You need to train your extensors because extensor training is important for everybody who has an opposable thumb. (That means everybody.) If you consider all of the gripping you do in your daily routine then add it to any specialized grip training you do, you’ll realize that your poor flexors are constantly being worked and that your elbow and wrist probably are in desperate need of extensor training to restore the balance.
How I Got Here
I do a lot of grip training because it’s one of the limiting factors between me and a 600lb deadlift. A stronger grip also correlates to more punching power which is important to me as a martial artist. That means if I don’t want to end up with severe tennis elbow again, I’ve got to practice due diligence when it comes to extensor training.
A lot of people underestimate the value of extensor training. I could be wrong because I’m not a doctor, but I am aware of the fact that if you only work the agonist muscles (in this case, just follow a normal routine for a few decades) and ignore your antagonist muscles for the same amount of time, your body is likely to signal you that there’s a problem by sending you a pain signal. Yes, you can take NSAIDs, yes you can ice the area but these don’t fix the problem. They mask the pain. Fixing the problem will make the pain go away and seems to me a much better solution than simply medicating it to numb the area while the damage continues.
Here Are Two Easy Tests to See If You Need to Train Your Extensors
Supporting Strength Extensor Test
Grab a jar with an opening that’s big enough for your hand to fit in. You want it to be able to hold around 32 oz. Fill it with water. Then attempt to pick up that jar SPREADING YOUR FINGERS. Don’t use anything but the pressure of your spread fingers to lift the jar. If you can deadlift your bodyweight but you can’t lift that jar with finger pressure alone, then you’ve got problems.
Static Strength Extensor Test
Stand in the mirror and let your hands hang down normally. If your fingers naturally rest in close to a closed fist position, you’ve got a problem.
If you’ve been experiencing elbow pain to the point that you’ve got more elbow sleeves, wraps and braces than shoes in your closet, AND you can’t lift that jar, well then you need to train your extensors.
Another indicator of an imbalance is if your fingers get numb if you leave your elbows bent for too long, aka Saturday Night Palsy. Regardless of which category you fit in, it’s time to fix the problem. Go see your doctor, hook up with a qualified ART certified specialist and start training to restore yourself.
Simple Extensor Training
Thumb Only Plate Carry
IAWA World Record Holder, James Fuller told me about this one. Pick up the heaviest weight plate you can by hooking your thumb under the lip. (note: This won’t work if the plate doesn’t have a lip.) Either stand there or walk as far as you can while carrying the plate with ONLY your thumb. Your remaining fingers will naturally flare out and you’ll get a nice pump. Watch your toes as you get tired.
Protein Jug Lift
Got this one from King Kong Grip Champion Gilbert Goodman. Take an empty protein jug do what you did with the jar. As it gets easier, add some light plates, pebbles or sand inside to increase the weight. Tape the inside of the top if comfort is an issue.
You can also do this with the 5 Inch Bull Ring sold by Jedd Johnson. I prefer that option because it’s less bulky than a protein jug and it’s easier to load it specific to the strength level of the lifter. So my son and I can train together simply by changing the plates.