Captains of Crush ®
Hand Grippers —
Training and FAQ

Meet IronMind's Captains of Crush Grippers.

Fact and Fiction About Captains of Crush Grippers.

IronMind Highlights — CoC Grippers and Other Grip Milestones.

Training with Captains of Crush
Hand Grippers: How to Get
Stronger Hands

First, follow the generally accepted principles of safe, effective training:

• warm up
• train progressively
• focus on intensity, not volume
• recuperate in between workouts
• focus on full-range movements if
  your goal is to improve your hand
  strength and hand health

15 minutes, three times a week

Here's the training you do if you'd like to get stronger and improve your hand health at the same time:

Basic Captains of Crush Routine

1. Warm up: you can use an IronMind EGG, an ordinary rubber ball, or a hand gripper; do about 10 or 12 easy reps

2. Repeat step 1 if you don't feel warmed up

3. Move up one level—if you warmed up with a No. 1 CoC Gripper, for example, now you should be on a No. 2—and either do another 10 reps or as many as you can up to 10

4. If you can't do more than 10 reps, repeat step 3 one or two more times; if you can do more than 10 reps, move up another level and follow the same pattern: rep out if your max is 10 or fewer reps; stop at 10 if you can do more; and then move up another level, and so on

If moving up a full level in the Captains of Crush family is too big a step at any stage, use one of our half-step CoCs, a No. 1.5, No. 2.5, or No. 3.5, to zero in on the most beneficial rep range for building strength.

Here's how that might look:

Trainer x 10 reps
Trainer x 10 reps
No. 1 x 10 reps
No. 2 x 3 reps
No. 2 x 3 reps
No. 2 x 3 reps


Sport x 10
Trainer x 10
No. 1 x 10
No. 1.5 x 5
No. 1.5 x 5
No. 1.5 x 5

Do this routine three times per week.
In between workouts to speed recovery, do the following on two, three, or four days:

IronMind EGG — two sets of 10 to 20 reps of light–moderate squeezes, rolling the IronMind EGG around in your hand, for different positions

Expand-Your-Hand Bands — two sets of 10 to 20 reps, light–moderate effort, using a steady tempo on each rep

Advanced Routine

If you are advanced, follow the Basic Captains of Crush Routine (above) with 1 to 3 sets of strap holds, grip machine training, or one- and two-finger training on an IMTUG

No. 1 x 10
No. 2 x 10
No. 2.5 x 6
No. 2.5 x 6
No. 2.5 x 6
IMTUG5 x 5 (ring finger and pinkie); repeat
IMTUG6 x 5 (first and second finger); repeat

Do this routine three times per week.

Gripper Graduation Program

Gripper Graduation: The Four Week Wonder

Tired of having a weaker grip than you'd like? In four weeks, following this program, you'll hit PR levels of grip strength and wonder why it took you so long to train like this. So wherever you are right now—maybe working on the Trainer or maybe it's the No. 3—if you are chasing Captains of Crush Gripper mastery and are ready to graduate and move up to the next level, here’s your program.

1. Raise your right hand and say, "I will follow this training program for the next four weeks. Period."

2. Do 10 to 12 warm-up reps on a Captains of Crush Gripper that is quite easy for you. Repeat with your other hand.

3. Do another warm-up set if you'd like to.

4. Move up to a Captains of Crush Gripper you can close between 2 and 9 times*, and hit your maximum number of reps, remembering something very simple, but very important: all the strength you'll ever build comes down to how hard you work on this set.

5. Repeat step 4 if you would like, up to a maximum of three work sets. Remember: one really good work set is vastly better than an infinite number of mediocre work sets, so spill your guts on one or two or three all-out sets, call it a day and get stronger.

6. If you are advanced or feel that you need extra work on any of your fingers, move to an IMTUG and do two or three sets for whichever finger(s) are limiting your grip strength—keep the reps moderate for this and use perfect form. If you are new to IMTUGs, the chart will help you select the right ones.

7. That's the workout—and remember step one.

On at least two off-days per week, do three sets of 10 to 15 reps with the Expand-Your-Hand Bands, and if you want to include some active rest for your crushing grip, do some moderate-intensity work on an IronMind EGG on these days as well.

If you've been waltzing around your training or following some snake-oil system and think it's time to get serious, sign up for Gripper Graduation and let the Four-Week Wonder take you there.

*If a full-step Captains of Crush Gripper (Guide, Sport, Trainer, No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, or No. 4) doesn't put you in the right rep range, use the mid-range grippers (Captains of Crush Grippers No. 1.5, No. 2.5, and No. 3.5) to get dialed in for maximum gains.

Frequently Asked Questions About Captains of Crush Hand Grippers

Selecting a Captains of Crush Hand Gripper

1. Which Captains of Crush Gripper should I start with?

This is a little tough without knowing more about you, but generally speaking, we recommend:
  • the Captains of Crush Gripper Guide or Sport for our younger and older customers, for women, and for anyone who hasn't really been training for strength
  • the Captains of Crush Gripper Trainer or our No. 1 as the usual starting point for guys who have been lifting weights for a while: if you've been using sporting goods store grippers or specifically have been training your crushing grip, you'll probably want to start with the No. 1
Rarely, but occasionally, we will have someone close a Captains of Crush Gripper No. 2 the first time he tries it, and when we find this, it is usually someone who relies on hand strength as part of his daily work and/or is known for having a unusually strong grip.

2. How many Captains of Crush Grippers do I need?

We recommend training one hand at a time, so you can do all your training with just one Captains of Crush Gripper; but if you can afford it, we recommend that you buy two Captains of Crush Grippers, one for warming up (10 or so easy reps) and one for your work sets, ideally in the range of roughly 5 to 10 reps. If you would like to add a third Captains of Crush Gripper to your collection, we recommend that it be a half step or a full level above whichever one you can fully close. For example, you might have a Trainer for warming up, a No. 1 that you can close for 8 full reps, and a No. 1.5 for singles or a No. 2 that you will use for partials, negatives, and holds.

Training with Your Captains of Crush Hand Grippers

3. How should I train with my Captains of Crush Gripper?

Captains of Crush Grippers come with a training booklet, but our basic philosophy is to follow the general principles for building strength: train with very high intensity (as a percent of your maximum), using low reps and moderate sets. Many people train on Captains of Crush Grippers two to three times per week, but some train every day and some train as seldom as once per week. Some people like to do their grip training at the end of their basic workout and others prefer to do their grip training on their off days. (Also, see Training with Captains of Crush Grippers: How to Get Stronger Hands in the left column.)

4. Captains of Crush Grippers are great for training while I'm watching TV, right?

Even though you don't have to change your clothes or go to the gym to train with your gripper, you'll want to take your training as seriously as if you were working on a big power clean, for example, so this is not something to do while you're driving, sitting at your desk, or watching TV.

5. When should I move up from one level to the next on the Captains of Crush Grippers?

Most people have to be able to do approximately 20 to 25 complete repetitions on one of our grippers before they can close the next level up, so we generally recommend that once you can do about 10 to 12 full reps, it is time to start working on the next level. Joe Kinney, who certainly knows something about training on these grippers, would tell you to not even wait this long—he feels that doing negatives on a gripper one level above what you can fully close is the best way to make progress.

6. What should I do when I get stuck at one level?

The key principle is to add a new twist, so try varying your sets, reps, and number of training days. Try doing some negatives if you've only been doing positive movements. Try holds or partials if you've only been doing full-range movements. Use IMTUGs to attack your fingers one or two at a time. If you can't quite make it to the Captains of Crush No. 2, No. 3 or No. 4, give the Captains of Crush Nos. 1.5, 2.5 and 3.5 a try—they might be just the stepping stone you need. Try using a plate-loaded grip machine, such as the Go-Really Grip Machine

And, most important of all, get inspired and knowledgeable by reading or viewing:
For more grip strength training information and articles, visit IronMind's Read-All-About-It Resources pages on Grip Training, Hand Grippers, and Hand Strength.

Remember to:
  • always warm up
  • not overtrain
  • focus on quality, not quantity, and vary your training to help keep your mind and body fresh

7. How do I integrate my Captains of Crush Gripper training with my other grip work?

IronMind has written a handy guide, "Training with IronMind's Crushed to Dust!™ Grip Tools," including training guidelines and routines for specific user groups—in it you'll find just the answers to your questions. Print out a copy right here for easy reference—and then, have at it!

8. Can you explain strap holds, negatives, forced reps, and partials?
Strap holds, invented by John Brookfield, allow you to "add weight" to your gripper by attaching weight to a strap or belt; you then squeeze the end of the strap between the handles of the gripper, holding the handles shut for time or until failure. If you can't keep the handles shut tight against the strap, the strap and weight will fall. By adding weight, you can make it tougher to hold the gripper closed. Our Close-the-Gap Straps were made specifically so that you can train with strap holds.

Negatives, first used to great advantage by Joe Kinney in his training to close the No. 4, are used to train on a gripper you can't close. Close the gripper using aid (e.g., your other hand, your leg) and then remove the aid and hold the gripper shut with your training hand only for as long as you can, fighting to keep it shut until it finally forces its way open.

Forced reps are just that, continuing to do reps by cheating the gripper closed, pressing with bodyweight, your non-training hand, your leg, etc.

Partials are also just as they sound: doing reps by closing the gripper part way if you cannot fully close the gripper; you are moving from a fully-open to a partially-closed position. You can also do partials by setting the gripper part of the way closed and then doing reps from a partially-closed to a fully-closed position. Incidentally, don't confuse training on partials with claiming that deep-set closes are for real: the former is perfectly legitimate and the latter is not.

These and other methods of training are included in the book Captains of Crush Grippers: What They Are and How to Close Them, Second Edition.

9. I can close your No. 1 and have my sights set on closing the No. 2. What's your quick advice on how to get stronger on Captains of Crush Grippers?

Stay positive, be patient and persistent, and don't think of it as a little gripper—approach it the same way and with the same respect as you would approach a barbell loaded up for a heavy deadlift.

Captains of Crush Hand Grippers — Care and Feeding

10. Your packaging warns about the risk of the spring breaking at any time. Does it really ever break?

Yes, but it's very rare now, although we think it's important that you always train as if it will break at any moment. Let's explain this a bit. Anyone who has experienced breakage with the cheap imported grippers (whether with plastic or metal handles) knows how sharp the broken end of the spring is. The durability of Captains of Crush Grippers is something we have increased tremendously over the past 20 years, but for safety's sake and
because safety is no accident, we always advise that you train with hand grippers—even Captains of Crush Grippers—as if the spring will snap at any moment. Remember this, too, when you train with IMTUGs, and be sure to keep your fingers on the handles, without wrapping your hand around the spring itself.

11. I know IronMind is in California, but I live in Florida and I'm afraid my new Captains of Crush Gripper is starting to rust. How do I keep it as shiny as it was on day one?

Don't worry; the maintenance for a rust-free Captains of Crush Gripper is pretty simple. All you need to do is block moisture from the spring, so you can wipe it down occasionally with anything from a light oil, like WD-40, to car wax. If you prefer a durable protectant that also has a dry finish (unlike oil), give Sentry Tuf-Cloths a try. Clean excess chalk from the knurling with a stiff nylon-bristled brush.

12. Is it cheating to put oil on the spring of my gripper?

No, absolutely not, but we appreciate that you are being so conscientious about this.

13. I like crickets and all, but my gripper is sounding like one. Is it defective? Can I do anything about it?

Not to worry: sometimes the edges of the coils on the spring rub against each other in just the perfect way to produce a creaking sound; it's not indicative of a structural problem, but if you find the sound annoying or distracting, a shot of light oil should dampen or eliminate it.

Poundage Ratings and Hand Gripper Variability

14. What's the story on the poundage ratings?

Ratings on grippers aren't nearly as straightforward as, say, weighing a barbell, but here's a quick answer (this topic is covered in some detail in the book Captains of Crush Grippers: What They Are and How To Close Them, Second Edition if you want to read more about it). Years ago, IronMind realized what a morass it was trying evaluate grippers and who had closed what, so we developed a rating system for making sense of Captains of Crush Grippers. It worked better than we had ever hoped because not only did we end up with something that helped us make Captains of Crush Grippers even more precise, but it also gave our customers a way to understand how much tougher, say, a Trainer was than a Sport. Taking things to another level, Captains of Crush Grippers are so well-established worldwide that grippers everywhere are often described by how they feel compared to our Captains of Crush models.

15. My friend has a gripper that is supposed to be 150 pounds but it feels about like your Sport, which you rate at 80 pounds. What gives?

Your friend's gripper might simply have a convenient number attached to it, without its really being tied to any specific test or measure (this is why the cheap grippers made in China all have poundage ratings like 150, 200, 250 . . . the numbers sound good, but don't expect them to really mean too much). This confusion and abuse of poundage rating for grippers is why we don't suggest that the numbers we supply for Captains of Crush Grippers will correspond to other grip devices.

IronMind's Captains of Crush Gripper ratings are internally consistent, meaning that they will help you understand the relative difficulty of our CoC grippers (e.g., how tough the Trainer is relative to the No. 1). Plus, they are empirically based, that is, our ratings are actual numbers derived from valid and reliable testing procedures, but we can't make similar statements about the numbers on other grip devices. See also Gripper Poundage Ratings.

On the other hand, don’t worry too much about the numbers: no matter how good or bad they are, actually training with your gripper is far more productive than analyzing it to death.

16. Do your grippers get weaker with time?

No, so don't worry if your Captains of Crush Gripper No. 1 is feeling easier to you now—it's because you're getting stronger! What is mistakenly called "seasoning" by some people is actually a weakening with use, and it's a reflection of an under-designed gripper, which is why it's not uncommon for low-quality grippers to get narrower and easier as they are used. On the other hand, Captains of Crush Grippers hold their line for a lifetime of steady training.

Getting Certified on Captains of Crush Grippers

17. How do I get certified for closing the No. 3, No. 3.5, or No. 4 Captains of Crush Gripper?

Read our Rules for Closing and Certification for all the rules. Best of luck!

18. What is certification on the Captains of Crush Grippers?

In 1991, to recognize his exceptional accomplishment in closing our No. 3 gripper—IronMind decided to "certify" Richard Sorin, documenting his feat of grip strength and establishing it as a high water mark for others to shoot for and try to match. We included Richard's photo and feat of strength in our 1992 IronMind catalog, and when John Brookfield duplicated Richard's feat in 1992, our gripper certification was off and running . . . although it would be another two years before Tyce Saylor joined the illustrious Richard and John on the world's most prestigious hand strength list.

IronMind's Rules for Closing and Certification procedures have been honed along the way to reflect the spirit of legitimately closing a Captains of Crush Gripper, and over the years, IronMind has been what Richard Sorin calls "the good steward," guarding the strictness and fairness of this process. Anyone can jump on the bandwagon with a me-too product made in China and a me-too "cert" program on Internet, but Captains of Crush Grippers have a unique history and rich tradition which set them apart, and this is reflected in the prestige of the Captains of Crush Grippers certification program.

Want to get on the list and earn the highest honors in the grip world? First, be prepared to train really hard and really smart, working your way up through the ranks of our benchmark grippers until you close the No. 3, No. 3.5, or No. 4 according to our Rules for Closing. You'll then need to follow the procedure for certification.

What will it do for you? As with any goal worth achieving, the reward is in the journey and the knowledge that you did it right. Sure, you'll have the glory of seeing your name on the list of those having closed a Captains of Crush Gripper under certified conditions, but more importantly, you'll know that you can dig deep inside and with a big dose of dedication and persistence, and a measure of faith, you can climb the mountain.

For more grip strength training information and articles, visit our Read-All-About-It Resource Pages on Grip Training, Hand Grippers, and Hand Strength.

Your guidebook to the Captains of Crush Grippers: their fascinating story and how to train with them, inCaptains of Crush Grippers: What They Are and How to Close Them, Second Edition.

You'll find Captains of Crush Hand Grippers in our on-line store.

You'll find a lot of grip strength training articles in our strength journal MILO: A Journal for Serious Strength Athletes: here's a list.