcro to ensure sand doesn’t spill out. 

Trap-Bar Deadlifts & Static Holds & Farmer Carry – After doing every set of Trap-Bar Deads, hold the last rep for 15-20 seconds. This builds full-body strength and crush-grip endurance. Other exercises can be a combination of a trap-bar farmer walk for 50 feet + 5 deadlifts, then carry again for 50 feet, 5 more deadlifts and finally, finish with a 15-second hold! These are very tough on the entire body and grip. 

One of our favorites is on the last set of Trap-Bar Deads, have each wrestler hold the last rep for maximum time as a competition against the other athletes in the group. The competition always pushes wrestlers to go harder!

Rope Climb – Every wrestler should have a rope at home. This can be in a garage or outside from a thick tree branch. If you have low ceilings, you can do multiple rope climbs in a row. 

Captains of Crush Grippers – I love these grippers. They are the best and always challenge you. I recommend various resistance options on the COC Grippers so you can do both high reps and low reps to build a blend of strength and muscular endurance in the grip. 

Wrist Roller – You can make your own wrist roller with a 2-inch PVC pipe and some paracord. These work the muscular endurance of the forearms with both flexion and extension of the wrists. It is crucial as a wrestler to develop strength from all angles. We call this “STRONG All Around.”

Thick-Grip Barbells / Dumbbells – At The Underground Strength Gym, we have purchased many different barbells that have 2-inch thick diameter to consistently challenge the grip on as many exercises as possible. We use thick bars for bench press, military press and our advanced / older lifters deadlift with the thick bar as well. Thick-grip dumbbells have been specially made for us for a long time. If you can find a welder or an equipment company to make them for you, go for it. I have used BlackWidowTG.com for our custom needs. 

Farmer-Walk Variations – You cannot go wrong with all the different types of Kettlebell and dumbbell carries. You can vary the distance and vary the positions to ensure you are strengthening your grip and entire body not just from all angles, but with the different types of strength. Heavy and short distance builds absolute strength. Longer distances build muscular endurance and strength endurance. 

I have several videos on my YouTube channel dedicated to grip strength so check them out to get a visual on all the options you have for grip strength. YouTube.com/zevenesh. Until the next time, train hard and train to get strong all around! 

(Zach Even-Esh is the owner of The Underground Strength Gym in New Jersey. Zach serves as a consultant for Division I wrestling coaches and teams, Special Ops military and other serious athletes. For more information, visit http://ZachStrength.com and https://UndergroundStrengthClub.com)