Use “Elephant Balls” to Turbocharge Your Grip Strength

It's not as gross as it sounds. Trust us.

A rear view of two elephants walking on a path. Turns out "elephant balls," a favorite grip strength tool, has nothing to do with actual elephants.
"Elephant ball dead hangs" are one of the best ways to improve your grip strength in a hurry.
Getty Images/Westend61

Even in the wide underworld of wacky wellness equipment, the name “elephant balls” goes pretty hard.

Named for their resemblance to the size and shape of a bush elephant’s testicles, elephant balls are spherical wooden workout tools that can latch to and dangle from a pull-up bar or branch. They provide a larger surface area for a trainee to grasp, activating the grip muscles in the hands and forearm in a way that conventional equipment often falls short of.

Grip strength, let’s remember, is no laughing matter. In recent years, it has demonstrated prognostic value for longevity. It’s related to cardiovascular health, bone mineral density, mobility, overall strength and even cognitive function. Seniors with stronger grips routinely score better on “tests of working memory, processing speed, and verbal ability.”

Elephant balls, then, comprise a perfect marriage of long-term health and short-term gains. When used for pull-ups, for instance, the tool intensifies the workout, transforming a common exercise into a relentless grip-strength drill. As a result, you’ll find your ability to hold and control other fitness equipment — barbells, dumbbells and climbing ropes — significantly improved.

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I’ve spent some time playing around with elephant balls (sorry), and readily admit that they’re not easy. You’ll find yourself gassed after even just a few pull-ups. And it’s an unfamiliar “gassing,” too — starting with the tiny muscles in the hands. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth trying. Even just clinging to them for dead hangs here and there will work wonders.

For a clear visual of what an elephant ball pull-up looks like, head here. To pick up a set for your own, head here. They’re $30. And here’s a handy workout to get your routine started:

A sample “elephant ball” workout


  • Arm Circles: 20 repetitions each for both forward and backward circles. Great for loosening up the shoulder joints.
  • Wrist Rolls: 10 reps each direction to prepare your wrists for the gripping action.

Workout Routine:

  • Elephant Ball Hangs: Hang for 30 seconds at a time. Repeat three times.
  • Elephant Ball Pull-Ups: Aim for three sets of five reps.
  • Bodyweight Squats: To lengthen this workout, three sets of 15 reps.
  • Push-Ups: And finally, three sets of 10-15 reps.

Cool Down:

  • Arm Stretches: Reach one arm across your body and gently pull it towards you with the other arm. Repeat on the other side.
  • Wrist Flexor Stretch: Extend one arm in front of you with your palm up. With your other hand, gently press down on the upturned hand to stretch your forearm’s underside
  • Full-Body Stretch: Stand tall, reach your arms above your head and gently bend side to side.

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