Improving grip endurance for downhill and enduro
I’m currently following PUTB and will be moving onto PTPI to prepare for next race season. I race DH and Enduro and have trouble with my grip in extra long runs. I have been tweaking my brake and cockpit setup over the last 4 months but know I will still have issues come race seasons on some of the longer descents. I am registering for a race in June with a 3500′ stage and I’m wondering if you have any advice on exercises to add in the gym (I already do lots of KBSs, Deadlifts, Chinups, and basic movements) to up my grip endurance.
That is a great question.
Assuming you don’t have a medical issue, here are some thoughts:
Improve your technique
Make your Pillar of Support smaller. Huh? Improve your core strength and awareness. Teach yourself to spend more time in a position of perfect balance. When you get knocked off balance, snap back into position.
Light hands and heavy feet 11 years ago. Eleven! Time is flying.
The farther off balance you are, and the less your core is doing the work, the more your extremities have to do the work. This means tired arms and legs and, ultimately, trouble with your grip.
A lot of arm pump comes from constant contraction of your gripping muscles.
Learn to ride with dainty, tea party hands most of the time. Grip harder only in the moments when you’re pulling hard or something crazy is happening.
Based on the training you say you’re already doing, I think most of your benefit will come from technique. When I was racing a lot of DH I had lots of issues with my hands including weakness, arm pump and arthritis. When I learned to balance, it all went away. Heck, when everyone was getting the shit beaten out of them, I was resting for the next section.
Also: Race with fresh grips on your bars. Wear clean, tight gloves.
And: Make sure your cockpit is dialed for your body. See below.
There are lots of ways to focus on grip strength, and if you need some tips I’m happy to share them, but most of us have limited training time, and every exercise has to check multiple boxes.
PUTB and P2PI are fantastic for pedaling fitness! But, as you know, DH and endure demand more than pedaling fitness.
Lift heavy things. Deadlifting is the biggie. Just standing there with 300 pounds in your hands does wonders for your whole body, including grip.
Hip drive, check. Crazy torso strength, check. Grip strength, check.
Incorporate strength work (holding heavy things) into your endurance training. F6 with good weight and pacing counts as full-body mobility, stability, strength and endurance training. If you do the dead rows with substantial weight, you improve your grip strength too.
Most days when I walk my dog, I also carry a heavy rock. Seriously. That’s ~20 minutes holding a heavy, awkwardly shaped object. As I get tired, I change the way I hold it. This is full-on trunk and grip training.
Some day you’ll have a RipRow™ trainer, which teaches you to pull and push HARD hundreds of times per workout — while using your core and maintaining perfect balance. This is the bulk of my current training. Yes, it works the grip too.
In this video I’m working through my sixth set of 100 at heavy resistance. RipRow™ develops full-body shred fitness, strength and skill in a profoundly effective way. Patent pending. We’re making the first batch ASAP.
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I hope this helps. Most riders I work with get huge benefits from dialing in their setup, honing their technique and carrying heavy things. If you need more specific grip workouts, let me know.
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Try rock climbing. It’s fun and you’ll never get pumped on the bike again.
Great advice from @matt!
I should add:
Get strong, consistent brakes. I can’t over-stress how excellent Shimano XTs are.