Get a Grip for Self Defense
Over the years, I’ve been told by many in the defensive tactics/self-defense training profession that being physically fit is an important part of being able to defend yourself. I agree with them that fitness does enhance ability. But I don’t always agree on what type of exercise is the most important.
Aerobics VS Anaerobics
In the 1970s and '80s the emphasis for Defensive Tactics was aerobic exercise: running, tread mills, jogging, jump rope, running, bicycling, jogging, stair climbing, running, swimming and then more running.
Research through the '90s and '00s showed that anaerobic (strength) exercise was at least as important (if not more so) as aerobic exercise for the specific body reactions to self-defense situations.
During a real traumatic self-defense situation (high stress), which usually results in a very high energy output in a very short amount of time, your techniques will rely on strength first and endurance second. Besides, most self-defense events happen quickly and last only for a very short time.
Some will say the primary focus of the anaerobic training should be on the ‘core’ muscles (usually the ground fighters). Others will say the legs are the key. And then there are the guys that will mostly focus on the upper body muscle groups (build up those guns).
Start With Grip Strength Exercises
While fitness of the whole body is important and encouraged, I usually recommend simply starting with your grip strength. Especially for those of us that aren’t in the high intensity, two-hours, 3 to 4 times a week crowd.
If you are the average American, sporting a few extra pounds around the mid-section and calling the weekly lawn mowing or house cleaning your exercise, and you know you will not maintain a total self-defense focused exercise program, then I suggest you start with simple and easy hand/wrist/forearm strength exercises.
These type of exercises improve you grip strength. A strong grip is essential for simple techniques like grabbing the arm to stop a strike or effectively controlling the recoil of a firearm. It will also help you with daily tasks like those hard to open pickle jars.
Exercises to Help Strengthen Your Grip
To exercise your hand/wrist/forearms, you can use a racket ball to squeeze or one of those “stress relieving” flex balls (heavy duty balloon filled with flour or sand).
An old favorite is to take about 4 to 5 feet of cord and attach it to the middle of a 12” dowel on one end and tie a 2 to 5 lb. weight to the other end. Then grasp the dowel and stand with your arms extended out in front and “roll” the weight up until it touches the dowel. Then “roll” it back down.
There are also many “hand exercisers” you can buy. These are good to use however, if you want to improve hands, wrists and forearms, here is a more comprehensive series of exercises.
To warm up the muscles try these 4 first. Do each warm up twice:
Make a fist then extend all fingers, for 30 seconds.
Keeping your hand flat, spread your fingers apart and bring them together, for 30 seconds.
Flex your wrist and hold in maximum flex for 30 seconds with the elbow straight but not locked.
Extend your wrist with the elbow straight for 30 seconds.
Weight Bearing Exercises
The initial warm up exercises will get you ready for these weight-bearing exercises.
Wrist Hammer Curls – While sitting with your back straight, put your forearm on a table top, or both forearms on your thighs (you can exercise both wrists that way), with your thumb pointing up. Keep your forearm on the table top (or on your thighs). Holding a 5 to 10 lb. weight, lift your hand up and down slowly. Do 20 repetitions 3 times.
Wrist Straight Curls- While sitting with your back straight, put your forearm on a table top, or both forearms on your thighs (you can exercise both wrists that way), with your palms facing up. Keep your forearm the table top (or on your thighs). Holding a 5 to 10 lb. weight, move your hand up and down slowly. Make sure you place the wrist three to four inches away from the knee/table top to allow the full range of motion. Do 20 repetitions 3 times.
Reverse Wrist Curls- While sitting with your back straight, put your forearm on a table top, or both forearms on your thighs (you can exercise both wrists that way), with your palms facing down and your wrist three to four inches away from the knees/table top. Keep your forearm on the table top (or on your thighs). Holding a 5 to 10 lb. weight, move your hand up and down slowly. Grasp the weight and extend the wrist fully. Do 20 repetitions 3 times.
Get a Grip
These and many other grip exercises take very little time and can be done while you are watching TV, reading a book, or just hanging out on the patio with your beverage of choice. Do any of these exercises on a regular basis and you will find it will become a habit; a simply beneficial habit.
The goal is to maximize the strength of your hand, wrist, and forearm to improve your ability to defend yourself when the unthinkable happens.
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