The Purpose of Hand Grips for Functional Training.
What is good??
So in a minute I’m going to start talking about hand grips and what their purpose is for functional training. This may seem like common knowledge to many. But I assure you it is not. There’s a lot of conflicting information out there. And questions get asked such as: should hand grips actually grip to the bar? Are they supposed to protect my hand? Do I use chalk with hand grips? Should hand grips support my body weight? Do I need to use my grip? All of those questions and many more, continually resurface.
What I am going to attempt to do with this blog is to synthesize all of that information and explain to you what the functional training demands are for bar work and how hand grips can help; what are the common types of hand grips (materials and designs) and how do they work; features that hand grips require based off of functional training demands, and then as a BONUS I’ll talk about where the Element 26 hand grips fit in to all of this and how we designed them with all these considerations in mind. Feel free to jump around throughout this blog. I understand you may be searching for one piece of information over the other. If you ever have any questions or concerns about anything, please reach out and email me at: email@example.com.
On your mark. Get set. Go!
How hand grips can help when analyzing the demands of functional training bar work.
To explain this the best, let’s first review the demands of functional training in regards to bar work which is when you will require hand grips. So when we think of bar work there are quite a few exercise options. The big ones are pull-ups, toes-to-bars, and muscle-ups, which are performed on a bar overhead; and then there’s any barbell, dumbbell or kettlebell exercise option. I’m not going to go into every single variation or use of hand grips for every option, but I will touch on a common one to provide a sense perspective for the demands of functional training. So in functional training, let’s look at the butterfly pull-up example where there is a lot of movement occurring. Depending on the athlete level, there’s going to be a considerable amount of force that is placed upon the bar as they come down and transition back up and there’s also a lot of friction on the hands since the hands are rotating and making small, oscillatory movements with every rep. As the athlete gets more fatigued, that force and friction will increase. So take a set with more reps involved, an athlete is more likely to develop a blister and rip the skin on their hands towards the end of the set (or sets) because there is more force and friction pulling on the skin of the hands. Also the longer the set or sets continue, the more tired the forearms and hands become which means less ability to muscularly control the rotation of the hands on the bar. That’s when the grips come into play. In this case, hand grips will reduce the friction between the hands and the bar, protecting them, and also they will reduce the amount of fatigue in the hands and forearms, just a bit, to perform more work safely.
**Note: hand grips are not meant to support your whole body weight. So when you do start to fatigue, do not just rely on the grip or the grip strap to hold you up there… You’ll either shorten the life of the grip or you’ll just fall off the bar. Neither need to happen! This is especially true in a grip such as the Element 26 IsoGrips which tend to stick to the bar. Don’t fall or hang into the strap, remember to use some of your own grip too.
Common types and styles of hand grips and their purpose.
Ok now let’s move on to hand grip types and styles for functional training. Some with 3-finger holes, some with 2-finger holes, some with full palm coverage… the list goes on. And all of those different designs, well, they are all constructed by different materials: leather, synthetic blend, fabric, neoprene, silicone, isoprene polymer… again, there are a ton of materials that are used. Out of all the materials on the market for functional training, the most common is leather. Leather tends to be quite durable, however many leather variations will not cover the entire palm/hand. Some do, but the majority are 2-finger hole or 3-finger hole options. Because the leather itself does not grip the bar very well, you require more hand surface contact to get an actual grip on the bar. That’s why you will see athletes chalking up their leather grips and hands, because without it, you have minimal grip. The 2-finger hole grips and the 3-finger hole grips both cover the hand where the friction is the highest so they protect your hands. No one wants a ripped up hand after doing a high-rep set of pull-ups. That’ll put a whole damper on your day. Some grips, in fact, do cover the whole palm. Most leather options will require a bit of chalk to stay on the bar, while materials such as isoprene polymer (rubber-like material found in the Element 26 IsoGrips) will grip the best without chalk. Remember the grips are designed to grip the actual bar, reduce overall hand/forearm fatigue, and provide a barrier of protection between your hand and the bar.
Does all this make sense so far?
Whether it’s yes or no, shoot me an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org or just visit the Element 26 Instagram and shoot me a direct message.
Whatever is easier for you!
The necessary features that make a great hand grip for overall functional training.
What makes a great hand grip for all-things functional training? Well let me explain. The section above was related specifically to bar work, this section here will relate to bar work and everything else. To explain this, let’s take a lot at the popular WOD called “Fran.” If you’re familiar, this workout is a staple in the functional training world and one in which many gyms use as a benchmark for short-duration fitness.
Thruster (95 lbs men, 65 lbs women)
So it’s 3 rounds alternating between thrusters and pull-ups while descending in the total amount of reps each round. This workout is a straight “grinder.” Meaning you just attack it and get it done fast, but it’s physically tough and mentally taxing. So in a workout like this, imagine you have the finger-hole hand grips, you can leave them on your fingers for the thruster, flip them to the back of your hand, or just not use the finger-holes and let the grip flop down in front (in which case you can grab the bar with your hand still without the grip in between). Then as you finish your thrusters, you either just hop on the bar if you’re using the finger-holes, swing the grip back to the front of your hand and hop on the bar, or just hop on the bar without using the finger-holes and now you’re essentially just using the “flop-over” technique which works well. It’s all personal preference. And then after your pull-ups, you repeat.
**The important thing to remember with the flop-over technique is you may have a tendency to hang on the grip and strap of the grip. Don’t do this, try to use some of your actual grip. This is especially true for grips like the Element 26 IsoGrips which will stick incredibly well to the bar without chalk... I'm repeating myself, I know....
When looking at “Fran,” there are several important features you need in a grip here:
- Ease of use: the grip needs to be on your wrist and ready to go. Whether that means you flip it around or not, it needs to happen fast and easy. The quicker the transition, the faster your time.
- “Grip” ability: Does the hand grip actually grip? Meaning whether you are using chalk or not, can it maintain a grip to the bar without costing you hand and forearm fatigue? That’s incredibly important. Keep in mind if you are using leather, you may or may not need extra chalk between rounds, so just make sure the chalk bucket is nearby so you’re not running around. Part of the problem we solved with the E26 IsoGrips is that they do not require chalk, so less time for stoppage.
- Protection: The grips need to be able to protect your hands for all 45 pull-ups, if they don’t you’re going to end up with bleeding, ripped hands. Not pretty.
- Versatility: Maybe you’re not doing Fran, maybe you’re doing a WOD with burpees, box jumps, dumbbell snatches and muscle-ups. The grips need to help you transition quickly, protect your hands on the specific movements where there is increased friction, and reduce forearm/hand fatigue.
If you’re grips do all of the above, then great! You have a winner!
BONUS: The blueprint for the Element 26 IsoGrips and IsoGrip Pros.
At E26 we literally developed the hand grips in a similar way that this blog is laid out. We started by looking at the demands of you, the athlete, in regards to high-friction, high-fatigue situations. Which in the hand grip world means all the bar work like we talked about in the first section. We knew the grip had to protect your hand from rips and actually grip to the bar to reduce forearm/hand fatigue. At the same time, although everyone and their dog developed the 2-finger and 3-finger hole leather grips, we wanted something that would protect the whole hand, not just on a small part of the hand where most of the friction is. In addition to that, we wanted a grip that could actually “grip” since there would be less skin exposure when covering the whole hand. Remember, with chalk, skin will grip a bar really well until it gets sweaty. So we developed the IsoGrips using Isoprene Polymer, a rubber-like material. The grips not only protect the hand, but also grip exceptionally well to a steel bar. Chalk is not advised to use at all with this material and will make your grip more slippery. However if the IsoGrips do get chalk on them mid-WOD, you can use your sweat to wipe it off. Seriously, it works amazingly! Minimizing the chalk issue also reduces the amount of stops at the chalk bucket, saving you valuable seconds in your WOD.
Currently there are two models: the IsoGrips and the IsoGrip Pros. The difference between the IsoGrips and the IsoGrip Pros is that the IsoGrips, instead of holes, have finger loops on the back. With those loops the grip can stay in place on your hand throughout the WOD. Therefore it’s not flopping around if you prefer that. The Pro version has no loops. This is for the athlete who would rather not have the loops and just wants to flop the grip over the bar or just wants to flip the grip around the back of the hand when it’s not in use. The straps on both models are a standard velcro strap, which is easy-to-use and allows for quick transitions... So two different models designed for you based on your preference.
**With both models, but mostly the Pro version, do not hang off the strap. The IsoGrips will grip the bar very well. As you fatigue, you begin to sink into the strap without realizing you’re not using your own grip that much anymore.... I know I sound like a broken record, but the strap is not meant to hold your entire body weight. Holding your weight reduces the life of the strap.
To summarize: the IsoGrip Hand Grips have been designed for versatility in overall functional training. The whole hand/palm is covered (the thumb and top halves of the fingers are exposed) to protect your hand from ripping and blisters. The grips are made of isoprene polymer which grips to a steel bar insanely well, no chalk required. With increased bar grip, there’s decreased hand/forearm fatigue. The straps on both models are very comfortable and quick/easy-to-use. These grips have been designed for athletes of all levels ranging from the beginner level to the elite level.
Now I want you to take 5 deep breaths, digest this, then send me an email to: email@example.com stating whether this makes sense or not.
If you have any questions about hand grips or the Element 26 IsoGrips, I would LOVE to answer them.
If you would like to check out the IsoGrips for yourself, I’ve put a big red button below that you can click so you can explore the page in the Element 26 store.
As always, I’m rooting for you!
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Element 26 Co-Founder
Facebook Group: Team E26: Less Ego, More Iron
Online Store: element26.co