HAND & UPPER LIMB GRIPS
Do you struggle with certain pole grips and wonder why they are harder than others? Do you worry that you may not have enough grip strength or mobility in the wrist or shoulder to perform a certain move?
Part one of this blog is designed to help you better understand the complexities of pole hand grips. I have outlined all mobility and strength requirements of the hand grips from beginner to advanced with the goal of helping you better prepare and strengthen for your pole practice and hopefully prevent injuries.
I hope you find this a valuable resource. Stay tuned for part two that will involve all other body part grips and holds (eg. armpit, leg hold and foot).
What does it take to get a grip?
The human hand is a marvellous engineering feat! Its design allows for such diversity in movement. With its intricate web of muscles and ligaments, it has the strength and power to wield a hammer, but also the finesse and dexterity to play keystrokes on a piano.
While some muscles, known as lumbricals and interossei, reside in the hand to allow for more dexterity, the majority of the hand and wrist’s 27 bones are acted upon by muscles in the forearms through a system of pulleys on long tendons to leverage greater strength output.
The thumb is what sets us apart from other mammals. With its capability of opposition (ability to reach across the palm to touch the other fingers) it allows us the skill of grip.
There are two types of grip: the precision grip and the power grip.
The precision grip involves squeezing a small object between the pads of the thumb and index finger. This pinch grip is what we use for tasks requiring more dexterity such as holding a pen or threading a needle.
The power grip allows for the most amount of force production (1). It involves an object being
held in the palm with the fingers wrapped around the object and the thumb in opposition.
Variations of the power grip include the hammer (cyclindrical) grip, lumbrical grip, spherical grip and hook grip. Hammer grip is the most common grip we use for pole. Keep this in mind as we go through each individual pole hand grip.
Pole Upper Limb Grip Guide
Below I’ve created a list of all the pole hand grips with a brief description of the move, followed by a sublist of the specific mobility requirements per joint. I’ve also included a few examples of pole moves that require each grip. I’ve (loosely) listed all the grips from beginner to advanced and tactically colour coded them in this order as well. I say loosely ordered them because the difficulty of the grip may vary depending on the move you’re performing.
Use the images below as a reference for the terminology used to describe the mobility requirements and normal range of motion (ROM) for each joint.
Beginner → Intermediate → Advanced
True/Crush/Baseball/Straight Grip: This is the first grip you’ll learn on day one of your pole journey! It may be the simplest of pole grips, but it's by far the most important as it allows us to get into a variety of tricks. This is a classic power grip with the pole in the palm of the hand, the fingers wrapped around one side and the thumb wrapped around the other side. More specifically, this is a hammer grip as the wrist is also in ulnar deviation.
Spins (top arm)
Dip or outside step
Front and back hook
Pole climb (top arm)
Finger flexion and thumb opposition
Approx. 20-30 degrees of ulnar deviation
Approx. 80-90 degrees forearm pronation
Approx. 180 degrees elbow extension
Approx 130-150 degrees shoulder abduction*
*Meathook = shoulder in horizontal adduction
Anchor/Forearm/Brace: You’ve learned the basic grip and tried a few spins, now you’re ready to climb the pole. The anchor grip, also known as the forearm or brace grip, is crucial for climbing because it allows us to push our bodies away from the pole without falling into it. While the hand is in a crush grip, the ulnar border of the forearm is braced against the pole.
Hand in true/crush grip as above
Approx. 90 degrees elbow flexion
Approx 80-90 degrees shoulder flexion
Stronghold: Ready to go upside down? This is the grip we need for inverts. Using the crush grip again for hand placement, but this time the forearm is supinated so your thumb is facing you instead of away. With the elbow flexed, the pole sits snugly into the bicep for a nice secure contact spot.
80-90 degrees forearm supination
90 degrees elbow flexion
80-90 degrees shoulder flexion
Half Bracket/Split Grip: The half (and full) bracket harness the power of the “push and pull” technique. With the overhead arm in a straight grip, the bottom arm is pushing you away.
Moves: (bottom arm)