Sunday, April 21, 2024

The Grip - Fred Pastel (1935)

                                                                     From this issue: March, 1935. 

A few weeks ago I had the first experience in a very long time of meeting a crushing grip. I was introduced to a tall, slender young man who grasped my hand and squeezed so hard that I almost dropped to my knees. His large hand easily encircled mine, and being caught unawares, my knuckles gave, leaving me with a sore hand for almost an hour afterwards. 

I had placed that man in the weakling class almost as soon as he grasped my hand. It is only the weak man or the beginner in exercising who makes a display of his gripping strength when introduced.

It is rare to meet a strong man who gives "crushers." The man who is weak does not want you to know it so he combats the weakness by gripping hard and the really strong man knows that he does not have to resort to this type of display. 

Vansittart, the famous old timer, was well known for his forearm strength. His strength in this direction was the basis for many of his spectacular feats. Naturally strong and proud of his grip he had one finger-strength feat that always struck me as a showy example of exhibitionism.

It is said that he would put on an ordinary glove over his right hand, place a clay pipe between each of his fingers, and suddenly squeeze his fingers together and shatter the pipes. This is a real feat of finger strength he always received tremendous applause for it. 

Bob Hoffman's father . . . 


. . . had a tremendous forearm that he developed by gripping. He had a forearm that started from the end of his hand in one great swelling curve that always marks the exceptional grip. He developed it by squeezing newspapers into balls or squeezing two rubber balls together and the exercise that he always practiced while walking three miles to his office was to clench the left fist as his left foot hit the ground, and, as his right foot came forward and hit the ground he would clench his right fist. 

For the beginner there is always the old standard beer cap to squeeze between the thumb and forefinger to develop the pinching abilities. 

Sam Olmstead does a harder feat of the same kind. He pinches and breaks walnuts the same way. By using two hands to start with you can gradually work up to one hand. 

Jowett made mention of a feat that always impressed me. He had heard of a French monk who would pulverize a grain of wheat by rolling it between his thumb and finger. It would take a calloused finger to be able to do this. 

A lot of youngsters forget that THE MIND has a lot to do with the power of the grip. A man with a strong willpower can think into his muscles and make them close and contract more forcibly than a weak-willed man. 

In developing the grip, often the upper part of the forearm is not called into play. When this happens the lower part develops thick and heavy and the upper part measures almost the same as the forearm about three inches above the wrist. It is very often seen in those who take up hand balancing on the fingertips. But if the upper part is not developed you cannot hope to hang on after the elbow begins to move and twist. Fortunately, it is hard to exercise one part without affecting the other. 

Any feat done on the fingertips is good, such as chinning on the transom over the doorway. You cannot grip the space with your whole hand and you are forced to exert yourself. This leaves out the thumb but other exercises bring it into use. 

One of the advanced feats is to chin from the rafters by pinching them between the thumb and fingers. This is hard so it is better to practice pushups from the floor on the fingertips and develop from an easier angle. At first you may bend the fingertips but later try to keep them straight. 

Practice this on the table in your room: Place the fingertips under the table ledge and by curling the wrist lift the table. This sounds easy and is if you keep the elbows high and make the forearm do the work, but it is quite a strain on the fingers if the elbow is close to the side and held as low as possible. 

For building up each finger separately without too much strain get a rocking chair. Lie face downward with the forearms flat on the floor and press the rocker to the floor with each finger until tired. 

An exercise with a plain chair is to grip it by the back legs and lift the chair to the level of the shoulder. This develops the outer edge of the forearm which is neglected by ordinary exercise. Start the exercise by grasping the chair legs high up and as your power increases go lower down. The difficult thing is to keep the chair from over-balancing and falling to the floor.

A gripping test that can be easily done by the beginner because it can be regulated to individual strength, is to drop away from a door edge . . . 


. . . and as you gain momentum, quickly grasp the door edge with the fingers of one hand. This can be done with each hand alternately. 

A good feat of endurance is to grip a hanging rope with one hand and try to hold on for as long as possible. A great many strong men find this very hard and if you cannot hand on you will have a lot of famous company. I have seen a half-dozen men at Klein's fail in the attempt. A way to get started on this is to roll up a newspaper and then try to twist it apart. When you are twisting, move the forearms in all directions to give the upper parts a workout. Do not let the paper slip between the fingers. 

An Excentro sports grip is one of the best grip developers I have ever seen. It can be set light enough for the weakest and with a turn of the set screw so that George Jowett and Henry Steinborn could not center it. 

Note: What is this thing? 

Hand crusher grips with various tensions are a good means of building the gripping power. Either these or the Excentro can be carried in the pocket and  used at odd moments. 

For the last exercise I am giving an old timer well known as the Zottman exercise. Take a sheet of newspaper and crush it into your palm. Then when you have it in a ball hold the forearm straight down at the waist. Bring the forearm in a circular motion in front of the chest to the shoulder gripping the wad tightly and rotating wrist inward as the forearm comes up. On the way down just as vigorously twist the wrist outward and bring it back to the starting point. Repeat with the other arm and alternate until tired. 

The effectiveness lies in the concentration that you apply to the exercise. Strong willpower will make the fingers clamp down on the paper much harder than when you apply this power poorly. 

For a humorous trick to try on your friends and on which you may bet, get a clothes pin and a dime. Place the dime between the ends of the clothes pin and grip the ends between the thumb and forefinger. 

The idea is to hold the dime in the clothes pin for three minutes. It sounds so deceptively easy that you can bet a small amount quickly and find enough suckers to try it on after they have seen the first one miss. The longest that I have ever seen it done was for 90 seconds. If you do not believe it is hard, try it yourself in private and time yourself, for the time will pass verrrrrrrrrrrrrry slowly. It is a nice trick and the man proud of his grip will fall for it very easily. 

Enjoy Your Gripping, er, Lifting! 

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