Build a Gorilla Grip


by Morris “Mo” Brossette |

You need two things in order to successfully complete an obstacle course race. 1-you need to be able to run/walk, obviously to get you from point A to point B, and 2-you need a solid grip to successfully complete a myriad of obstacles like the rope climb, multi-rigs, heavy carries, and more.  Before we dive into grip training, one word of advice/caution. As you train, be sure to focus as much on forearm and wrist mobility and recovery as you do strengthening. Overlooking this critical aspect could cause issues like tendonitis of the elbow and/or other overuse injuries.  We will go through the movements, and then I will lay out how I suggest you add them to your training. Alright… Let’s go!

Dead Hang

This simple yet highly effective movement is how I begin all of my new and veteran OCR clients. First step is to establish how long you can hang from a pull-up bar with your arms fully extended. Once you have established this time, your goal is to increase 5-10 seconds every week.

Pro Tip!

Hang by your fingers around the bar instead of the traditional grip with your palm. Finger strength is the key to staying on the bar. I have seen many a new OCR athlete fail an overhead grip rig once their traditional barbell grip began to fatigue. As soon as they were hanging by their fingers, it was game over.

Hand Release

Having the ability to hang from a bar is awesome, BUT if you can’t let go with one hand and not fall, your hang time will be short lived. So, it is important to practice both. The video below will show you progressions to use from beginner to as you become stronger. 

Pro Tip!

Above all else, do these two things on the hand release: 1- Relax your mind, 2- Trust your strength. Do this, and you will hold on longer than you may have thought possible.  I do this with athletes that attend my classes all the time.

Pinch Grip "Eagle Talons"

This is one of my favorites. Grab two weight plates or dumbbells. I recommend starting with 5-10lbs for beginners, and “pinch” them with your fingertips just as a majestic bald eagle does when it swoops down and catches its prey (may be an odd reference, but you get the picture now ☺). Hold in place for 30-60 seconds.  

Bouldering/Top Rope Climbing

If you have access to an indoor climbing gym and the means to pay for a membership, THIS is going to build your grip like no other.  Several top pros, as well as yours truly, use bouldering and top rope climbing to develop a bulletproof grip. I personally climb 2-3x per week, and it has improved my grip strength tremendously! There’s no video demo for this one… Go climb! 

Pro Tip!

Start easy with climbing. After each attempt at what is known as a “problem” (the climbing route), rest 3-5 minutes to allow your grip and nervous system to recover. Climbing, especially when you initially begin, can be like performing 4-6 rep max for your grip and forearms . So be smart, and start easy. In line with that, I recommend only 2 days a week for the first month of climbing, and be sure to space at least 1 or preferably 2 days in between. In other words, if you climb on Monday don’t go back until Thursday. Capeesh?

There you have it. Those are my “go to” movements for developing a gorilla grip.  You may be wondering, “What about heavy carries like farmer walk”? Yes, you can certainly do those too, but nothing will be heavier than you holding your bodyweight with one hand from a pull-up bar. Before we get into how to add these to your training, let’s go over some mobility movements to keep your arms healthy and ready for any obstacle.

Forearm Mobility

The video below will demonstrate the key movements that I use for warm-ups, active recovery, and cool down stretch.  I recommend 3-4 rounds of 4-6 reps or 60-90 sec pause stretch for each.

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Branded Extensor Movements

Remember grip strength is all about the flexor muscles of your fingers, hand, and lower arm. To reduce your risk of an overuse injury and/or dominance, be sure to add in this extensor movement. I recommend 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps for warm-up/active recovery

Extensor Stretch

Real talk. I love this movement… It just feels good, and it helps to lengthen multiple muscle groups including forearm, bicep, pec, upper trapezius, and levator scapula, all of which can become overworked and tight due to excessive pressing and/or grip type movements. I recommend holding this stretch for 90-120 seconds.


Now that you have all the tools, let’s put them to practice. Here is a sample of how I would plug them into a strength day


Workout 1:
5-minute mobility warm-up


A1. Dead hang to failure (Note time until drop.)

A2. 10 Traveling Lunges (Hold dumbbells or kettlebells for extra grip work and lower leg strength development.)

A2. Mountain Climber (This will help open up your hand/wrist from the grip along with working your core.)

***Rest 45-60sec and repeat***


B1. 8-10 reps Hand release (or to failure & note time til drop)

B2. 30 second Pinch Grip

B3. 15-20 Push-ups

***Rest 45-60sec and repeat***

C1. 10-12 Overhead Dumbbell Shoulder Press

C2. 10 Ice Skaters

***Rest 45-60sec and repeat***

There you have it!! Remember to train smart; take your time; and DO NOT skip your recovery/mobility work. If you have any questions at all or need help developing or improving your grip strength, you can reach me at  Go build your grip!

-Coach Mo

Morris Brossette is the co-owner and founder of Link Endurance – a holistic and integrative training system designed to make sure every “link” in YOUR chain is just as strong as the next. Mo is a Certified Spartan SGX, SOS Coach, Certified Holistic Nutritionist and Health Coach, and Licensed Sports Nutritionist.  He is host of the Link Endurance Podcast and provides personal nutrition, fitness, and obstacle training.

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