Weight Lifting Wisdom For the Tall Lanky Guy

Today T-Whatever released a new article titled How Tall Guys Get Jacked by Jimmy Smith. The article is full of tips to help us ectomorphs lift more weight in the gym. Some of the better tips include:

  1. “Keep the damn reps low” – AMEN!
  2. Play with half-reps.
  3. When doing bench presses, use a more narrow grip to avoid having your elbows flare out.

As good as the tips are, I feel the author missed the obvious one. What I have discovered in my 15 years of lifting is the primary failure point to getting stronger is grip strength. The tall lanky lifter has long arms and small wrists. Without a strong grip, the ectomorph will have major difficulty getting stronger.

Years ago I was fortunate to run across the company IronMind. They specialize in grip strength and other strongman-like equipment. They have divided hand strength into 5 areas.

  1. Crushing grip – This is the classic handshake squeeze.
  2. Pinching grip – Thumb pressing strength.
  3. Open hand (supporting) – How strong is the hand without clenching?
  4. Extensors – How strong are the fingers when resistance prevents them from extending?
  5. Wrist strength – Strong wrists are critical to lifting heavy weights safely.

The most important two for us are crushing grip and wrist strength. For crushing grip, I highly recommend getting a Captains of Crush by Ironmind. The typical office hand gripper is only 25-35 pounds of pressure. Not enough to build any real hand strength. The Captains of Crush are for those that are serious about improving their grip strength.

Captains of Crush ModelPounds

Captains of Crush Hand Gripper - No. 1
Captains of Crush Hand Gripper – No. 1

I own the #1 and it took me almost a year before I could close it end-to-end in either hand. Soon I will be getting the #1.5. Only 5 people on the planet have ever closed the #4. In addition to the hand gripper, there are many ways to increase your hand strength. John Brookfield wrote two great books on the topic. I own them both.

Mastery of Hand Strength, Revised Edition
Mastery of Hand Strength, Revised Edition by John Brookfield

The Grip Master's Manual
The Grip Master’s Manual by John Brookfield

I was also fortunate enough to meet John Brookfield at the Arnold Expo in 2004.


To build forearm and wrist strength, I highly recommend doing Farmers Walks. A Farmers Walk is when you grab a pair of heavy dumbbells and go for a walk. The heavier the dumbbell, the shorter the walk. Back in California, I used to put a 120-pound dumbbell in each hand and walk to the end of the driveway and back. I did that 10 times.

Personal trainers will tell you to wear gloves or use straps. Nonsense. Read John Brookfield. Get a Captains of Crush gripper and do Farmers Walks. In no time, you’ll be benching more and doing weighted pull-ups.


Add yours

  1. If you upgrade to the 1.5, and want to sell the 1, let me know. 🙂

  2. Wow, I am amazed at what I keep finding on this blog. I started with the trainer in July. Soon after I got the #1. I essentially use it throughout the day like working with my hands was part of my job (keyboard and phone work doesn’t make for strong hands). I estimate I do 15-20 small sets throughout the day but leave a little in the tank like Pavel told me. I can do the #1 about 15 times. I found a used #2 locally and am gonna buy it when I can get to the place. When I started in the summer, my long term goal was the #2. I have been amazed how quickly I progressed by using the very often. I think the #3 could be a possibility in the long run.

  3. @Chuck – Glad to hear your success. I have a friend with a little too much confidence buy the #4. His hands are massive and he fires serious caliber weapons. He couldn’t budge it with both hands.

  4. I happened to find a used #2 so I am gonna buy it and try to master it like I did the #1. They also had a used #3 but I know I am WAY off from that so I won’t even bother buying it. The first 2 I got were just a start to build some minimal strength and toughness in my hands. I imagine the #2 will kick my ass for a while. I already tried it elsewhere and almost got it…probably half inch away. 1.5 was easy. My hands are kinda small so the set is important.

  5. @Chuck – Good call getting the #2. I bought the #1.5 and closed it on the first attempt. Wishing I had got the #2 instead.

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