Closing grippers, set vs. no set.

It seems to me that there are still purists that make claims about using the no sets exclusively is the way to go in gripper training for the best results. Some seem to go as far as saying that setting the gripper is cheating and other equally negative comments. To me, these things are not a matter of personal preference or beliefs. I want and need to think about these things more thoroughly than that. I am going to take a look at these things with more thought now.

First of all, in the discussion about choosing the set to train with, we should separate actual training from the feats of strength. We have two different aspects in this case. This is where people often  talk about two different things, thinking they are talking about the same matter. Let me explain.

No set purists often seem to talk from the “feat of strength”-aspect. As far as I understand, this is where the view that anything other than no set close of a gripper is cheating comes. As for gripper closes, I do think that there’s nothing that beats the good old no set as a feat. There is no denying, that no set of a #3 is way more impressive than a close with a parallel set. But what does this have to do with training to get stronger? Has a person who has trained to be strong enough to close a #3 missed out on something because he has chosen a parallel set? NO. It is just a different route on the way to get stronger.

I don’t think any grown man would be childish enough to claim that parallel set close would be as impressive as no set close on the same gripper, so against whose claims is the notion “setting the gripper is cheating” actually directed? It is not like anyone whose accomplished a parallel set close of a #3, would want to settle for that in their journey to get stronger. On this different route to get stronger, you simply just work your way up to closing Elites or #3.5’s with the parallel set. The funny thing is, that once you are parallel set closing those grippers, no set on a #3 will be a joke. So, the person became stronger using different means to achieve an end, does this make him a cheater? He might get there faster too, just because he ignores the opinion that setting is cheating and takes full advantage of the phenomenon called carryover. In strength training, it is the results that matter, not opinions that don’t have much to back them up.

Let’s look at the nature of a torsion spring gripper for a second. With these grippers, the start of the close is always easy. The gripper get’s hardest when the handles are touching. So what, in terms of training to get stronger, are you missing out if you choose to use a set? The answer is, not much if anything. It is this very nature of the resistance of the torsion spring getting harder towards the end, that does make a gripper a good training tool when you want to develop hand strength in the closed fist position, but not nearly as efficient when you want to gain strength through the sweep, or strength in the open hand position. If you are using a gripper that you can close or almost close for your no sets, you are really not doing that much for your sweep. You would have to be using a very hard gripper to gain something on the sweep and it would be hard to measure progress. Much better alternative for training the sweep strength would be a plate loaded grip machine of some sort, as the resistance will be hard from the start. In my experience, you don’t fix a weak sweep by using wider sets on grippers.

It is too easily forgotten that for the most part, it is the handle placement on the thumb-side that makes the no set that much harder. You have to close your hand tighter and that’s what makes no set harder. It is not the easy part of the gripper that’s holding you back. So, my theory is, that to achieve the benefits of no set training, you could simply just move the handle in your palm closer to your thumb and set the gripper anyway! Then, you are working against the gripper where it’s resistance is harder and closing your hand more tightly. This type of technique will form a part of my future training and I have no doubt it will benefit me. I will develop my strength in the weak region and not waste energy or effort on the easier sweep. Combined with a use of grip machine such as Secret Weapon, I will make sure I work the hardest on each part of the ROM. This is not effectively achieved with grippers alone and not with no sets.

At this point, I want to make it clear that I’m not an advocate of any type of set. I am trying to find the effective ways to train and I simply do not like all the nonsense about gripper training passed on as advice. Most no set-advocates are really not that accomplished in closing grippers, not even with their pet set. It is not convincing enough to work your way up to no set close of a  #3 using nothing but a no set. The fact that it can be done so within time does not make it the best way to train.

Another silly thing that keeps popping up is the technique vs. strength. No set-advocates seem to think that parallel set closing grippers somehow takes the strength out of the equation. Again, that is nonsense. How is it possible to close bigger grippers with mostly technique? Does this also mean that when you close the next gripper up, it is mostly because your technique has improved? Does it mean that you are just getting better at “cheating”? Isn’t it obvious, that whatever set you choose, once you close a harder gripper than before, you are stronger than before. One question is, why would you want to separate strength and skill? There’s always technique involved in any type of strength feat. This whole strength vs. skill-debate gives me headache and leads me to think that some people would rather want to suck with technique and achieve inferior results with so called pure strength. There is no such thing as pure strength..

One silly claim more that I’ve seen lately, is that “deep setting” causes more injuries than no setting. What’s the basis for claims like that? I think I don’t even have to get into this too deeply, as I’m waiting for proof for the claims. If the “proof” is based on a fact that using a set allows to close bigger grippers, I will just say that it’s not like using a set would allow anyone to jump right up to using a gripper that is way too hard for them anyway, as with any set you will have to build up the strength and the connective tissues gradually to withstand the pressure, so it’s pretty much a moot point.

In this article, I have given out a few pieces of advice what to do instead of getting fixated to the no sets. To achieve any sort of feat of strength, you will have to train to get stronger.  So, training optimally to get stronger should be the first concern. It is to me, which is why I try to consider all the angles before drawing any conclusions and before forming a  too strong opinion. In my own training, which has produced fairly good results with grippers, I tend to do everything else but not very wide sets on grippers. I occasionally do a no set here and there as a feat of strength and just for fun. But my progress is made with other methods.


6 Responses to “Closing grippers, set vs. no set.”

  1. Fantastic article Teemu! Very well-written and I agree with your thoughts on these matters.

    Frankly, I wish grippers were pre-set at MM or CC depth, I really fumble with setting even after some coaching. It seems like a rather silly skill to have to learn; I wish I could just concentrate on crushing.

  2. Teemu, I enjoyed reading this article. Thank you for posting it.


  3. grippernut Says:

    Thanks guys for the positive feedback, glad to hear that you found this a good read.

  4. Bill Long Says:

    Great article.

  5. Great article with some good points for deeper thought about this subject.

    Thanks for posting this Teemu!!!

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