Problem with grip/forearm endurance on the bar

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    Hello all,

    Once again I have come looking for a little feedback and advice regarding my workouts. Firstly, a little bit of background. When I started doing bar work it was in my room using a bar that goes into the door frame. Due to a lack of clearance above the door before the frame I couldn’t comfortably do regular pull ups and chin ups so I decided to do commando pull ups instead on the assumption that the cross over would be pretty high anyway.

    What I have found is while I can do sets of about 12 commando pull ups I can’t get past 5 pull ups of chin ups. The weakest link is my forearms. They give up on me towards the last reps, I problem I don’t encounter in the commando pull ups because they are largely removed from the equation. I use a hook grip like Al suggests in his book. At the moment I am doing five pull ups followed immediately by five chin ups three times with a five minute pause between sets. Over time I’d like to double the reps but stick with three sets. Once I have done that I’ll start reducing the pause between sets.

    My question is this: Should I do some hangs to increase my grip and forearm endurance or should I just stick with the pull ups and chin ups and wait for them to catch up? If I do add in hangs would it be best to hang at the bottom or top of the movement? I find the difficulty near the top (when the forearm contracts) so it would be my assumption if I do hangs I should hold this position.

    Thanks in advanced for your comments and advice!

    All the best,


    Robby Taylor

    Hey Liam,

    In this case, I suggest that you focus your pull up training on commando pull ups. That way you will be able to get a good number of reps. But, do 4 sets, 2 on each side. I also suggest you train hanging leg raises just as regularly. This will primarily be to train the grip strength but it will also of course be helpful in developing core strength. Don’t worry about touching your feet to the bar at this time; just keep your legs straight and bring them up to an L position. Also, the hook grip is simply a suggestion, everyone is different. If you find a normal grip much easier then it would be wise to use that grip in order to build your reps up. Over time, simply spending time on the bar will build your grip strength up, but if you feel you need more there are things you can do off of the bar.

    The simplest thing to do is to wring a towel. Just get a towel and wring it out. You may want t to get it wet first so you can get some kind of feedback on how hard you’re wringing it. If you want to develop serious grip strength, you may want to consider getting a high capacity gripper. I personally recommend the Gillingham High Performance grippers. There are 10 levels of these grippers, and I have a 3, 5, and 7. I find the 5 to be a serious challenge and the 7 is just ridiculous (there’s a validation program for anyone who can close a 7 or higher; they estimate that only a few hundred people in the world can currently close a 7 legitimately). For you I would recommend a 3 at the highest.


    Also, I assume you’re working on hand balancing to some capacity, but if not you should. This builds hand and forearm strength in a different way, and you should be doing both to ensure a balanced development. I can’t say how much this will help your grip strength on the bar, but it is important in the bigger picture. At this stage you should focus on primarily developing proper handstands, but I also suggest spending time on L sits, frog stands, and elbow levers.


    Hello Robby,

    Once again thank you for your really comprehensive feedback here. The first thing I have taken from it (along with some of your previous advice) is that my workouts aren’t comprehensive enough. I need to be doing more and over the next week I’m going to add some stuff to it, try and get it rounded and post the whole thing up for an appraisal. I do the same workout three times a week so it is pretty simple to list. I had been doing handstands but I stopped for some reason.

    I’m not overly interested in serious grip strength per se. I’m a teacher and haven’t found any element of my life so far (moving furniture, lugging around heavy suitcases, etc) where my grip strength was lacking. It is just now it is getting in the way of me achieving my other goals. Despite that I have bookmarked those grippers in case I want to get some in the future. I will give some towel wringing a go the next time I’m in the shower though.

    The two pieces of advice that have clicked with me 100% are carrying on with commando pull ups to keep the overall reps up (and therefore my overall conditioning) which I am going to start straight away. The second is doing hanging leg raises which I never thought of as a substitute (or addition) to hangs.

    I’ll let you know how I get on ramping up my routine and get the whole thing up here soon.

    Thank you once again and all the best!


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