How The Southern Squeeze GRIP COMPETITION Came to Be.

Last night was maybe the first time that Gil and I were both so utterly exhausted but simultaneously wired that we literally could not fall asleep. We just kept talking all about The Southern Squeeze and how all these strong 'under the radar' athletes came out. We kept talking and getting more amped. And more tired. It was awesome. I was planning on writing a blog post about my foray into gripsport at some point anyways so figured I'm going to do that now and combine a little recap of why and how the Southern Squeeze rocked so hard.

How I met Squeezus...

I met Squeezus Christ, aka Gilbert Goodman, in October of 2014 right after I moved to Nashville and we went on our first date. One of the first things Squeezus wanted to talk about was my ‘number’. Bruh, my weightlifting numbers! Could I please tell him … What could I even lift? I’d been hitting Kettlebells hard and the subject of hands and Captains of Crush Grippers arose. He had a COC 1 and 2 at home, and a 3 he hadn’t closed yet. I chimed in that I knew what those were and that I had a few as well. He looked right at me and said, “No, I’m not sure you know what those are.” He was positive that I was mistaken. I did however, have some light ones (the Trainer, the Guide, the Sport) at home, which I’m sure impressed him so much that I was able to keep his attention for a subsequent five hours of conversation and 10 intense games of pool.

My goals at the time were a bit different than they are today. I had been training with the awesomeness that is Master SFG Instructor Phil Scarito before I moved South. I was swinging and snatching a lot and was working on a 24kg pistol squat and a one arm pushup. I made a shocking discovery regarding my hands when I started working with Phil. Having been through Lymes Disease and all sorts of joint arthritic problems because of it, my left hand which had suffered the most, was way weaker than my right. Phil knew a lot about grip and he suggested I buy some light COC grippers to even out my hand strength. Hence my possession of them. I used them to even out my hands but not much beyond that until I came across Squeezus.

Gil hadn’t closed his 3 yet but it didn’t take long. After we met I suggested he program some of his grip stuff and get serious about it. As you know, his hands are strong and since he wasn’t rock climbing anymore it’d be a waste for him not to pursue grip sport seriously. He did and his garage collection grew and grew. Mash Monster packages have come and gone back to their home demolished. In May I went with Gil to visit Kent Durso where he certified on the COC 3. Kent was so damn strong himself at almost 70 I saw myself becoming a little bit hooked on this stuff. Grip is a subculture of the strength world that doesn’t really get the attention it deserves but I’m optimistic this will change.

I had been squeezing my grippers a little bit but not a whole lot by the time Squeezus and I showed up in Ohio in June for North American Grip Sport Nationals. First of all, holy gym envy. That place rocked. I was mind blown by the supportive nature of the grip community and how they pumped each other up for every lift. I admired the shit out of Ashley Repp, the only woman who competed and crushed her lifts, and was bummed to not see more strong ladies there. Gil and I both left that competition pumped up and he kept threatening to enter me into the next competition he was signed up for in DC, September 2015 - The National Capital Grip Championship. I’m not that naturally competitive and wasn’t too thrilled. Maybe, I said.

Summer rolled on. I trained powerlifting lifts and other stuff but not too much grip. I discovered I liked the V Bar and the Axle Deadlift a whole lot but nothing pinch related. I found strong grip friends like Jared Goguen on the internets and started watching them. Sitting at a bar drinking beers one night, Gil brought up the idea of hosting a grip competition in Nashville. The idea of the Southern Squeeze was born (it was that simple ya'll) and we got excited and thought it’d be effing awesome if we got maybe 15 people to come on down. Wouldn’t it be neat ….

Time Passes and Fall is Coming.

September. We’re in DC and Gil has signed me up for the NCGC. I was nervous and sweaty and I don’t want to do it because. I am a perfectionist by nature and don’t like stuff I don’t have a thorough grasp on. What if I die?  What if I can’t lift one of these things at all? Why do I have to do this?  I’ve never tried the Crusher, can’t stand the credit card set for grippers but I’m entered and WHAT THE HELL. The medley was seriously hard and I only could lift one of the blobs. This competition though was low key and held in Tom Scibelli’s badass basement gym. Nathaniel Brous, Joshua Henze, and John Wojciechowski were there and were only super encouraging and positive. It ends up being a blast and since hardly any women do this, I get my name on the Gripsport site with some records. Hmmmm. Okay Okay. This is starting to be fun. *Epiphany is reached*. A beginner’s mind will do that to you if you can just let your bullshit expectations go.

It’s no secret that grip strength transfers over to a myriad of other strength things. My pullups are better, my deadlift is better at 325lbs - hell, all my other stuff is better since I added grip. And I haven’t even been 100% consistent with it yet. For my other strength nerds out there reading this- you may know it already, but science linked a stronger grip this past year to longevity. So why aren’t we all doing grip stuff? Isn’t optimum strength and longevity what we’re trying to do with all of our hours spent deep in thought with the iron anyways? Have longer, stronger, better lives filled with as many agile and movement filled days on this planet as possible. My thought every time I’m lucky enough to pick up a weight is always, I GET to do this, not I have to do this. And I can’t do dis without a grip of some kind.

OK, Get to the point please!

Anyways. October came and Gil hosted a leg of the King Kong Grip in his basement. I entered for two events of four in this one - the V Bar (I effing love the V Bar) and the 2.5” Crusher, but opted out of the one hand pinch and hub b/c I could barely lift the pinch device and hadn’t hubbed before. I got on the gripsport board again though with my lifts b/c again, barely any women had entered. I then really pondered how good I could get if I started working this grip for real. Small as this event was, we had a fantastic time and a fire lit up for us to create the Southern Squeeze and start inviting people. We both wanted to see beginners come out. I wanted to see some women get into this. We both knew we could run an event worth making the trek for so we set the date and holy crap - well let me tell you about The Southern Squeeze.

Our logo, thanks to a girl named Annie Klopp, kicked some ass. We had a yummy bbq food truck. Our friends that came and volunteered to video and track scores saved the day. We had 31 people sign up and 27 actually showed to compete. The Flask pinch device was a hit. We had a junior competitor that was 13 years old that I can only imagine will get better and better every year that goes by. (Keep at it Cole Copley!) Euclides Ramos took 1st place overall and amazed us all. The amount of talent that emerged yesterday cannot be emphasized enough. We had so many people telling us that it was their first grip competition and their lifts were undeniably pro. You can check out the results of the event on Gil’s website right here for yourself. It would be too long to list every single person’s achievements because the emergence of talent really was that good. The competition was fierce. There were ties but there were smiles and fist pumps of encouragement from competitors all day long. I really have never seen a more supportive sport and a more friendly environment. Holy shit I love the grip community.

We had two female athletes (our other two that registered couldn’t make it!) come out and dominate. Brenda Taylor and Jenn Miller better stick to grip and spread the word. After doing the medley at NCGC in DC with all the boys I realized that although equality is a nice thing to want in sports and everything really, a women’s medley was probably needed. We had a kick ass medley for the women with implements that were a tad bit lighter than the men’s medley and watching them I found myself jealous that I couldn’t compete. I don’t think there has been a women’s medley before in the history of grip sport competitions and we plan to keep one in future Southern Squeeze events.

So what can we take away from this foray into grip novella and first time grip host enthusiasm?

I know that two platforms are needed for an event with almost 30 people. Thank goodness we did that. But as for the future of grip stuff? Well. The grip world has a large niche group of supporters that are very into grip and all of its quirky implements and events. But it can get bigger. More women can come. All sorts of people can come and are welcomed - and that is the beauty of it’s non threatening nature. As Kent Durso pointed out, he met farm boys with catchers mitt hands yesterday, arm wrestlers with stronger wrists than you can imagine, ninja warrior hopefuls, and beginners with pinch grips like vices. With all this talent around me I am left sitting here with a whiskey in my hand feeling inspired, anxious, and seriously hopeful.

Inspired to hit my training hard and come back with numbers. Not numbers that measure up to others, but numbers that beat my own personal bests - because that’s really what this is all about. Anxious to see what’s next because I think I’ve got some big lifts in me and also because I think that all the people I met yesterday have some bigger lifts in them and are going to keep showing up and wow us all. Hopeful, because I know the feeling of fresh goals and the burning of desire when I see it. People left the first Southern Squeeze yesterday with a passion they might not know they possessed and an optimism for the future of grip that we need if we’re going to spread strength around as it should be spread. I am a firm believer in the power of positive thinking and what it can bring and I’d be lying if I said I have never felt quite this excited and positive. Beginners or people who have never gripped a thing - if you’re reading this - give it a go. You will be embraced, encouraged, and supported by an amazing community that knows a whole lot about strength. And if you made it through my paragraph about science … getting a grip might indicate a longer life, and I know for sure we all want that.