There are many variations of pinch movements than can be done to increase the strength of the thumb and fingers. Many of these variations are quite common with grip athletes such as loose pinching plates, the euro pinch (or equivalent) and the pinching of odd objects whether wide or narrow.
One movement that doesn’t seem to be quite common is the pinch swing. The movement effectively combines the kettlebell / dumbbell swing movement with a hand pinch.
The pinch swing is good for building up hand and forearm endurance as well as hitting the muscles in many different ways as the velocity of the weight changes throughout the movement. This can help break through some plateaus in your grip training and is worth trying out as part of a new programme.
For advice on correct swing form it is best to check out a video or article on kettlebell swings, but the idea is to use the muscles of the posterior chain to thrust a weight forward from being hinged at the hips, until your body is straight and then allow the weight to drop back down. The swing generally ends with the arms roughly level with the chest, higher then this is considered a high pull.
For the pinch movement I clamp some plates onto the centre of a 2” thick bar with some locking collars, and then load up both ends to the desired weight and VERY securely locking the outer collars. It is best to stick to smaller plates for this as you need to be able to get them comfortably between your legs, also due to the way this movement taxes the hands you will probably end up starting off around 30% or even less of your max pinch.
Things to keep in mind:
- Start light! When I first started doing this I had them slip out my hands a few times, thankfully without anything/anyone getting hurt! I have never used more than about 50% of my 1RM two hand pinch for this movement, see the variations below for ways to make it harder without adding more weight.
- Always chalk up properly between sets, chalk is pretty much mandatory for this exercise to maintain a strong grip on the plates.
- Keep a few reps in the tank, if you go to failure you will end up loosing your grip on the plates and that won’t end well!
- You will definitely feel a burn in the forearms and hands from this, make sure to learn the difference between getting a nice burn from it and your grip failing!
There are many ways to adjust the difficulty of this exercise, I will list a few variations that you can try once you have got the hang of it:
- Vary the width to very wide or very narrow, this will change the focus to either more finger strength or more thumb strength. Along with the velocity changes due to the swinging this can be very difficult.
- Use one hand instead of two, this also allows you to vary the weight for each hand if they aren’t evenly balanced.
- Try to swing with more force and make an effort to pull the weight back down as hard as possible, this increases the velocity in both directions which can make the same weight require much more hand pressure to stop it flying out.
- Instead of a swing do a high pull or even a snatch… be careful though as these are more likely to end up in you letting go and damaging yourself or your gym! Personally I see little merit in doing either of these compared with doing faster/harder swings as above, but I have tried them and the snatch is certainly interesting!