Every breath Jim Hartman drew was filled with chalk. The cement floor screamed of ice beneath his feet. As always, the clanging metal made his heart race to an uneven beat.

Jim basically spent every moment of his youth in the gym his dad owned and built 27 years ago. Being surrounded by weights only Superman was thought to be able to lift, it was no surprise he had a dream that included a vision of plates stacked haphazardly on the bar.

"Gyms were a safe haven," Jim said. "Guys of all different backgrounds - income, jobs, social statuses - would meet at my dad's gym. They wouldn't talk about their problems, they'd just...lift."

As he grew up, his visions changed, but his love for the gym stayed the same. Jim decided to take on the challenge of training athletes. Mostly these were MMA fighters, football players and wrestlers. They all had the same weakness - grip. That area was always lacking and no matter what Jim tried, he couldn't figure out how to train grip in a functional way.

"I've always looked at the body like a puzzle and wanted each piece to be complete - even grip," Jim said. "Creating stronger hands is creating a stronger athlete."

He used big PVC pipes and put two inch pegs on the pull down bar. Still, the guys he trained never grasped the concept of really squeezing the bar.

"I knew if they weren’t squeezing, they weren’t going to get anything out of it," Jim said. "I could've invested in a fat bar, but those were just too expensive at the time."

If you don't understand what a difference squeezing can make, put your hand in a fist, but don't squeeze it.

Now, really - and I mean really - squeeze it. Feel your muscles tightening up? You should be doing this every time you hold a barbell.

"Now you’re squeezing and activating everything – all the muscles are working together to make you stronger," Jim said.

Three-and-a-half years ago, he had a brilliant idea. He wanted to create something for his athletes that could go on any barbell or dumbbell. He succeeded after three years and five different molds.

"Anyone can come up with a piece of rubber and make it look nice, that's easy," Jim admitted. "We wanted perfection, and thought at one point we’d never get it right and I’d have to give up."

So, what is it? Grip4orce. I must say - the name alone is pretty clever. If this sounds familiar, you may have seen the booth at the 2010 Arnold Classic Expo.

"It was a dream of mine to have my own booth at the Arnold," Jim recalled. "I went every year since the age of 16. It's crazy, I was actually there with my own product! However, the whole time I felt like a little fish in a big ocean."

The Arnold Classic Expo was the first time anyone had ever seen or heard of the product - basically, the tell-all to see if it would be a flop or an addition to every athlete's training regimen.

"Things started happening, I realized we had something here," Jim said excitedly. "I was shocked, I never thought the outside world would grab the product and be so excited to use it. I never thought it would be on the EFS Web site."

Here's why the product is awesome:

  • The barbell won't come out of the Grip4orce even if you don't squeeze hard enough. But a dumbbell will, so you better work on that grip!
  • The rubber they picked doesn't slide at all and adheres perfectly to metal - no matter how sweaty you get.
  • It can be used on any barbell, dumbbell and pulley apparatus that will enhance any gym...making it feel like a completely different workout facility.
  • The resistance is customizable. Polymer is the resistance they used on the inside. If you put it in hot water for 30 minutes it gets a little softer and cold water makes it a little harder. After a half-hour, it’ll change back to its original state.
  • It can be easily transported.
  • It's affordable.
  • Unbreakable - literally. You could run a car over this thing and it wouldn’t break. Trust me, I tried. My Ford Focus didn't stand a chance.

There are four different colors to choose from. You have a selection of the usual black, blue, gold, red..and if you're me - you'd totally pick the hot pink. They also have a couple of camouflage ones in the works - very cool.

Besides the colors, they also come with various resistances: regular and stiff. With the regular, you're still squeezing, but it isn't something you need to focus on. With the stiff Grip4orce, your main concentration that training session would be on your grip. Jim uses his stiff Grip4orce on push days and regular on pull days.

"Anyone can squeeze the stiff Grip4orce - even kids, but you're squeezing just a little bit harder than you would with a regular Grip4orce," Jim explains.

Stressed? The stiff Grip4orce can be used as hand-held squeezer. Hey - it's better than crushing your cell phone. It's also great by itself for rehab and for the elderly. Ok, that last one is a stretch, but you can always buy it for your grandpa's 80th birthday and "borrow" it every time you go to the gym. And you always thought grandparents were hard to shop for...

"You'll get a greater arm pump when using this product," Jim said. "The bigger the product, the more muscle confusion. Going from your one-inch traditional to a two inch diameter will cause more muscle confusion and an insane upper-body pump. It makes arm day insane! If you're rehabbing, it will feel better on your elbows and shoulders because of the wider surface."

If you fit any of the above descriptions, you should give it a try.

"I just wanted to give athletes a proper tool that really works and the missing piece to the puzzle," Jim said. "Thanks to Bill Graham, Patent Attorney; Bill Danishek, owner of DK Bikes. I also wanted to give a very special thanks to my wife. This product would have never been possible without them and their support. I believe so much in my product because I use it and it works...grip strength is something I never had before."