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Redneck Gripper Calibrator & "Calibration"

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  • Redneck Gripper Calibrator & "Calibration"

    Nothing like starting off what can turn into a passionate subject here, but I thought that I would.
    Randall Strossen has mentioned before the issue of "ratings" versus "calibration". I may not agree with his definition of the word "calibration", but I do agree that what is being called "calibration" is more of a "rating". I personally have always used the rating scale of a 4.0 system. I have an IronMind 2.5 that I consider a 2.5, and I have a 1999 IronMind Number 2 that I call my "Super Two" which I rate at 2.4. And on and on. This is confusing to people starting out on grippers, very confusing, and is more a trait of "grip nuts", of which I confess I am one, and there are a few other notable grip nuts on this forum. For people who simply want to improve their grip strength, the fine lines we nuts draw are pretty much irrelevant.

    That being said, there has been mentioned, in passing, a few times on this forum, ratings of the "RGC", or Redneck Gripper Calibrator, or simply "calibrated". I thought I would explain, in very general terms, what it is.
    The third IronMind COC on the Number 4 was a fellow by the name of Dave Morton. Some time during 2006, he designed and built a contraption for measuring the strength of grippers. What is funny is what his name for it was: Redneck Gripper Calibrator. I don't know how many people reading this are familiar with the "Redneck Jokes" that circulate the Web with accompanying photos. Some of you may not have American friends with "redneck humor", so you may have missed it. For example, a photo with a kitten with its head sticking out of an empty cardboard 12 pack beer container is called a "redneck cat carrier". A photo of two hillbilly looking guys in an old bathtub over a campfire is called a "redneck hot tub". You get the idea.
    Dave Morton described his device, as well as many individual photos of it and how it worked on a blog he and a few others had called "Gripper Hell". I think it is still kicking around, but nothing has been posted on it in years. Lots of profanity on it, if you are offended easily, don't go there. Just some guys having fun.
    Dave's device involved hanging a stack of barbell plates pulling down on a gripper handle until the handles just barely touched. Quite frankly, the thing was ingenious. However, I think the spirit of the device was in the self-deprecating name that he called it.
    Since then, there are probably over a hundred of these things across the world, and many experienced gripsters have a few, many, or none of their grippers "calibrated". Steve Gardener mentioned that he has never had any of his measured on the device.
    The absolute numbers do not necessarily mean a gripper that measures, say 150, is easier than another one that registers 155. Handle spread and knurling alone are two factors that can cause the difficulty to be more complicated than the reading. Then there is the matter of "who" is operating the device, whose device it is, and whether the plates themselves used to measure the grippers are calibrated. That being said, it is a simple but remarkable device.
    I see some gripsters get really hung up on the numbers, and that can be a bad thing. By the same token, when you know that an "average" Number 3 tends to run in the low 150s, and you closed a gripper rated at 165, you know that you have an impressive grip. The whole "calibration" phenom reminds me of young people who get hung up, when buying their first home, about "the square footage of the house". How many it is, how X dollars a foot is a better deal than Y dollars a foot, etc. The reality is there are other factors like neighborhoods, schools, quailty of construction, deferred maintenance, etc, etc. Yet, you will see someone making a Life Decision with the logic of "I gotta have a house at least 2000 feet, and that one is only 1888 square feet, it's not acceptable". They say numbers don't lie. Well, they might not, but they don't necessarily tell the Truth either.

    My reason for this post is that I have seen the subject of the "RGC" come up a few times, and I wanted to explain a little of the history of it, as well as some thoughts that I have regarding it. I do not want to see threads like "post your calibrated gripper numbers here", as that is not the purpose of this forum.

  • #2
    I love these threads.

    Here are some numbers from me:

    Stainless Steel #2: 119

    PDA 357: 135

    RB300: 160

    Single Stamped #3: 167

    FBBC Hard: 170

    BB Super Elite ( Old one with .312 spring): 205

    Double Stamped #4 ( 2002): 220


    • #3
      Originally posted by Mike Corlett View Post

      My reason for this post is that I have seen the subject of the "RGC" come up a few times, and I wanted to explain a little of the history of it, as well as some thoughts that I have regarding it. I do not want to see threads like "post your calibrated gripper numbers here", as that is not the purpose of this forum.

      Sorry, I think I may have made a mistake starting this thread...


      • #4
        Mike -

        Not to fear - this could be very useful. I will circle back here later today and post some comments, but just a quick one on calibration to get the ball rolling.

        This is not some arbitrary concept I dreamed up: It springs, in particular, from calibrated barbell plates (although all sorts of things can be calibrated, including the colors on your computer monitor). There are some problems that arise when ratings are confused with calibration, but the bigger concern is taking numbers to mean things they don't - probably a familiar subject to a CPA.

        I'll stop back again later with some more comments on this.


        • #5
          Let me just say I have no interest in getting hung up on the terminology of this whether we use "rating" or "calibration" matters little to me. I have been doing the testing for a few years now though and began shortly after Greg Amidon and Dave Morton published the original information on the RGC. I even sent a few grippers to Greg to be tested so that I could verify that my results were similiar to his and to verify my technique and RGC apparatus. This cross calibration of grippers has been done by the few guys that do any kind of volume testing for verification purposes to make sure that numbers are relative. We usually shoot for repeatability of a pound or less between testers. I know of maybe 10 guys throughout the world who have done RGC testing in any quantity myself included. When I do retesting on a gripper I usually am within less than 1/2 pound variance. But to do that requires careful setup and much patience. Also in the not too distant future I will be finishing my new test rig which will be using a high precision hanging scale and crank pulley system instead of hanging weights in order to speed up the process for me.

          Now I will agree that an RGC test number will not necessarily give the whole picture as to how tough a gripper will be in your hand, but it gives a pretty good indication of final closing pressure required to make the handles touch. For guys like me who have 30+ grippers in order to have a decent progression to work with. That last little bit of the close is usually what we are working on. It may not be a perfect absolute calibration of a thing, but it is a superb relativistic bit of information when every little bit of training and progression counts. Metaphorically speaking, Its like having plates down to 2.5# to train with instead of training with junkyard pieces like flywheels and motors, etc. Those weight plates may not be calibrated to the thousandth of a Kilo but the ballpark is a lot smaller than the alternative.

          For an example list of calibrations done by one of the Finn's who to this point has posted testing on 629 Grippers among other gripper like devices and even a few of my custom adjustables that have made it over there go here -

          - Aaron


          • #6
            Mike -

            Have to say that I'm 100% with you about cautioning people to understand that the numbers are not the whole story. My quick way of explaining this to people is that those numbers are roughly analogous to knowing the weight of your barbell plates. But to know how hard it will be to complete the movement, other factors come into play - the bar, for example, when you're talking about a barbell and the handles when you're talking about grippers.

            Aaron -

            I noted this over on the CoC4 thread (once I understood your abbreviation), that your test-retest numbers are very impressive.

            You explained the very good reasons for wanting small progressions so I am wondering whether you ever use a plate-loaded grip machine for this purpose or is that your transfer is so much better from grippers to grippers that you prefer to stick with grippers to get the resistance levels you'd like?


            • #7
              Randall, I have gotten little carry-over from standard plate loaded machines. I have gotten some from Kinney Secret Weapon style equipment though and from custom pieces of equipment to hit the appropriate joint angles with progressive resistance. I find though that to get better at closing big grippers nothing quite give the finishing touches strength wise like grippers. Occasionally I will get some transfer to grippers from something else I'm working on but its extremely rare. At the beginning of my training I got some transfer from gripper increases to other things but that has not happened for a few years now.



              • #8
                Aaron -

                This makes sense, since strength can be very specific. My feeling was that the traditional guillotine style grip machines might not transfer as well to closing grippers as something that more closely mirrored the geometry of a gripper, but that they were probably a better choice for overall grip strength training. Not sure what you might think of that.

                Aaron & Mike -

                So what's the bottom line here, in terms of what you think we learn from these ratings, please?

                I know that when I looked that the original PDA ratings, in the case of IronMind grippers, they had confused grippers from different product generations and were generating numbers that were seemed to be neither consistent nor meaningful. The quality of the numbers you are talking about seems to be a lot higher, even though I agree with both of you that even the best of these numbers does not give the full picture about either how hard a gripper is to close or how consistent a particular gripper is.

                For those of us who have not inhaled these numbers, what are some summary comments, please?

                I'd also enjoy hearing about this from anybody else who might be familiar with these numbers.


                • #9
                  To me nothing works better than my hand to rate gripper difficulty, surprising? While it doesn't spit out a number, it is way more sensitive than any instrumentation created this far.

                  The PDA numbers were bunk, when you assign a higher number it better darn sure equal a tougher gripper. In most cases it did not.

                  I have my grippers hanging in rank order as determined by my hands, and this has worked pretty well for me.


                  • #10
                    I am curious as to where the IM poundage ratings for CoC grippers come from, and what the control limits are.

                    For all intents and purposes, the weakest #3 made could be stamped "2.5" if the control limit has a large enough variance, for example.


                    • #11
                      The calibration process yields pretty consistent results if care is taken. One very large factor in my testing is "dry" or freshly "oiled" - a 5# or greater difference can easily happen even on a brand new gripper and a gripper that is rusty etc can very even more if cleaned and oiled - and that is something that can easily be felt in the hand. And I think the results of the number of pounds needed to close a gripper under those particular conditions is valid. The problem arises when you have for example two grippers that both take say 130# to close on the RGC. Then when you close them in your hand - one feels totally different than the other. The spread, sweep strength, and final closing force may be quite different between them and can either play to your particular strengths or against it. I think the calibration process is just one more tool in the tool box to evaluate grippers - I don't see it as a perfect process - but with a lack of any other real process - I find I can use it in my training.

                      Of course the "hand" method works but can't be used on grippers above your current ability very well so if I can just close my #3 for example - how can I figure out the next level among my pile of grippers. I like that when I close a 150# for example - I can grab a 153# to train with instead of perhaps making a big jump due to the unknown level of things. It also takes someone who has closed a very large number of grippers to do it accurately by hand - experience is key here. That said - the hand does a heck of a job in most cases - IF the hand is very experienced.


                      • #12
                        Last edited by Randall Strossen; 07-29-2010, 04:04 PM. Reason: typo


                        • #13
                          Thank you for the quick answer, Randy. I am very interested in your book!


                          • #14
                            Pat, this comment isn't about grippers, but you'll see the similarity. When deadlifting, sometimes we would just keep adding assorted weights, not really keeping an accurate count. Never fails, someone starts saying it weighs this or it weighs that. I would respond, just lift it, if it's to light add weight, if it's to heavy take some off.


                            • #15
                              Here are some things that I have found with the RGC testing:

                              --The results are repeatable, and it's possible to be precise if great care is taken.

                              --The results are interesting if you're interested.

                              --Knowing a number doesn't change the fact that the gripper is either closed or not closed. Or that you missed by 1/8" or 1/2".

                              --The reported result doesn't account for things like sweep, spread, binding, smooth handles. However you can measure things like the sweep or a gap to close if you want.

                              --There has to be a better measurement. But I would imagine a computer would be involved that could chart many factors.

                              --It adds at least one more element of common lingo. "I closed a #3.5!" means something. "I closed a 183lb #3.5!" means something more specific in my opinion.

                              --Assuming it's possible to be accurate past 1# increments is kind of silly.

                              The big one for me is "it's interesting if you're interested." I've spent a lot of time, energy, and money playing with the RGC testing because I think it's interesting.


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by Doug Carroll View Post
                                Pat, this comment isn't about grippers, but you'll see the similarity. When deadlifting, sometimes we would just keep adding assorted weights, not really keeping an accurate count. Never fails, someone starts saying it weighs this or it weighs that. I would respond, just lift it, if it's to light add weight, if it's to heavy take some off.
                                I don't really see the similarities because you can't really add or remove weight from a gripper the way you can with a barbell. You can have a wider or more narrow range of motion, but that's not the same as changing the amount of weight needed to close the gripper.


                                • #17
                                  I see Aaron et al are making two mistakes (one for fun and one serious + a bonus comment).

                                  1) Fun: if you need an RGC to calibrate 30 + grippers because that's what you have - get rid of some

                                  2) Serious: I have, to use the term as I like it, micro-loaded with what some call little gems. But I also often just 'add a wheel' (20kg or 45lbs) to some exercises. Other than going for a record I'll go up anywhere between 2 and 5%. The work the sets and reps again until I can take another step. I've trained long enough to know when I can make the step. With David Horne's machine (Vulcan Gripper) I'll add a simple postal rubber band and then another and finally one more before moving the main spring up a notch. Unless you own many, many grippers and with the variations already mentioned you would need 50+ I prefer to go to the hardest. Work until it's shut then close any.

                                  Bonus: RGC's, calibrating and baby steps - means goods business for gripper companies. At least in terms of sales for those who have become hooked.

                                  Have a look at what I use when working TG style grippers against a list I could give of what I own. From memory:
                                  Number of torsion spring grippers used in a workout

                                  1) CoC 1
                                  2) HG 200
                                  3) CoC 2
                                  4) HG300
                                  5) CoC 3
                                  6) BBGM
                                  7) BBE
                                  8) CoC 3.5
                                  9) BBSE
                                  10) CoC 4

                                  Sometimes I will use a HG350 and sometimes I wont go to a '4'. But either way it's about 10. I think, including an ISG ( 3 springs inc one given by Robert Baraban), DHVG (3 springs now - red/black, orange and gold, etc I own close to the same as Aaron maybe more. But none are calibrated. I think my '3 is on the hard side (I've only used one I thought was harder and it's the only 3 I have ever owned). The 4's (x2): ones about usual and the other newer one has what I feel is too light a knurl. I've a BBGE, and HG400 and 500. I think I may have another HG300 (handles quite close) and a few RB grippers. Oh and some engraved which never get used and are here in the house and one or two FBBC grippers.

                                  I think even if I won the lotto and in a moment of 'what the hellness' spent some of my winnings getting one hell of a collection to add to my own newly created Iron Game Museum I don't think I'd bother with calibration. The only reason my plates, as used in competition, are weighed is because association records demand it. I never, for example, make sure both ends of a bar weigh the same when training and I doubt many top guys do. I'm also aware that those that look down on 'grip nuts' think we obsess over something really quite simple to do. Then again I'm no stamp collector so... each to their own.


                                  • #18
                                    Steve -

                                    I thought that one of the brands you mentioned is (in)famous for varying a lot and for getting easier as they are used (not speaking of Captains of Crush grippers, of course ), so if that's true, doesn't that leave everyone with something of a moving target even on fairly crude rankings?

                                    My feeling is that while Redneck Ratings might give a (false) sense of security to some, it's like you said - most guys never even weigh their plates, let alone lift on calibrated sets, and, for whatever it's worth, I know of not one single top weightlifter who uses micro plates.

                                    The whole idea that progress can be continuous, or even continual, is one of the biggest myths in the training world, so even if Redneck Ratings really told you how different grippers compared and how tough they were to close, and even if you had grippers with micro steps in terms of difficulty, that would not ensure a smooth road upward, let alone to the top.


                                    • #19
                                      Wade -

                                      With apologies to Aaron, I'd like to say that these are ratings, please; these are not calibrations - with or without quotation marks.

                                      I can see why guys would think this would help compare grippers as you say, but there are a lot of caveats you'd have to add before you could really draw that type of conclusion. On the other hand, if everything else were equal, then this would be true.

                                      Nonetheless, I'm a sucker for data and enjoyed taking a quick look at your database, so thanks much for posting this.


                                      • #20
                                        No apologies necessary for me. I'm not the spokesman for ratings/"calibrations" of grippers. I just use them.
                                        Also not every one of my gripper collection is rated, probably only a third of what I have at home has been through the RGC and the primary reason for that was to be used grip contests with the secondary reason being for training placement. The rest get very little use, or do not justify the effort for me to test them. The primary bulk of my testing has been in the custom grippers for other people. Everyone wants to what they rate as shipped it seems.

                                        - Aaron