A blog about Grip Strength, Dinosaur Training, Feats of Strength, Stonelifting, Kettlebell Training, Strength and Conditioning for Martial Arts, and the Paleo Diet.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Grip Strength Training at an Advanced Age

Q: Robert, enjoying the book - well written. I am 63 years of age. Started on the COC grippers last year and now working on the #2.  Having read several books, there is no mention of age and what's to be expected on gripping. Any thoughts on my age factor and what others guys at my age have accomplished?

 A: Thanks for the feedback and your question, which I think is an interesting one - though not easy to answer. I believe grip strength is an odd kind of strength which defies some of the rules that apply to other kinds of physical strength. Grip strength can be built to extremes and maintained with unconventional methods, without the use of drugs, and - at unusual age levels.

That being said, I have seen and heard of both very young and rather old grip strength masters. On the one hand we have Gabriel Sum from Germany, who closed the CoC #3.5 at the age of 21, on the other hand we have Joe Kinney, who had never done any kind of strength training until his late thirties and eventually became the first man to close the CoC #4 when he was over 40.

Many seem to have a strong grip by nature, without any specific training, from the start - I personally know a guy who closed a #2 the first time he tried when he was in his mid-thirties. But then again I know lots of guys older and younger than that who just can't do anything with the grippers and never get anywhere.

However, I still think there is a pattern and some general rules (which can be bent and broken). I definitely believe it helps to start training when young. It builds a base which is never lost again up to a high age. But such a base must not necessarily be built by a specialized strength training. I think the most common example is hard physical labour. Being a hand worker from a young age can also build a good strength base. Joe Kinney is a good example here, again. He hadn't done any specialized strength training until he was in his late
30s, but he was a hand worker all his life. This definitely helped him build a solid base of general strength he could capitalize on when he got interested in the grippers. And the amazing thing is what huge potential he still had, being middle-aged. So I would say your past definitely plays a role. If you have been a hand worker all your life I definitely believe you have that solid base you can still capitalize on. Same if you have been active in other sports your whole life. But
it must not even be your WHOLE life. I believe the crucial years are somewhere between 13 and 20. It can be taken as a general rule that a guy who has been active (whether with physical labour or in sports) at that age retains a solid base for most of his life.

Another thing that comes into play is, of course, genetics - although I believe this is often overrated. Do you have strong bones? Thick wrists? Your face has prominent features? Then this could be a sign that you were given a great potential for strength by nature. However, as I said, I do not believe anyone should limit or excuse himself by blaming his genetics.

I do not know about your past and your genetics, but all I can say is, the fact that you are now working on the #2 tells me you can already close a #1. At a recent grip strength workshop I held, there was only one of the participants, a young man - a hand worker, by the way - who could close a #1. So, as far as I can tell from afar, you are definitely strong, and I should believe you do have good genetics and a "solid base".

At the same time I do not want to advise you to completely disregard your age. You have to observe certain laws of nature and be realistic. Generally, the rule applies that recovery time increases with age. I don't know any reason why this shouldn't be the same with grip strength. So don't train too frequently. Allow at least six, better nine, rest days between training sessions for a specific kind of grip strength. Also, observe the signals your body gives you. Anything hurts, or progress stagnates or goes backwards, take a rest. Recovery should be one of your priorities. Also, watch your nutrition. Get all your vitamins, minerals, and protein. Eat lots of fresh vegetables and fruit, and meat or fish from good sources. Get lots of sleep, sunlight, and walk a lot. It always helps.

As far as your goals go, all I could tell you would be speculation. I do not know whether anyone closed a #3 at an age above sixty. All I know is, closing a #3 is a hell of a lot of work, even at an "ideal age" (whatever that may be). However, aim high, as I say in my book. Be realistic, but show us what is possible. Even if you close a #2 or #2.5 this would be a formidable achievement at your age and you would certainly earn respect from the grip world.

By the way, you are not the only "old-timer" (if I may use the term) who excels in grip strength. As an inspiration, here are two examples of what is possible:

Michael Corlett sets the American record for the Hub-style pinch gripper at age 58:
http://www.ironmind.com/ironmind/opencms/Articles/2012/Jul/2012_IronMind_Record_Breaker.html

Dan Hodge crushes an apple at age 77: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfKKb8AlQiw

Also, consider this forum discussion:
http://www.ironmind-forum.com/forum/training/grip/49859-decrease-in-strength-in-old-age

Good luck with your training,
Robert

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