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Rugby Tip of the Month – Getting a (Better) Grip

Athletes from every rugby position have talked about improving their grip strength. Whether it’s for set pieces (lifting or scrummaging), tackling or carrying the ball, players at every position understand their grip can play a key part of their performance. 

However, oftentimes what many of those athletes think is grip training (wrist curls, roll-ups, etc) can be misleading. So, this month’s tip is meant to show you some simple ways to increase the difficulty of most lifts while also working on, and improving, grip strength in a more functional way for your game. Are you maxing out the weight you have available at your home gym? Too expensive to think about purchasing (or even finding) heavier weights? Finding ways to thicken the grip of the bar or dumbbell can increase the level of difficulty of the exercise without adding any other pounds to the bar. This even works for bodyweight exercises such as pull-ups or inverted rows and only requires your gym towel or two smaller hand towels. 

I’ve included a few visual examples below to give you some ideas. Have a question about other ways to work on grip strength? Send an email to with GRIP in the subject line to ask about this or other training, conditioning and recovery topics. 

ICYMI…I just launched the latest 3-mth Kilograms to Kilometers training program that includes weights, running/conditioning, recovery and ALL the High Performance Habits materials, along with other extremely helpful resources. Email me ASAP if you’d like one of the 2 spots for the Rugger’s Edge community. 

Dead Hang – Use a no-thumb grip (as shown below) and hand for as long as possible. Record the time you are able to hang and try to beat that next time. This can be done 3-4 days per week.

Towel Grip Inverted Row (beginner/novice)

Fat Grip (Towel) Pull-ups

Towel Grip Bent Over Row

Fat Grip (Towel) Bent Over Row

Towel Grip Pull-ups

Feel free to email me at with questions about these, or other exercises. 

Justin Goonan, MSc, CSCS

Strength & Conditioning, Sports Performance Consultant

USA Rugby – Director of S&C, High School All-Americans

USA Touch – Head of Athlete Performance

NSCA – Chairman, Rugby Special Interest Group


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