When I first began getting into grip strength training, I did what most people do when they’re looking for information (yes, even librarians, whether they’ll admit it or not)–I went to the good old Internet and started surfing. I wanted to research some grip athletes. That’s how I ran into Tommy Heslep.
I’ve said it before, but I think it’s worth repeating: there’s no way to tell just how strong somebody’s grip is without seeing it, which is one of the reasons I think it is so fun. If some massive, musclebound monster with shoulders the size of your head walks into the room you could plausibly predict that he is a relatively strong presser.
You can’t do that with hands. You can’t look at Tommy Heslep’s hands and think “Wow, I bet that guy could crush a potato.” Probably because most of us wouldn’t even suspect that anyone might try such stunts, but you get the idea, right?
He has also had a bend named after him. I’m referring to steel bending, the manly art of bending nails, bolts, and other pieces of metal just because. “Heslep style” is so difficult that I don’t even try it anymore, or pretend that I’m going to get good at it.
He has also closed the #4 Captain of Crush Gripper from Ironmind, he can pinch two 45 lb plates using only two fingers and a thumb, he can explode through a deck of cards like nobody I’ve ever seen, and best of all…he’s not a big guy.
Tommy is under six feet tall and weighs less than 200 lbs. I like this because it reinforces the point that anyone can develop crazy grip strength, where not everyone might be built for a 1000 lb deadlift like Andy Bolton, for instance. When you see another official #4 closer like Magnus Samuelsson, you might look at his size and think “Well of course he can do it!” although that’s incorrect thinking when it comes to grippers.
I was not surprised to see that one of Tommy’s first inspirations was strongman Dennis Rogers, a master of grip feats with a similar build.
Grip training is something that everyone can do, and it is a lot of fun. If you’re looking for ways to get started, I highly recommend John Brookfield’s Mastery of Hand Strength and Adam T. Glass’ Industrial Strength Grip DVD.
All respect to Mr. Heslep. I’m a huge fan and would love to meet him one day.