Joe Makovec, strength and conditioning coach for the nationally ranked Hofstra wrestling team, chats with STACK about working your grip to improve your grappling.
STACK: How do you work grip strength into your wrestling strength plan?
JM: We work grip strength as a side effect of bar lifts, like Trap Raises and Rows, where I don’t allow them to use straps. Occasionally, I’ll let them Hang Clean or Power Clean with straps, but it’s usually closer to the start of the season, when we start lowering the weight.
Are there any exercises that specifically work grip strength?
JM: We do a lot of Wrist Rollers and fat bar exercises, like Rows and Curls. We do a Farmer’s Carry, too, with a fat bar and with regular dumbbells. We also do a lot of pulling motions where you have to grip a rope.
What’s a fat bar, and why do you use it?
JM: It’s a thicker bar that has the same diameter as the hole of a plate—about two inches. It challenges finger strength more and really works the forearms. For the Fat Bar Curl, one partner curls for 30 seconds, then the other partner does it for 30 seconds. They switch back on forth for several minutes. A lot of times the wrestlers complain about how their biceps don’t get tired doing these, but their forearms are dead. And that’s exactly what I’m looking for.
How is the Farmer’s Carry performed?
JM: We do it over 30 yards—there and back—with a station set up at both ends. One station has the fat bar, which is 15 pounds with two 25s on it, so it weighs 65 pounds, and the other has 65-pound dumbbells. You alternate sets between those two stations.
What rope pulling exercises do you use?
JM: We attach a rope to sleds that people typically drag as they run. You sit about 15 yards away from it and do seated rows, pulling the sled all the way to you. Then your partner pulls it back. You go back and forth for five minutes.
How often should a wrestler do grip-specific exercises?
JM: We do them twice a week during the off-season. But now that we’re in season, we don’t work it as much. We do a lot of pull-ups, pulling exercises and Power Cleans without straps. They get enough grip work through those.