Grip Strength – Grappling to Victory

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Wrestling is unlike any other sport, making grip strength imperative

Wrestling has its own unique corner in NDSU Athletics, literally and figuratively. Next to its unique practice area on the second floor in the northwest corner of the Sanford Health Athletic Complex, it’s also the only sport that can truly call itself combative. This is why grip strength is essential.

Exercise: Fat Bar Reverse Curl

Fat Bar Reverse Curl
Step 1
– Select fat bar, grip with palms facing down and begin with bar chest- high.


Fat Bar Reverse Curl
Step 2
– Lower bar with elbows tucked into sides. Do this on a five-count.

Fat Bar Reverse Curl
Step 3
– Curl bar back to the chest as fast and steady as possible.
Step 4
– Repeat with sets of 10, 15 or as many as you can.

Exercise: Plate Grip

Plate Grip
Step 1
– Grab weight plates for each hand.

Step 2 – Stand with good posture, shoulders slightly back, chest up and hold.

Step 3 – Grip plates with fingertips in intervals of 30 seconds.

Gripping Success

When asked who has the strongest grip on the team, assistant strength and conditioning coach and wrestling strength coach Ryan Napoli lists the usual suspects that have experienced the most success on the mat at NDSU. NCAA Championship qualifying wrestlers Clay Ream and Josh Rodriguez stand out in Napoli’s mind as the ones leading the pack during workouts.

Imagine grabbing a 25-pound plate and holding on for dear life with only your fingertips for a minute and a half. The strain and cramping, the fatigue aching through your hands like you have just handwritten 100 high school graduation card thank- you letters. That’s the pain of winners on the Bison wrestling team.

NDSU wrestling

125-pound senior Josh Rodriguez uses his grip strength to grapple head-to-head with his opponent on the mat.

The grip strength and success during the plate grip exercise has equated to wins on the mat for many Bison wrestlers.

“When we think about grip, we think about the forearm,” Napoli said. “But your hand, just like your foot, has a bunch of muscles. With grip, you have a lot of small things going on so we have to strengthen the small muscles and tendons to hold on, to try and get that good grip.”

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Napoli, a former wrestler at Simpson College (Iowa), has gone as far as using what he calls a fat bar in the weight room. The difference between a fat bar and a standard 45-pound bar is the thickness. A fat bar is roughly two inches in diameter, allowing for users to barely wrap their hands around the bar. This puts a strain on the hands and fingers, the exact place on your extremities Napoli wants to fortify.

Along with replacing the standard bar during curls and extensions, the fat bar can be used for exercises such as bench presses and shoulder shrugs.

“Wrestling is so much about gripping things,” Napoli said, “It’s not so much about just holding things but being able to move and grip things. That’s what gets fatigued first in wrestling. You’re always grabbing an arm, grabbing a head, so your grip is going to get fatigued first.”

Grip Strength – Grappling to Victory
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