The Crosswise Brick Exercise

05 Aug 2009 01:14

By Joe Weir

When talking about lower arm and hand strength we here at GUS have referred to an exercise known as the "crosswise brick exercise". This is a fantastic exercise for strengthening the wrist and the fingers, the best part being it can be performed with a few bricks!

The crosswise brick exercise is actually the Hermann Goerner brick lift. As seen in the image to the right, you place a brick lengthwise on a table such that it overhangs off the end of the table, stool, etc, stack bricks crosswise (hence crosswise brick exercise) on the supported end, then you grasp the lengthwise brick with your fingers on the underside and thumb on top. Grip the brick with a straight wrist and lift it off the table.

It may seem easy enough but I assure you it can be quite difficult. The gentlemen in the picture I showed you is 'only' doing 2 bricks but they're both solid and so is the one he is gripping. Most hollow clay bricks are around 5lbs (give or take) and I would estimate those as being 10-12lbs each, and may even be as high as 15-20lbs. From what I came across in my research Hermann was able to miraculously perform the exercise with 9 large bricks (40kgs). I don't care what you can deadlift or benchpress, that right there is strength!

When it comes to figuring out what to use for your 'gripping' brick, a regular old brick or something like in the image will work just fine. You can also use a piece of rectangular steel. Really you want to be able to have something that is a brick's thickness and be able to get full contact with the fingers and thumb. If you use a brick just make sure you clear off any sharp edges or protrusions and you should be good to go. I personally like using a brick because it is easy to use and CHEAP. I also like to perform a variation of this exercise by gripping the TOP of the brick with my thumb and finger on the sides and palm on the top. Its not necessarily the same exercise but it is a grip exercise that uses the same equipment, which is always nice.


The exercise and the equipment are pretty straightforward but the tricky bits come to play when we talk about our progression. At the beginning it will be very easy to add a brick or two but sooner or later, just like everything else, those full brick increases will be very difficult. Here are some tricks we can use to progress and keep progressing.

-A full brick increase may be difficult, but what about a half a brick? Break one in half and use a half brick. Aside from that you can also load up with micro plates or even small plates (2.5, 5lbs etc).

-Use time to your advantage and progress based on timed sets. Holding for an extra second or two will mean half a minute after 15 session. You can argue that this is not the same type of training (supporting vs crushing sort of debate) but I would argue that the two are very intimately related.

-Use your 'off' hand to assist some tougher lifts. You can use your off hand to assist on the liftoff.

-Bands. I love using those cheap 'toning' bands for grip training. They cost enough you can destroy them and not feel bad but they also provide just the right resistance for grip training exercises. Simply slip the band on the gripping brick so that it sits just before the crosswise ones. If you put the band close to your hand you lose the opening effect, if you put it on the crosswise stack it will most likely topple anything over 2 bricks high, if you put it between two crosswise bricks it will most likely topple the bricks above it.

I strongly believe that lower arm strength (hand, wrist, fingers, etc) is the most practical form of strength. We use them everyday so why not, literally, make life easier.

Before you start lifting bricks I have one last word of advice. Mind the surface BELOW you. Nothing is worse than dropping a brick on your toe, except maybe dropping a brick on hardwood or tile and breaking or damaging it. A toe will heal, expensive flooring will not!

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This page created 05 Aug 2009 01:14
Last updated 21 Jul 2016 00:02

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