Grip Training for Wrestlers

How many of you have been involved in a match in which you have been completely overwhelmed by your opponents grip strength? It slows down your attacks, physically and mentally wears you down, and oftentimes is the determining factor of who will win a close match. I have yet to coach a wrestler who enjoys the grip training we do. However, it is a necessary evil that must be trained with consistency and intensity in order to make a noticeable impact. I can guarantee you though, if you train your grip like an animal you will wear your opponents down quicker, finish more of your shots, get off the bottom more, and ride more effectively on top. Not a bad trade off for less than 10 extra minutes of your time a couple times a week.

To make things easier as far as how to work your grip training into your program, I’ve broken the grip exercises into three categories- finger, thumb, and wrist. This way you’ll be better able to track and identify exactly what component each exercise is strengthening.

One of my favorite finger exercises is using a kettlebell bottoms up. Using a kettlebell bottoms up is one of the most challenging things you’ll ever do in the weight room. Position a kettlebell in your hand with the bottom of it facing the ceiling. Clamp down hard and press the kettlebell overhead. You can also perform a floor press or bench press bottoms up as well as overhead squats.

A great thumb exercise is the plate pinch. To perform the plate pinch, take any number of plates and put them side by side. Make sure that the outer two plates are both facing in so that you’re gripping the smooth side of both of the plates. Pinch the plates, lift them up, and hold for time. You can perform plate pinches with a single hand or two hands. You can also pinch more than 2 plates. Be creative and find new thicknesses and weights to challenge your grip.

The tried and true wrist exercise that I have all my wrestlers perform throughout the year is the wrist roller. As a wrestler, you’ve probably done these at least once in your life, so I’ll be brief in the description. All you need to do is hang a weight from a plate holder and roll it up and down. Keep your arms straight out in front of you for some additional shoulder stability work.

About the Author

Dickie White is the co-founder of Shamrock Strength and Conditioning, one of the top systems for training champion wrestlers. Dickie is a 2006 graduate of the Ithaca College Clinical Exercise Science program and holds a CSCS through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. For more information on how you can improve your performance on the mat through his strength training system please visit