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Towel Training for a Stronger Grip
By John Gaglione

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If you are a wrestler you know the importance of grip strength in your sport. It is important to have a good crushing grip as well as it is important to be able to hold onto something for an extended period of time. Grip strength is crucial for all positions in wrestling, but is extremely important if you want to be able to ride out opponents from the top position. If you have ever road out a good bottom wrestler for a whole period your forearms and hands were probably sore after that period. By implementing various forms of grip training in your program you can help improve both grip strength and grip strength endurance so your hands won't get tired when third period rolls around.

By utilizing towel training in your program you can work both grip strength and strength endurance at the same time. In order to hold onto a towel the athlete must try to crush it in order to hold onto the implement. By performing towel exercises for several sets this will also improve the strength endurance of the hands and forearms.

Typically we like to utilize towel training with pulling movements for the upper and lower body. The exercises here are shown with a kettlebell, but many of the exercises can be utilized with a dumbbell as well. We like to use the kettlebell because it is extremely easy to loop the towel through the handle.

Towel Training for Grip Strength

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For straight up grip strength we like to utilize towel hold with the barbell. Typically with this movement you would stick with the same weight for all sets and go for a set time. You can also get competitive and pick a set weight with your partner and see who can hold it the longest without setting it down.

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If a barbell or rack isn't available you can substitute this movement with dumbbells or kettlebell farmers walks with towels and go for time or distance.

Towel Training with Upper Body Pulling Movements

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For athletes who are already proficient at pull ups adding a towel is a great logical progression for wrestlers. This is a great bang for your buck exercise because the athlete will develop grip and pulling strength at the same time. If the athlete isn't strong enough to do pull ups yet or just wants to develop some isometric(static strength) they can also perform a flexed arm hang with the towels as well.

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Another option for athletes who aren't strong enough to do pull ups with towels is to perform inverted rows in a power rack with towel. As the athlete gets stronger they can lower the barbell so it gets harder every session. Likewise if the athlete wants to gain some isometric strength they can also perform a static inverted row and hold this position for time.

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Dumbbell or kettlebell row variations can also be implemented with the towel. Two of our favorite variations are the one arm row and the see saw row. One arm rows are great since they work the body one arm at a time and can help prevent imbalances from side to side.

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See saw rows are a great advanced variation since the athlete must use their core to prevent their torso from rotating too much. You can also perform this variation with a lot of speed to develop power in the pulling muscles.


One of my favorite pulling variations for absolute strength is the bent over t-bar row. You can simply stick a barbell in a corner, load up the bar with heavy weight and start pulling. The towel is a great option since you donít need any special handles to perform this variation of the t-bar row.

Towel Curls

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You can perform towel curls with a barbell, dumbbells, or our favorite variations with a single kettlebell. This is a good way for wrestler to get some arm training in, but also work the grip at the same time. Biceps training is important for many situations in wrestling such as upper body ties like an under hook. It will also help sculpt a nice pair of pipes so you look good during your next beach wrestling tournament!

Lower Body Training with Towels

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Hip dominant movements such as deadlifts are another great way to incorporate grip training in your routine. Towels can be added to straight bar deadlifts, trap bar deadlifts, dumbbell, or kettlebell deadlifts. You wonít be able to go as heavy with these variations, but once you take the towel away your grip will be much stronger and you will be able to hold more weight in your hands next time you perform a deadlift variation.

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Kettlebells swings with a towel are also a great way to teach the hard style swing. The hard style swing is a great way to teach an athlete to be powerful with their hips. Hip power is essential for explosive takedowns, stand ups, and powerful sprawls. Training this hip extension pattern is crucial for all combat athletes. The towel will give the athlete feedback and let the athlete know if he is using his hips or his arms during the swing. The kettlebell swing will be extremely smooth with the towel if the athlete utilizes the hip hinge properly. If the athlete uses too much arm pull in the swing the kettlebell will drop and not be smooth. Basically the kettlebell should be an extension of the athletes hand and with the towel this is extremely easy to see.

There you have it! Total body pulling strength and power from a readily available house hold item. Start implementing these towel variations in your training and watch your grip strength and endurance sky rocket like never before. These variations will make sure your hands donít get tired even when you need to ride out your opponent in the late round of your biggest match!


To take your wrestling to the next level and ensure this coming wrestling season is your best one ever go to GaglioneStrength.com and e-mail Coach Gaglione for more information on wrestling training.

Coach John Gaglione is a Sport Performance Specialist out of Long Island New York. He is a certified "Underground" Strength coach who specializes in training combat athletes. Johnís work has been featured in Elite Fitness Systems, Testosterone Nation , One Result & local wrestling site Long Island Wrestling Association. If you would like to learn more about John you can reach him at www.gaglionestrength.com or e-mail him at gaglionestrength@gmail.com.