Tough Mudder Training: 5 Ways to Build an Iron Grip

By mark barroso | June 4, 2016


One thing that benefits all Tough Mudder’s, regardless of their athletic background, is grip strength. There’s simply no completing gruelling obstacles like Funky Monkey 2.0, Everest, Balls to the Wall, King of the Swingers, and Blockness Monster without it.

When talkin’ about grip strength, there are three types (who knew?) - crushing, pinching, and stabilization. On a Tough Mudder course, you’ll need all three types to clear obstacles. Follow these expert tips to improve your grip strength and you’ll be the King of the Swingers in no time.

Crush Grip: Use a Hand Gripper

Crush grip is the power that comes from the four fingers that are not your thumb and is the type that strength athletes tend to have more of. You can improve your crush grip by including more deadlifts or barbell rows into your strength training routine or picking up a nifty hand tool like the Ironmind Captains of Crush grippers.

The benefits of using grippers like this are two-fold, not only do they help with hanging obstacles, they’ll make you the best helper on the course.

Having an iron clad grip makes you the ideal candidate to offer a helping hand during team-based obstacles like Everest 2.0, Mud Mile 2.0, and Block Ness Monster.


Indoor rock climbing, along with nontraditional running, is one of the fastest fitness trends. According to Climbing Business Journal, 78 new gyms have opened between 2013 and 2015 bringing the total number of climbing gyms in the U.S. to 388 and counting.

Rock climbing gyms are judge-free zones where public failure is so common it’s not even true failure, it’s more like just a part of the process. Rock climbing works the pinch grip and stability grip for endurance purposes. Your hand is open but your thumb now provides power in holding your body weight.

Scaling vertical surfaces will help you get up and over Berlin Walls and Skidmarked, but it’ll also come in handy on obstacles that require more upper body strength. Visit local climbing gyms and ask to try their facility for a day, you just might find a new hobby while Tough Mudder training.


Pull ups, dead hangs and pull up bar traversing are essential for success at Funky Monkey 2.0 and King of Swingers. Incorporate pull ups into most of your workouts and try to move across a pull up bar (horizontally) without crossing your hands. Towel pull ups also add in increased level of difficulty.

For dead hangs, alternate between hanging from a pullup bar with arms bent at 90-degree angle and arms fully extended. Start with hanging for only 10 seconds, say, after a set of pullups or pushups. Then, move on to 20 seconds, 30 seconds, and more. Perfecting dead hangs means the difference between a fall into freezing water and the adrenaline rush of completing one of our toughest obstacles: Funky Monkey 2.0.


Pinch training, perhaps the most mentally challenging of grip techniques, requires the lifting of weight plates using only your fingertips. To perform a plate pinch hold, lift a weight plate (start with 10 pounds) off the ground in each hand. Hold for as long as possible (aim for at least 30 seconds) then place them down. Progress to lifting two plates in each hand.

Pinch grip training will develop the mental grit necessary to power through Tough Mudder’s more psychological obstacles such as Cage Crawl while providing improvements in hanging obstacles like Funky Monkey 2.0.


One of the most overlooked parts of grip training are the forearms, which house the muscles responsible for opening and closing the hand. Neglecting these muscles creates a muscular imbalance. It’s not the end of the world, but working on your forearm strength can even reduce elbow pain.

To isolate these small, useful muscles, wrap a thick rubber band around the outside of your fingers and try to open your hand by pushing your fingers against the band. If you’re looking for a way to include forearm strength building techniques into in your high-intensity workouts try adding kettlebell swings at a moderately challenging weight into your circuit.

Put your new iron grip to the ultimate test on the course at a 2016 event. Check out the lineup.