Grip strength is an important physical characteristic of successful grappling athletes from all disciplines, with higher handgrip measurements seen in high-level, compared to lower-level athletes in BJJ, judo and wrestling. Furthermore, grip strength may also be seen as an important factor in injury reduction in these sports.
The high-intensity nature of gripping actions in grappling is primarily governed by peripheral, as opposed to central fatigue, and there are a number of factors that contribute to this, including:
- Impaired Ca 2+ release from the sarcoplasmic reticulum.
- Waste product accumulation from anaerobic glycolysis
- Impaired blood flow delivery due to intramuscular pressure from sustained muscle contraction
- Grapplers are often upper-limb dominant, and the upper limb generally has reduced O2 update and metabolic efficiency
This peripheral fatigue may then lead to secondary central fatigue and decreased force output
As grapplers are often already performing high volumes of sport-specific gripping in their skills training, this needs to be complimented with higher-load maximum grip strength work, which will lead to improved neuromuscular efficiency. This should be a combination of eccentric, concentric, and in particular isometric exercise.
In addition to this, specific strategies should also be incorporated to maximise the different facets of grip endurance, and these may be, high-intensity intervals of 30 seconds to improve Ca2+ release, intervals of 120 seconds to improve muscle buffer capacity, and intervals of 240 seconds to improve stroke volume.
Example exercises may include:
- Pulling exercises with thick handles
- Finger stretching with resistance band
- Grip crushers
- Wrist curls (pronated and supinated grip)
- Plate pinches
- Weight dead hangs
- Fabric hangs
Due to the importance of grip strength in grappling, athletes should include a structured grip performance regime as part of a periodised strength and conditioning program.1. Øvretveit K, Laginestra FG. Mechanisms and Trainability of Peripheral Fatigue in Grappling. Strength Cond J. 2020;