Develop a Gorilla grip and conquer the monkey bars

Are you taking part in Tough Mudder, Spartan or another obstacle course race?

You are probably aware that a mainstay feature of these races is the monkey bars!  Some people do this effortlessly but if you are anything like me then you probably have found them a struggle!

Keep trying, keep failing:

I have put a lot of effort into trying to improve my upper body strength to conquer this pretty simple obstacle – I did pull-ups, lifted heavy weights and would even jump in play parks and use those monkey bars (when kids weren’t around of course) and yet it still was the most excruciating pain going across something that was a measly three metres at best.

It became something I always dreaded when I was obstacle racing as I knew I was bound to come off and have to do a penalty.

By luck, I was having a walk with the family around a local beauty spot where it had a ‘trim trail’ which I took great pleasure in showing off.  Then I got to the monkey bars.  I felt that old dread but as I was only messing around I thought I might as well give it a go.

Much to my surprise, I worked my way across the bars with ease first time.  I wasn’t warmed up and I was probably about two stone heavier than when I last went across the bars in the peak of my OCR career.

So how did I get the strength to conquer the bars with so little effort?

My success was due to:

  • Strong grip
  • Forearm strength

But where had I developed this strength from?  I considered what I was doing differently in my workouts and realised it was because of a forearm routine that I incorporate from Athlean X.

It made sense that my grip and forearm strength had improved every time I do this workout I get exactly what is advertised on the YouTube video “sore in seven minutes”.

That pain I experienced every time I did the routine was making my grip more powerful to hold onto the bars with conviction and the stretch on my forearms developed me to be able to dangle without that terrible burn that resulted in me dropping.

If you want to conquer the monkey bars at your next race (or just show off to your kids in the park) I recommend that you incorporate the following in the routine:

  • Wrist curls
  • Farmers walks
  • Deadman hangs

Ripped Forearms Workout (SORE IN 6 MINUTES!!), Athlean X, Youtube

I made a slight modification that fit my workout as follows:

  • Wrist curls (30 forward, 30 back)
  • Farmers walk – walk approx. 20 metres
  • Deadman hangs (hold as long as possible until failure)
  • [15 seconds rest in between three sets]
  • I do this twice a week (Monday/Friday) utilising other days to do other routines that use forearm/grip strength (eg. Deadlifts)

Also note:

When carrying out these exercises focus on maintaining a really secure strong grip is being maintained.  For the deadman hang exercise you want to make it last as long as your grip will hold out.

Ensure for all exercises that the forearms are fully stretched out so they are taking all the pressure, flexing will just work other muscles in the arms.

For farmers walks I recommend using a weight that you would use if you were doing this over a long distance (approx. 20 metres).

And that is it – I have been amazed at how much my grip has improved and how stronger (and bigger) my forearms are.

Happy training!


If you try this please do let me know how you get on below.

And if you liked this article then please do share, subscribe to my mailing list and join me on Twitter.

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3 thoughts on “Develop a Gorilla grip and conquer the monkey bars

  1. I’ll have to try these exercises out! Not that I do monkey bars much, but maybe I will start when I visit the playground with my son . . .

    1. Glad it inspires. It certainly has its benefits even not on the monkey bars! As a fellow office worker you can probably emphasise with activities that could utilise grip/forearm strength like heavy lifting.

      1. Yes! Sometimes I want to crush my mouse or keyboard . . .

        I kid. It’s always nice to work the body after sitting and, let’s be honest, deteriorating for eight hours every day.

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