I'm looking for exercises to help maintain a grip on an opponent's gi while pulling them around. There are two elements to this: strength and endurance. Meaning, I want my grip to be hard to break but also not tire out too much when I'm holding on to it.

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    It's not worth writing an answer to add this: Squeeze tennis balls until they deflate. It's simple, easy, and results in a wickedly strong relaxed grip. Gripping hard with intention actually makes your grip weaker.
    – stslavik
    Commented Feb 6, 2012 at 17:20
  • 2
    Relevant reddit thread, espousing towel-grip pull-ups: reddit.com/r/bjj/comments/161gh2/… Commented Jan 6, 2013 at 6:05
  • 1
    As an alternative to rock climbing: practice windsurfing.
    – ucsky
    Commented Jul 5, 2013 at 15:51

16 Answers 16


A good way to get gi / kimono specific grip training is sling your gi / kimono top around a pull up bar or a tree branch and use that to do any number of exercises, such as

  • Pull ups, grip the lapels and hoist yourself up
  • Grab lapels and pull yourself up
  • Grab lapels and bring your lower body up and wrap your legs around the gi in triangle position
  • Just hang as long as you can

There are plenty more, use your imagination, but using the gi top is a good way to condition your grip and fingers to get that killer death grip.

  • 3
    This, use your gi over a pull up bar. Also go jogging with bricks (literally) in your hands. Youll be amazed at the results.
    – user201
    Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 5:56
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    Is it not dangerous for the back, knees or shoulders to jogging with weight in the hand?
    – ucsky
    Commented Jul 5, 2013 at 16:20
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    @user201 is right, but maybe start with a smaller one. The main emphasis is on holding something heavy and rough while keeping the palm open as much as possible. I started with huge coke bottles filled with sand then finally ended up with big rough bricks.
    – nigelhanzo
    Commented Feb 20, 2014 at 10:27
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    Some companies sell strips made of gi-material for exactly this. They might be easier to use (depending on what specific exercises you want to do) than trying to wrap a gi jacket around your equipment (e.g. Adidas' "The Band"). Commented Jun 16, 2019 at 12:56

Take a newspaper (remember them?) and page by page, crumple the paged from flat paper to the tightest ball you can make with one hand.


We did an exercise at my first Judo club that seemed to help with grip. We would hold our arms out directly in front of us and then alternate between making a grip and having our hands as open as possible. Basically, like gripping thin air, but repeatedly. A very simple exercise, but it seemed to help.

How many times we repeated was a measure of how many were attending the session that evening, because we'd stand in a circle, facing in, and everyone would do the exercise together, but someone would count to ten and then the next person would count to ten and so forth until we'd been around the circle at least once; twice if we had a low turnout.


Aside from the strength training for grips, there's also certain technique involved in grips. For example, when you hold the right arm sleeve of your opponent, make sure you grab the part right under his elbow, and grab it tight, so he is unable to move his arm properly. At the same time it's hard for him to release his harm since you can control his arm movement.

When you grab the neck part, make sure you grab the harder edge. Your fingers grab the outer side so that the soft part gets push under the hard part. The thumb goes inside and connects with your other fingers.

Technique is really important with everything you do in Judo. Even with grips.


There are a couple of things that you can do to help.

Go hang from something

Basically either go outside and find something overhead or get a pullup bar and hang from it. You can make a progression out of this, going from a pullup bar to one-hand on a pullup bar to hanging from a rope. The basic idea is that if you want to improve your grip strength, grip something!

It also tends to be pretty easy to find things to hang from, making it something you can do throughout the day if your environment is conducive to it.

If you are looking for a program, Convict Conditioning 2 has one that incorporates progressively more difficult variations of this and also recommends fingertip pushups. My standard disclaimer on CC applies: it tends to have great progressions, but ignore the marketing material.

Learn Massage (and other skills)

Trigger point massage is one of the things that has helped my overall grip strength a great deal. I started with Clair & Amber Davies's The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook, but really many if not most systems of massage will help tremendously here.

Here the big thing is to learn to work with your fingers, not your thumbs, but it does help grip strength if you practice regularly. Learning has the added benefit that you can treat a wide variety of muscular issues on yourself.

There are also other sports that strongly emphasize grip strength and it may helps to get a foundation in. I don't personally practice it, but an example here might be rock climbing.

Weapons Training

Another thing I've had very good luck with is weapons training. Working with swords and short sticks (and probably any other weapon that you grip and has some mass), and particularly against a target, is a great way to build up hand strength, and is particularly useful for the "endurance" part.

The added advantage here is that it can usually be incorporated into your martial arts practice if your art uses weapons.

  • In rock climbing some guy do (one) fingers pull-up as workout. I still wonder if it is dangerous for the fingers.
    – ucsky
    Commented Jul 5, 2013 at 16:21

There are a few things you can do to improve grip strength. Like everything else, sport specific drills are best, training the closest to the actual activity your trying to improve.

on that note:

  1. Like others have mentioned, throw a gi over a bar and do pull ups with it.

  2. My favourite, because it works all sorts of different parts of your upper body, and can be incorporated into warmups. with a partner, one person takes off their belt, and goes down the mat far enough that the belt is stretched out. the other partner lays on their back, and "climbs" up the belt. to make it more interesting, hold your legs straight, about 6" off the mat. We used to do this drill down the full length of the dojo. once on our back, once on our stomach, and once on each side. Both partners will get a good hand workout, and the climbing/pulling partner will get a good overall upper body workout.

  3. get a fairly firm stress ball, and play with it, all the time. squeeze it with your full hand, one finger at a time, a couple fingers. If you can't find a firm enough stress ball that it is challenging, use a tennis ball like stslavik mentioned.

  4. Do more grip fighting, nothing will improve your grip strength and technique more then just practicing gripping.

  5. Put a gi on the ground in the middle, one partner on each side, lying on their stomach. the goal is to get the gi away from your partner, or pull them to the other side. We did this in class the other day, it was fun, challenging, and sure made the forearms burn, which is a good sign ;)


Your goal to increase your grip strength should focus on exercising your forearm muscles. There are several strength exercises and tools you can use to work out the different muscles in your your forearms.

Tennis Ball or Hand Grip

As @stslavik stated in his comment, you can grab a tennis ball and squeeze it to your heart's content. When squeezing the tennis ball, also hold the squeeze for a few seconds before releasing. As you improve, you can increase the number of repetitions you do. Additionally you can buy hand grip tools. These aren't terribly expensive things, but keep in mind you might reach an upper limit to the amount of strength training you can do with them once you reach a certain level.

Wrist Curls and Reverse Wrist Curls

A single barbell or a dumbbell in each hand will can suffice for this. You can do this while sitting and resting your arms on your legs. Anything that will support the weight of your forearms will work really.

Hold the barbell or dumbbell with your palms facing up and just roll your wrist towards you without lifting your arm and then release back down to a relaxed position. The reverse wrist curl is the same except your palms are facing down, and you roll your wrists backwards towards you. Here are pictures of what these two exercises look like:

Wrist Curl from BodyBuilding.com Reverse Wrist Curl from BodyBuilding.com

You could also perform the wrist curls with your arm outstretched, but depending on what your level of ability is, you might end up working to keep your arms out more than working on your wrists. If weights aren't an option for you, consider using a resistance band instead (stand on one end and pull the other end up with your wrist).

Make Your Own Wrist Roller

A simple thing you can do is buy a plate or dumbbell, tie a rope through or around it and tie the other end to a bar or rod. Hold your hands out in front of you, and begin twisting the rod so that the rope wraps around the rod as the weight goes up. When the weight reaches the top, begin untwisting and let the weight go back to the ground. You can also choose to use different weights with it if you so desire. Here's an example of what it looks like from BodyBuilding.com:

Wrist Roller - BodyBuilding.com

That's the basic premise of one. If you don't have plate or barbell, you can improvise with using other materials like a gallon of water or a bag of rocks. You don't need a whole lot of weight to feel it as you curl the rope up or down. A broomstick would work just fine for holding onto as you train.

Buy a Wrist Roller

A SportGrips SideWinder is a simple device that is an extremely durable, small, and portable, and has adjustable tension which is controlled by a knob at the top. I wrote a blog post about this on the Fitness & Nutrition blog. It's simple and easy to use - adjust the tension, grab, and twist. It definitely helped me increase my grip strength over the last few months. The Sierra Mega Wrist Roller is also a similar product you can use. The only downside to these type of products are the cost if money is a concern, but you get what you pay for.

SportGrip SideWinder

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    Heavy deadlifts are another way to build grip strength, as well as improve your knockout resistance. Commented Mar 26, 2012 at 14:38
  • +1 for the wrist roller. I'd add carrying heavy bags just using the 2 middle fingers and switching to just 1 finger now and again
    – Wudang
    Commented Nov 27, 2012 at 0:05
  • -1 buying a wrist roller before a barbell is morally wrong. Commented May 7, 2013 at 14:19

We are taught to practise in bjj to use a gi (uniform) you can hang it on something strong and practise pulling up if you do not have a gi to use for this excercise you can use a belt a martial art belt if possible. It helps to work your arms and you will be able to hold on with that grip when the opponent is resisting or moving.


Get Strong First

If you're weak, there's no point in trying to get a strong grip. You're too weak for it to matter. Instead, you should first work on getting your whole body strong, and then--only then!--focus on developing your grip. Mark Rippetoe has some words for people lacking general strength who want to increase strength in one particular area. From Jim Wendler's blog:

Strength is the most general adaptation. It is acquired most effectively through exercises that produce the most force against external resistance, and as such is always best trained with five or six basic exercises. The same exercises that are correct for weak football players and lifters are correct for weak volleyball and baseball players, because the best way to get strong will always be the same. Strength is NOT specific, and cannot effectively be acquired through exercises that mimic sports-specific movements, because these movements lack the potential to produce as much force as general barbell exercises, and therefore lack the capacity to make weak athletes as strong as barbell training.

In other words, grip-specific training is barking up the wrong tree. Unless the student is already quite strong, the best way to develop grip strength is to work on general strength. Whole-body training will improve your grip strength faster than forearm-specific work, while giving you health benefits and strength for other movements as well.

General Training with a Focus on Grip

Keeping that in mind, what is the best way to tailor your general strength training to grip strength?

  1. The deadlift should be your primary exercise. After an initial period of a few weeks doing higher-rep sets to get your form down, your priority should be warming up to one near-maximal set of three to five reps. Avoid the mixed grip and even the hook grip for as long as possible in your training, and once you start using them, keep doing your warm-ups without them.
  2. Pull-ups with a gi are king. They train grip strength (particularly on the downward phase) as well as grip strength endurance when done for 10+ reps. Best of all? You'll develop enormous upper-body strength that's applicable in grappling far beyond just gripping. You can supplement this training with climbing a rope and finishing your pull-up sets with holds at the top and bottom. If pull-ups are hard for you, negatives are very useful.
  3. Do at least a little of the counter movements to these exercises, to prevent imbalances. Dips and barbell front squats would be fine choices.

Once you can perform fifteen full-range-of-motion, no-kip gi-grip pull-ups, plus a double bodyweight deadlift, the student can add the awesome grip-specific training mentioned by others. Fat grips, oversize bars, wrist rollers, curls and other specialized training are very productive...once someone is strong enough everywhere else for it to matter.

Other approaches are of course possible: a kettlebell-centric program with many swings and clean-and-presses would appropriately develop whole-body strength while also working the grip.


i've always liked getting a bucket or small garbage can and filling it full of uncooked rice. you can do what we call rice grabs by jamming your fist into the rice while grabbing and releasing handfuls of rice. cheap and effective.


The grips are much more technique that people think. To break grips you need a technique. Also to keep you grip you need a technique as well.

It is helpful training some weights. Exercices that put pressure in your fingers and develop your forearm. As a sample:

  • Dead lift
  • Sumo dead lift
  • Rope climbing
  • Hammering

The grip will be break when your opponent was able to put your arm straight or hold your arm and move himself putting a lot of pressure just in your fingers. If when my opponent try break my grip I follow my opponent with a loose arm my opponent will not able to break my grip. Because your arm is loose and you following your opponent.

When you begin the BJJ or Judo you try hold your opponent with your arm. Many guys feel pain at the forearm because they use too much this muscles. If you move with your opponent. If you have a relaxed arms you will put less pressure on your fingers.

The most efficient technique to have a really good grip is training BJJ/Judo hard. Nothing is more important than practices the real situation.

This video explain a little about how to avoid the strength on your fingers. https://youtu.be/lHiHFRrTBqM


Join a bouldering/rock climbing gym, climb for 1-2 hours once a week. No matter how strong you think your grip is, it will be humbled in 2 hours of bouldering.

The infinite variations of holds and grip load directions will create impenetrable GI holds. There's also tons of isolated grip training techniques and most gyms have a separate training area just for grip strength.

I had been bouldering for 3 months when my brother invited me to try jiu jitsu. No one could break my grip, even much heavier 100kg guys.

  • It's people like you why people like Michael Jordan takes it personal :)
    – יהודה
    Commented Jul 25, 2021 at 14:01

Put a 3 inch vertical handle on five gallon bucket. Each day fill it with a bowl of water and lift with fingers from floor to chest for 15 minutes with each hand. In three months your hands will be three times stronger. After using water, repeat the process with sand, and then with lead. If you can lift a full bucket of lead, you can actually control any man or beast with just hand strength. It's called dragon's claw.

  • What do you mean by three times stronger? How are you qualifying this measurement?
    – user15
    Commented Dec 1, 2013 at 1:27

I have used a Bulgarian Bag for grip strength, and I recommend it. The different handles allow you to perform a variety of exercises, and there are many, many instructional videos on how to use the bags (for grips as well as other exercises). We keep a few at our academy for conditioning/competition training circuits.


There's a lot of great information in the above posts. For gi specific training, using a gi on a chin up bar as stated above is a great choice, but from my experience, the excess gi fabric can get in the way.

There are a couple of products out there which do the same thing but you don't have to worry about the material. Origin's orangahang http://originmaine.com/orangahang-pro-bjj-grip-trainer-made-in-maine-usa/ is basically the equivalent of a pearl weave gi sleeve with an opening at the bottom to simulate the end of a sleeve and a cut down one side to simulate the collar. A similar product is Jits grips. The biggest difference is that jits grips doesn't simulate the collar opening.

Both of these have loops on the end that can be attached to a chin up bar or weight machine so they can really be used anywhere.

I would also suggest grip pro trainers. They look like little rubber donuts that have different levels of resistance that you can just squeeze. I've also started squeezing a lacross ball with each hand. You could also use a racket ball or tennis ball. After rounds, your hands feel tired, but it's seemed to help.

I would definitely suggest using different techniques to improve your grip. Something like the orangahang is great, but you can't really do anything with it unless you have something to attach it to whereas the grip pro trainers are great for using while you're watching tv at night or sitting at work.

I wasn't able to post links for the grip pro trainer or jits grips, but a quick google search will bring them right up.


I have never thought of using one for BJJ grip strength before today, but a finger strengthener could do the trick. They are sold mainly for the purposes of strengthening your fingers in order to play an instrument better, but they could also be used to practice better grips. They are relatively cheap($2-6), and definitely make your fingers stronger. Mine has worked for me for the past two-and-a-half years, and now my fingers are at least 75% stronger than they were previously.

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