Throughout my years of coaching people in many disciplines, occasionally one big change greatly enhances an athlete’s ability. For the most part, however, it’s improvement in a lot of little things that adds up to a big change in performance. This is why so many coaches take a stroke or event and break it down into small sub-units for development. It’s the old cut-the-pie-into-small-pieces theory of teaching.
One of those often-overlooked little things is strength in the hand and forearm. By working with a hand-grip, you can strengthen your paddle in the water, and help delay the onset of fatigue that initiates stroke breakdown. The grip I like best is the foam-covered spring that resembles the letter ‘V.’ The model without the cushioning foam tends to be a little harder on the hands.
The following exercise can be done quickly and just about anywhere. The key is to have the hand grip in a handy place, to remind you to use it every other day. I always have one in my car. Another good place to keep one is on a carabineer clip that’s attached to your backpack or workout bag. The point is to keep it handy so you can use it in the car or in the bus as you head to school, work, or the pool. I recommend using the handgrip after practice, when your muscles are already fatigued, or 3 to 4 hours before you swim so that you don’t pre-exhaust your muscles.
WHY DO IT:
To strengthen the forearm, wrist and fingers.
HOW TO DO IT:
Grasp the handgrip with the spring coil facing up, so that the letter ‘V’ is upside down. We are going to strengthen the wrist/forearm in three positions:
1. With your hand as it normally rests along side your body (neutral), squeeze the handgrip completely so that the foam handles touch the desired amount of times.
2. Now turn your hand in toward your body (pronated) and squeeze the same amount of times.
3. Third, turn your hand out away from your body (supinated) and also squeeze the same number of times.
4. Now reverse the placement of the grip in the same hand so that the spring coil is facing down, forming the letter ‘V.’ Repeat the sequence you just performed, accomplishing the same number of repetitions with your hand in the neutral position, then pronated, and thirdly supinated.
5. Start with 3 repetitions of each position and grip placement, and work up to 10 on each hand.
The reason for reversing the position of the handgrip is to equally develop your grip strength among all four fingers. Changing the position of the hand while squeezing strengthens your grip in the different ways you will use it.
HOW TO DO IT REALLY WELL:
After performing the first set on one hand, immediately return and follow the same sequence for a second set, performing half the number of repetitions. Let’s say you did 4 of each squeeze. You would perform 2 on the second set. This will help you progress toward your goal of 10 on the first set and 5 on the second set, at which time you will have a grip of steel and two iron paddles you go swim!
NOTE FROM GO SWIM: You can read more about Tom Drum, and order one of his fantastic Back-It Balls at www.tomdrum.com. Call Tom at 888-565-9559 for group/team discounts.