This is a guest post from “Napalm” Jedd Johnson, grip expert, one of my heroes, all-around cool guy, and very, very strong man. Jedd has been a big inspiration in my own pursuit of strength. I love his ebooks and his genuine interest in helping people get stronger–it really shows in his writing and speaking. Best of all, Jedd is really, really smart. There’s nothing I despise like a stereotype and Jedd is as strong and as smart as they come: too many people think the two don’t mix. Grip strength seems like a weird pursuit to lots of people. But when I hear Jedd talk about his passion, I get fired up too. I hope you feel the same.
PS: I am not thrilled that Jedd refers to me as “Mr. Hanagarne.” As his penance, I am posting a video of Jedd getting slapped around by a real man (David Whitley from Irontamer.com) at the end of the post (the best part is at the end of the video)
My Grip History
Hello to all my colleagues in Training. This is Jedd Johnson.
Josh recently contacted me and broached the subject of a guest post. He told me that if I did not put one together for him, he would toss me around the room. Judging by the way he is manhandling kettlebells these days, I don’t want to mess with him, so I am glad to write a guest post for Mr. Hanagarne.
First, in case you don’t know me, I am Jedd Johnson. My website is DieselCrew.com. My good friend, Jim Smith (Smitty) and I formed Diesel Crew in 1999 when we began training
with the iron together in the small basement at the town chiropractor’s office.
We started a website in 2002 or 2003 and since then we have striven to bring you the best in information for fitness, strength, nutrition, and health. We have dabbled in almost every type of strength training over the last 10 years lifting together. Along the way, we discovered Grip Strength training.
Grip Training, although growing, is still somewhat unknown, so I thought what I might do is cover my history in the sport of Grip. Maybe through this post, I can even create a few Grip Strength converts.
I found out about Grip in 2002 on the Dr Squat forum from a fellow named Rick Walker. Grip Training involves performing lifts and feats using Grip Strength, or the strength generated by the musculature from the elbow down to the fingertips. At first it made no sense to me to spend time training such a small percentage of my body, when I already dedicated so much time to training my entire body. However, I soon found out just how fun it is to train the grip and perform feats of strength.
Rick began publicizing a contest he was promoting called the Battle for Grip Supremacy. I had just started training and competing in Strongman at the time, and this Grip stuff sounded like the perfect complementary combination, so I signed up and competed in my first Grip competition in September 2003. In this contest of about 13 individuals, I came in 7th place, but from just that one Grip contest, I knew I was hooked for life.
Later in 2003, I also certified as a Captain of Crush, the title given to those who can close an IronMind #3, #3.5, or #4 gripper under authentic conditions. Back then they did not actually have a 3.5 gripper certification – just the #3 and #4, but the increase in interest has created additional certification opportunities both with the IronMind Enterprises company and other gripper companies.
In 2004, I competed in two Grip Contests. The first one was Strongarm Tactics. It sounds ridiculous to someone who is not addicted to Grip Strength, but I actually purchased a set of $300 tickets and flew to Minnesota in the dead of winter to compete in a Grip Competition.
For the next several months, I concentrated on my gripper training and certified as a Mash Monster Level 1 and 2, through the Gripboard. I got these two certifications done in rapid succession, but have struggled with the Level 3 ever since then.
When Rick Walker canceled the Battle for Grip Supremacy 2004, this left the Fall completely void of any East Coast grip competitions, so Smitty and I put together the Global Grip Challenge. This ended up being a huge competition with like 20 competitors coming from about half a dozen states and even one fellow that flew in from England, Steve Gardener. I finished in third place in 2004. This established me as a contender in the sport and gave me confidence.
Every year since then, Smitty and I have held the Global Grip Challenge.
The year 2005 was a special year because it marked the coming of Chad Woodall to the sport. I won GGC that year and became the last athlete in the United States to take 1st place away from him. That year I thought I broke the World Record in the Vertical Bar Lift, but after calibrating the weights later on, it was obvious that the record was safe, and the total of all the weights lifted was about 6 pounds short of the record. One of the non-contest highlights of GGC 2005 was that we recognized Richard Sorin, the very first Captain of Crush, with a plaque for his legendary leadership in the promotion of grip strength.
In 2006, we meshed the GGC with the birthday party of the very fellow we honored the year before, Richard Sorin. We packaged all of the specialized equipment needed for the competition into Smitty’s car and drove 14 hours down to Irmo, SC to hold the Global Grip Challenge. Midway through the event, we recognized Dr. Randall Strossen with a plaque similar to the one we awarded to Sorin the year before. Woodall won and I finished in 3rd place after coming out of the gates poorly, unable to close a gripper left handed due to some wicked lateral epicondylitis I had picked up from too much nail bending.
This also marked the year that I began training from time to time with John Eaton. Probably the World’s Strongest Couch Potato, John would come to my house or Smitty’s and complete various serious feats of Grip strength each time with mainly only technique improvements and very little specialized Grip training. He and I also drove to Illinois in October to compete in the Backyard Bastard Bash, promoted by John Beatty of Fat Bastard Barbell Company. John has built a National company in his garage and has done a ton for the sport of Grip.
This was also the year I published the Nail Bending eBook. At the time, there was very little information available on grip strength and nail bending. YouTube had not yet been developed, and, besides just myself, many athletes new to the sport of Grip were injuring themselves with excessive volume and poor technique. Over the course of several months, I meticulously wrote the Nail Bending eBook and released it in December.
In 2007, I finished 2nd to Chad Woodall for the second year in a row. This was the first year we held the GGC at a local Martial Arts facility, the Edge Fitness. This proved to be a much more welcoming facility to hold the contest in compared to the town’s YMCA. Injury free, I just could not pull it all together to beat Chad. Was it a sign of things to come?
In 2008, Chad took the title from me for the third year in a row. Holding the contest at the Edge again, the competitor field was somewhat different this year. Each year the group has had its core group of competitors, including Chad, Chris Rice, Brent Barbe, and myself, but there are also new faces each year, including Andrew Durniat, who showed up like a mysterious unidentified blip on the radar screen. This kettlebell specialist has some of the strongest hands in the nation and seemingly built them without doing specific Grip work.
In early 2009, I continued my series of ebooks on feats of strength with the Card Tearing eBook. Another popular feat of grip strength, Card Tearing compliments Nail Bending very well. The two help develop a set of wrists that can literally destroy things.
Now, I find myself about two months away from another major competition. Now known as the US Grip Championships and requiring official qualification in sanctioned feeder contests in order for athletes to participate, our Diesel Grip competition originally referred to by three little letters, GGC, is coming August 29th, 2009. Will Chad Woodall 4-peat as Grip Champion of the United States? Will Andrew Durniat put the kettlebells down long enough to train specifically for victory? Do I have what it takes to reach the podium? All these questions will be answered at the end of this summer.
In the meantime, I would love for you to consider trying your hand at Grip Strength and taking part in a competition. For more information on Grip, please check out StraightToTheBar.com’s archives, or my blog, Napalm’s Corner.
All the best in your training!
Jedd Johnson is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach who has competed in many Strongman and Grip Strength competitions, and spoken at several seminars and clinics. His Nail Bending and Card Tearing ebooks are considered the definitive sources for information on these topics.