When Florida resident Chris Gursky took his first hang glider flight while on vacation in Switzerland, he never thought he’d be in a struggle for his life. As the viral video shows, the glider pilot failed to hook Gursky’s harness into the aircraft and took off with Gursky hanging above the Swiss countryside.
Gursky had to make a decision. Would he give up and fall to his death, or would he harness the fight deep within and hold on to survive? For nearly 2 minutes and 30 seconds, Gursky kept an iron grip, sometimes holding on with only one hand as he flew at over 4000 feet above the ground below. In the end, he suffered a torn bicep from hanging and a fractured wrist from the impact, but he lived to tell the tale.
Hopefully, none of us will find ourselves in such a dire situation, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility you could find yourself needing to hold onto a balcony railing of a building on fire, or having to lift a car off a small child, or maybe you just really want to extricate that juicy pickle from a jar. A strong grip is always a good asset to have. If you have a Boy Scout in you that likes to be prepared, here are some ways to get yourself ready should a suitable situation present itself.
Pinch Grip Grab a plate and pinch it between your thumb and forefingers and walk as far as you can with it. Repeat.
Hang Hang from a pull up bar, rings, or a rope and hold on for as long as possible. As this becomes easier, hang a plate from a harness or pinch a dumbbell between your feet as you hang.
Fat Grip Gripping a bar that is thicker than you normally use helps develop your hands and wrists in ways a thinner bar can’t. They make special fat dumbbells for this, but you can also get a variety of thick grip pads, like Fat Gripz that you can fit over a bar or dumbbell to work your grip in the same way. You can create a similar effect by wrapping a small towel around the bar and then gripping it. A longer towel can also be thrown over a pull up bar and by grasping each end of the towel, you change the muscles used and increase the difficulty.
Rock Climbing Rock climbers have the strongest grips you will find. Go to your local rock climbing gym or get out and do the real thing.
Lift Heavy Anyone who has maxed out their deadlift knows it’s the grip that limits what you can pull. Loading up the bar taxes your grip and makes you stronger.
Don’t Cheat Along with lifting heavy, don’t use cheat aids like lifting straps. Our policy has always been that if you can’t hold onto the bar, you’re not ready for that weight. And when you need to hang for a real life situation, there won’t be time to slip on those straps anyway.
Gursky may have had some natural strength or possibly time in the gym that helped him hold on so long, but he was also highly motivated by the will not to die. Two and a half minutes of hanging is not an easy feat, but it should show us all that it is possible. So work on developing your grip and while you’re doing so, imagine that you’re in a situation where letting go means really bad things will happen. Squeeze out a few extra seconds hanging from that bar so that if you ever have to hang there for real, it will be that much easier to do.