Kawhi Leonard's Bullyball & Hand Strength Development
In honor of Kawhi Leonard returning at long last to plague the league once again, I thought it fitting to post about one of his unique offseason strength & conditioning focuses-hand strength development.
Athleticism is often incorrectly linked to strong, larger prime movers (main muscle groups). In most non-strength sports (non-powerlifting, strongman, etc. sports), it is important to develop-but not overdevelop these muscles at the expense of smaller muscle groups that provide stability, explosion, etc. relevant to your unique sport. In this case-the hands. (klaws?)
Having strong wrist and grip strength is paramount in many sports, but is rarely focused on. It isn't sexy, but it quietly can separate you from the pack as a winner. In this case, grip strength (plus core strength, anticipation, motor skills, explosiveness, among other intangibles) makes Kawhi a terror on the defensive end, and on the boards.
So how can you train your grip strength? Take a look at what Leonard and his trainer, Randy Shelton, did at High Voltage Athletics over the summer of 2016.
As you can see, hand strength development can be tackled with a few modalities. While leonard used fat grips on his bar curls, the viper, medicine ball throws, catches, and spear catches, other options exist.
For example, simply not using straps when lifting provides a great, free benefit you don't have to dedicate extra time to. In certain instances, some smart, not overused strongman training with loaded carries, atlas stones, and isometric grip holds can work wonders, as well.
Many find success by opening and closing the hand with force with their hand in substances like sand. An even less common training method for the hand is to use 'expansive stretching', which is more common in football players. Some NFL players (typically wide receivers) have had great success with hand stretches for opening up the hand (expanding the target area when catching/gripping a ball).
Moves that involve front rack position (i.e. front squats, clean variations) naturally help strengthen the wrist from a stabilization position, can be key. In these sports (and especially with combat sports athletes), holding a semi-long/long hammer, club, or macebell, and rotating the wrist along a 180 degree plane can yield excellent results for injury prevention.
Don't outsmart simple mobility stretches to get the wrists in desired positions, too.
There you have it. Try a couple of these that are relevant to your sport and enjoy the results. Clearly, Kawhi has not only run with his hand size as a genetic gift, but further trained a unique skill to further set himself apart from his peers.