Video: Jack Reading & Dan Slack Demonstrate a Workout to Improve Grip Strength

Jan 24, 2021
by Jonny Thompson  

Here's a great workout for riders looking to improve grip strength!

In this video, we show you an intense workout for MTB riders. It’s a bit of a beast and it’ll challenge you all, best thing is, you don’t need a ton of equipment to do it! You could do it with a single dumbbell if that’s all you have!

We were lucky enough to be joined by seasoned pro Jack Reading and his protégé Dan Slack – who came second in the Junior men's Downhill World Champs in 2020!

So what do you have to do for this brutal strength workout?

Alternate every minute until you fail:

Start on minute 1 with 7 Thrusters
Then on minute 2 complete 7 Dirty Cleans
Rest the remaining time within each minute, starting each rep cycle at the start of every minute.

Once you are comfortable with that, increase the reps. The pro riders in the video were up to 15 reps on each which is massive.

In this particular video, we swapped them between a pair of dumbbells and a barbell for each round of 2 minutes, this kept things spicy for them and changed the stimulus slightly.

See if you can keep up with Jack and Dan! Tag us on social media for a shout out!

Take a look at our website for more awesome free workouts for mountain bikers - Fit4Racing


  • 79 2
 grab a shovel!
  • 20 0
 between that and hauling water from the creek uphill to jumps, you could crack walnuts in your hands.
  • 14 1
 Good call. Another option? Hit up a climbing gym or hang board.
  • 2 0
 I agree!
  • 13 1
 @BiNARYBiKE: Nothing trains your grip better than climbing or bouldering.
  • 6 1
 hauling wheelbarrows and 5 gallons buckets helps a lot too.
  • 2 1
 @seismicninja: I farmers carry medical equipment chassis from the shelf to the cmm every day at work. i dont know that ive ever seen such progress in my forearms.
  • 21 4
 spank the monkey as a daily routine
  • 3 5
 @seismicninja: Climbing mainly trains pinch strength rather than crush strength. MTB mainly requires crushing strength.
  • 2 3
 @funkzander: Be great for turning one direction...
  • 2 0
 @bigtim: I really don’t want to guess why that guy has suck big jaws then.
  • 1 0
 @BiNARYBiKE: In that video, they are mainly testing pinch strength. What's your point?
  • 2 0
 @iamalexm: rock climbing, especially in a gym setting, involves holds of all sorts, from pinches to crimps to big suitcase handle holds. And climbers train with different hang boards and other tools to make sure grip is strong regardless of the hold shape.

Grabbing onto a mountain bike grip is literally the easiest possible hold a climber could be presented with. Much easier than any pinch hold. That said, climbing is often a pulling sport whereas mountain biking is more of a pushing sport. So I do think the video you shared has some good points in establishing that pushing is important, which requires stability in the wrist.

The other thing I've found is that long mountain bike descents create lactic acid buildup in a way that's similar to long sport climbs, but different since one's hands remain in the same position without clenching and unclenching over and over, which helps flush out pumped forearm muscles. I've found Theraband Flexbars and gyroscope exercise balls to be the most efficient in training for that consistent grip position for prolonged periods of time.
  • 2 0
 @iamalexm: Just a fun video exploring the topic at hand. Would be cool if they had tested crush strength too. I will say this: When I ride the day after a solid session at the climbing gym, my arms and hands definitely feel it on the descents. No question those same muscles are being well worked while climbing.
  • 2 0
 @pgomez: IMO the lactic acid buildup is much worse climbing. I got really into climbing a couple years before I started mountain biking, and in my ~6 years of mountain biking, I've yet to experience any arm pump that comes even close to the arm pump you get while sport climbing at your limit. I haven't had a chance to do any insanely long descents like Top of the World in Whistler, but even on relatively long ~2000 ft descents, arm pump as never been a real issue for me.
  • 1 0
 @BiNARYBiKE: Sure - I am just saying that if you want to do specific training, best to focus on crush strength. No doubt that you use the different types of grip strength in the rock climbing gym. I have been grip training for a number of years and have seen an explicit difference when really focusing on crush strength over the other types.
  • 1 0
 @dlxah: I live in the PNW and have descended over 20k in a day. The arm pump is real. I agree, lactic acid buildup is worse climbing. That being said, that has little to do with specificity training.
  • 1 0
 Grab 'your' shovel
  • 48 2
 We’ll get to individual comment shortly but let’s start with a few general comments of our own.

Fit4Racing submitted this article with reference to the benefits of grip in the text body, not the headline. PB editorial has given it this headline without our approval (of which we wouldn’t give). If we were to give you an article with grip in the title it would look much different.

We also submitted this article with a different thumbnail, PB editorial chose to take a screenshot of the video and use that instead, again, without consultation or our approval.

Fit4Racing is a well established service providing strength and conditioning to mountain bikers globally. We are responsible for over 30 DH World Cup, multiple EWS and hundreds of amateur riders. The British Navy and Marine MTB team and Royal Air Force have both adopted our program for their riders. We work with junior riders such as Oisin Ocallaghan (junior world champ) and have done for 4 years now, and also having 1,2,3,5,7 place finishes in the DH overall last year.

We know the value of good movement and appropriate programming, the shame of most of the comment we are reading is that a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing and non-trainers become experts. I have a black ground in coaching Olympic lifts and know how to coach movements with SAFETY as a priority. This principal of safety is soon lost when the “ass to grass” crew see a squat that isn’t “full depth”. The reality is, most of the athletes you see in our videos are still working on mobility to be able to perform lifts with full range, if they were to simply squat lower their mobility challenges would necessitate the change in position elsewhere, namely the lower back therefore making the lift unsafe. The same applies to overhead position.

As a coach of professional athletes, there are many obstacles to overcome with every athlete. Namely mobility, form and time. Our goal is to prepare riders for the upcoming season and beyond without hurting them and striving to appease the keyboard experts on appropriate depth of squats.

Hopefully this has answered some questions but if you have more feel free to reply to this comment, otherwise I’ll try and get to some specifics that have already been asked in the previous comments.
  • 4 1
 I thoroughly enjoy your videos, and have been stealing workout ideas from you for a long time. Also agree that the title of the article wasn't well thought out...BUT the response came across quite harsh, like you don't really want your videos shared on Pinkbike in the future?
  • 3 0
 @fit4racing good post and agree a lot of the opinions here are just that - opinions of keyboard warriors who heard something from some dude at some gym and now consider it law. I appreciate that you guys train the individual and create programming and train form based on your clients' current physical status/skill.

What cracks me up is there are a LOT of people who think there is a RIGHT or WRONG way to getting fit. As long as you are able to see improvements without causing burnout or causing immediate or potentially long-term/down the road injury, it's ok in my book. Seeing these guys who may relatively early on in their fitness journey lift and work their way through these movements is really fun to watch. Cool to see someone who makes MTB look so effortless actually have to work through something that is challenging to them. Also would be really cool to see their gains after an off-season of training, and see how that equates on the track.

I believe Aaron Gwin was training with Marcus Filly, the creator of Awaken Training Series, and have to say, that's another GREAT program to consider. After completing ATS 1, I felt faster on the bike (clock proved it was a small increase) BUT I also felt like I could ride a lot longer and more consistently, and could recover from slams much quicker.

Anyways, TLBig Grin R = keep up the content, I appreciate it and I like seeing some of these dudes who absolutely shred on the bike struggle with fitness. Good reminder that we're all human!
  • 1 0
 I feel your pain @fit4racing, I would stress over the subtle nuances in how to phrase something so it came across well and then it would freight trained in editing to make it sound all 'rad' and 'gnarly'. Dude. Same with the clickbait headlines, which I detest with a passion. Very glad not to need to deal with any of that any more!
  • 1 0
 Even though this video is clearly not the most grip strength-intensive workout (as you've stated), I'm always stoked to see the content you all share. And I think most people who watch the video, understand the basics of the exercises presented, and pay attention to what you say about the muscles being targeted in the video will come away with a good understanding for what the workout will target.

Keep it coming @fit4racing !
  • 45 7
 ‘Jack Reading and Dan Slack Demonstrate a Workout to Improve Grip Strength Only to have 50 different American pb commenters with strong options tell them how they squat wrong’
  • 15 18
 Neat story, momjeans.
  • 7 7
 100% all of their squats are trash, programed by people who don't fully understand the movement. They apparently need the mob instruction. Cycling coaches seem to be a fan of trash OHPs too.
  • 6 3
 @RonSauce: They're squatting to improve MTB capability, not be the next Ray Williams.

Technique looks acceptable and in the true meaning of the phrase, "fit for purpose"
  • 3 2
 @RonSauce: gets it
  • 2 4
 @Mfro: check it out, I didn't watch the video and I can already tell you something done wrong. Don't use the knee as a shearing brake, use your hamstrings to stop and return. Quarter squatting isnt sport specific. We also refer to it as "the football squat". Its a bad movement programmed by hack trainers, never anyone who actually studied barbell movements.
  • 3 2
 @Mfro: I've seen enough people on pinkbike drooling over Ritchie Rude's pulls, nobody is going to accidentally start lifting like Ray Williams.
  • 1 0

I don’t see what you’re referring to re the knee.

Which part of the video!?
  • 3 13
flag RonSauce (Jan 24, 2021 at 21:05) (Below Threshold)
 @Mfro: as I said, I didn't watch the video. These videos are usually full of trash technique that not only do I not need, but are usually misinformation. You say its a squat for purpose, I assume that means it isnt "just a squat".
If you stop before about parallel (some people a little more some less) the quad stays under full tension and when you return the weight the load stays in your quads and your knees with a shearing force. If you do a "proper squat" your hamstrings decelerate you and your glutes and hamstrings will take that load. That saves wear on your knees, builds your posterior chain and all around makes you stronger. The only L you take is a smaller number on the barbell.
  • 1 0

Guess Fit4racing is doomed!!
  • 4 0
 @RonSauce: since you did not watch the video, you are probably referring to the picture. What you are describing as a bad squat then is actually a deadlift they are doing as part of the “dirty clean”...
  • 6 1
 @RonSauce: mate u literally wrote that u hadn't watched the video - stop chatting shit and grow up
  • 16 0
 @RonSauce: We have posted a length comment explaining the depth of the squat elements you see in this video, take a look. It is also relevant to the over head position. On a more direct note, I do fully understand the movement and have chosen to perform it like this for more reasons than to appease the keyboard warriors of pinkbike.
  • 9 1
 @RonSauce: Great that you are confident enough to comment on form in a video you haven't even watched. A true keyboard warrior, well done for representing the keyboard experts so well.
  • 4 1
 @Mfro: On the contrary, our athlete are thriving and results speak for themselves. Videos like this are only a small part of what we do and to have the opportunity to answer comments of concern is actually great for us. Obviously we would love it if people were more educated and didn't feel the need to ask the questions in the first place.
  • 4 0

Bit of sarcasm mate aimed at Mr Sauce!

Keep up the great content please!!
  • 1 5
flag RonSauce (Jan 25, 2021 at 13:01) (Below Threshold)
 @fit4racing: im responding to the original comment, not the video. I clearly stated twice that I didn't watch the video, my comment has nothing to do with the video. You see, the original comment was about comments, not the video.
  • 21 0
 you could try switching hands every now and then. works for me.
  • 35 1
 I call it... the stranger.
  • 3 0
 @JeCo07: I call it cheating.
  • 4 3
 @iamamodel: It's not cheating cause it's your dog.
  • 9 1
 Be a plumber and get paid to develop grip strength. Then with the money you make buy a nice bike and send it all day because you don't get arm pump anymore.
  • 10 0
 Or try rock climbing Smile
  • 2 2
 Anybody can do thrusters and dirty cleans. Ring muscle ups are incredibly difficult let alone reverse grip one's.
  • 7 0
 Exactly this, no other sport thinks about grip strength more. You don't need to squat to work on grip strength.
  • 7 0
 @NorCalNomad: That was my thought the entire time. None of these are directly grip related. They aid grip like ANY other free weight work out would. These are not directed at grip strength.

Rings are awesome for developing hand strength. Been thinking about getting some of those for my garage and some battle ropes.
  • 1 0
 @onemanarmy: All of those are even excessive. Bucket of rice and or a grip trainer is one of the cheapest ways to increase hand strength.
  • 1 0
 @wellbastardfast: You mean false grip right??
You're correct in saying muscle-ups are great for grip strength but for the general riders out there I wouldn't suggest using your time to learn them, the risk is not worth it. And for the pros, I wouldn't risk them doing any and potentially injuring themselves and ruining their careers.
  • 2 0
 @fit4racing: jonny I'm backing you mate And yeah i meant false grip
  • 2 0
 @wellbastardfast: thank you brother. I might've been on the defensive as I was replying to so many other negative comments. Very sorry if I came across aggressive and thanks for your support.
  • 2 0
 @fit4racing: haters goner hate dude
  • 10 6
 How to improve on the "improving grip" part:

1. Keep your shirt on - noone wants to see you naked!

2. Perform basic stuff like deadlifts and or barbell rowing. especially deadlifts, after a while you can will notice increase in lower arm strength. i started with hands slipping at 90kg, now I am at 150kg. Greatly improved my fatigue problem on the mountainbike that comes as standard with being undersized for my weight. Just strap in with bigger weights if your hands open up otherwise, strength will improve over time.

I never get why all those "youtube trainers" always recommend complicated stacks of certain exercises and make a cardio training out of it. Just lift, as heavily as you can perform without losing form. If you do not feel pain for the next two consecutive days - lift harder. If yes - just repeat the process until strength is not your problem.

Making stuff complicated and also making a science out of it might be prudent for people earning their money with MTB, not for the weekend warrior. The body adapts to resistance, there is not much science to it. Find someone who shows you how the basic lifts (squat, benchpress, deadlift, barbell rowing) are done properly and then hit the repeat button until you are satisfied with the results. Warning - this might be addictive.
  • 3 1
 One word..... deadlift.
  • 8 1
 Ok, so the deadlift weight that might be required to induce adaptation in grip strength may also be significant enough to cause extra load on the CNS.

The brief dynamic loading on grip strength during a clean or similar will still tax the grip muscles without the greater taxing of the CNS. These athletes will still need to do training on another 4-5 days of the week (plus a riding day). So flogging the body with deadlifts will eat into their recovery.

Your comment of "just lift as heavily as you can" shows a lack of understanding of longer-term exercise planning, overall athletic objectives and training individualisation.
  • 3 1
 @Mfro: who the hell cleans enough weight to actually task grip? Only people truly training oly lifts. I would say the Olympic lifts are good for carry over generally speaking, but if you are training to enhance grip and carry over to the bike I would say deadlifts and pull-ups. I would even reccomend straps after your grip gets weaker through the workout if you need to.

But if you REALLY want to increase grip do plate pinches.
  • 1 0

See your comment above re Oly lifting challenging grip, then apply the same to DLs (done for reps - per the whole point of this video) then consider my point re CNS.
  • 1 1
 @Mfro: im not talking cns, its stupid, newbie lifters don't need to worry about that. If we are talking grip only specific, then just train grip. If you have ever EVER truly trained grip you will know its about as taxing on the cns as anything.
Feel free to waste you time on half baked crossfit exercises though.
  • 1 0
 @RonSauce: actually im losing grip during deadlifts/rowing with low weights after a couple of minutes of continous deadlift/rowing hot iron routine.
35kgs are enough to tire the forearm significantly when you hit repetition 40/50 or so.
  • 3 1
 "strap in with bigger weights".... "just lift, as heavy as you can"..... "if you don't feel pain lift harder"..... Spoken with true knowledge and experience.

The science may not be as complicated as you might think but simply squatting, bechpressing, deadlifting and rowing alone is not the best way to spend your time training for MTB... and in the way you are suggesting, it wouldn't be the best way to train for anything other than hurting yourself.

Strength and Conditioning. That's what we do. And have done for many years with thousands of athletes, not only MTB. You can't just simplify training to 4 core lifts.
  • 2 0
 @Mfro: Please refer to our extended comment where we explain that the title of this article has been changed by Pinkbike editorial, the purpose of this training was not to increase grip strength.
  • 2 0
 @Mfro: Congrats, the next guy to make a science out of recreational sports. We are pinkbike users, not MTB pros Wink We cannot even distinguish a session from another mountainbike!

For people starting in strength I recommend reading "starting Strength", ignore the youtubers and find someone to show you the basic lifts so you can perform them properly. The rest is just nonsense or fitness hipster crap.

@Danimaniac: 50 repetitions with 35kg rowing - we have a masochist at our hands! I ususally do 3 sets of 20 with 70kg. Enough to make my lower arms and my back fall apart. What you do is beyond pain.
  • 2 1
 @Helmchentuned: well f*cking said.
  • 1 2

When you’ve studied sports science for over 20 years, you notice a couple of things ;-)
  • 1 0
 @Mfro: People doing recreational sports do not want to study sport science for 20 years. Follow the KISS principle. Do basic lifts and be done with it. Less gym time, more trail time.
  • 1 0
 @Helmchentuned: well, it's different from what you think.
In Hot Iron you usually do Deadlifts and Rows in "one song"
So you'd start with doubletime deadlifts (slow) (4-Cool , than switch to normaltime deadlifts (16), than do from the lower position into rowing (15) for example... do that 3 times (i know.. adds up to 45 rowing reps.). But you can add different things, like into lower deadlift position, one (two/three) rows, back to upper position, go Superslow... and so on.
So you get some kind of a pause between the rowing reps... but it will add up.

When I started doing these workouts I couldn't go all the way with only 20kg (plus 2kg aerobic bar)
  • 2 0
 Different strokes for different folks. For me, personally, I can perform pretty heavy olympic lifts with complete confidence of not injuring myself unless for some freak accident (eqpt. fail, etc.). For me, as is for a lot of people, My programming consists of work that is fun to do (keeps me motivated) is results-driven (I have a goal and hitting the goal tends to produce improvements in strength, mobility and function) and sustainable (I can keep doing it 3-4 days a week and still feel strong, flexible, and comfortable when I ride my bike, surf, run, etc.). I'm almost never "sore" or in pain after a workout. I feel tired, but in a good way - I still feel strong and functional.

Doing some of the workouts listed above (hi rep, low weight, moderate weight, higher rep, etc.) doesn't meet my fitness goals, personally as it isn't fun to me (I don't like overly repetitive chain workouts) and is prioritizing reps over load, which is more of an aerobic exercise, which I try to get from riding/other outdoor activities.

If you enjoy doing what you're doing, that's great, and you should absolutely keep doing it. If you are making an effort to get fit, and you are able to sustain it over time, keep doing it! Not one way is particularly better than others.
  • 1 0
 @danimaniac: if light rows and deadlifts tax your grip you need to train grip more. If you need to train grip specifically do plate pinches with 10 minutes between sets on push days when you dont need grip for your workout.

If you have trouble with grip on rows you have weak grip, thats just facts, train it. Its normal to have some grip struggles on a deadlift, on a row thats showing a weakness. Especially with 35kg.
  • 1 0
 @RonSauce: The core deadlift might be the best overall power building exercise out there. In HS and college, playing football, the core deadlift was one of our central lifts designed to hit all the major muscle groups. It requires focus, fundamentals (so that you don't throw your back out, hurt your knees/etc). It will also force you to toughen the f*** up.
  • 4 0
 Id love to see a gallery of all these key board warriors shirtless, I bet is a rogues gallery of moobs and spare tyres. Many people get a lot of value out of these videos @fit4racing; keep it up and ignore the 'experts' on here.
  • 3 0
 I like the workout articles, helps me change it up when the weather is crappy and work conspires against riding. That said... This doesn't seem to have anything to do with grip strength.
  • 5 0
 Run and chainsaw for 5-6hrs a day. Will pump your forearms just a tad. And chicks dig the smell of sawdust and two-stroke.
  • 3 1
 Sorry but these exercices seems far to improove grips strenght...
Please have a look in other sport ? Climbing ? One exemple, Ross Enamait, boxing trainer, made a humble book about it.
  • 4 0
 High grip strength is what keeps my “rock/paper/scissors” game on point.
  • 1 0
 with a username like that, how are you NOT making a choking the chicken reference here?
  • 1 0
 @snowwcold55: lol you got me. I should have
  • 3 0
 Remount Maxxis or E13 Trs to Enve 70-30 daily, alternate sets with Velociraptor on a Rhyno Lite and 2 layers of velox, no levers.
  • 8 4
 keep your shirts on boys, not all of us what to see that.
  • 8 2
 But some of us do.....
  • 3 0
 For some reason, I make very fast right turns. Yes I'm single, why do you ask?
  • 4 3
 I love how Pinkbikes MO with any fitness article is to ensure the thumbnail is a shirtless guy. No, seriously, super into it.
  • 4 0
 Why should I listen to anyone that’s not completely shredded? This goes for anything
  • 1 0
 @kleinblake: there's no logical reason that I can think of.
  • 1 0
 We submitted this article with the thumbnail we used for YouTube, I have no clue why Pinkbike insists on changing the thumbnail to shitless guys on or videos.
  • 3 1
 Mountain biking would also improve his grip.
  • 2 0
 You want to improve grip strength - try climbing.
  • 2 0
 Good stuff Coach! Thank you for sharing
  • 4 3
 not first on my list of racers i wanna see topless...
  • 3 1
 #1 has to be Gee
  • 2 0
  • 1 0
 Do some Gi Jiu Jitsu or Judo. That'll work your grip
  • 1 1
 Just go rock climbing ffs, none of these workouts are actually forearm-centric movements
  • 1 0
 We have already commented to state the title has been changes, the priority for this workout was not to improve grip strength.
  • 1 0
 farmer walk with weight for me!!
  • 2 2
 basically crossfit if u ask me >.>
  • 4 0
 Absolutely not, CrossFit prioritises efficient movements to decrease the time to move load distances. The clean then would be performed way differently to this. I have been coaching the olympic lifts for a long time and have developed the "dirty clean" to have a greater return with less risk for MTB riders. If I were to program the clean as you would see it in CrossFit the loads would have to be much higher to get even close to the response the dirty clean does.

It pains me when people band Fit4Racing as "just CrossFit" because they see a rep range or workout style that look like CrossFit. Strength and Conditioning. That's what this is. But specifically for riders.

Go join a CrossFit gym and see the difference for yourself. You might be lucky and find one that doesn't hurt you or priorities competitive exercising over real life on-bike benefits.
  • 2 0
 @fit4racing: F4R- superior to CF all day looonnng!
  • 2 1
 Is Bo selecta back then?
  • 2 1
 Ride Gnar, repeat.
  • 1 1
 Oh cmon.
  • 12 15
 the trainer is so annoying...
  • 8 0
  • 11 1
 I disagree, what is so annoying is ungrateful internet losers who don't have anything better to do than criticise content that is not only FREE, but that they have chosen to watch on their own accord. If you don't like it, move on.
  • 1 0
 @wohwee: just came here for shirtless jack reading... 3
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