Have You Lost Your Grip
When we think of weight training with often don’t think about our hands. But we use our hands in most of our exercises especially when using resistance training. When you perform push ups, squats, pull ups we use our hands. Carrying groceries, opening jars and bottles are some small everyday tasks that we take advantage of having grip strength.
A few studies have been done that look at the subjects grip strength in relation to their upper body strength and endurance…they have concluded that a strong grip equals a strong upper body.
There are different types of gripping movements
1. Crush Grip. This grip is between your fingers and your palm. We use this for crushing small items or shaking hands with someone.
2. Pinch Grip. This grip is between your fingers and thumbs. You can use individual fingers to thumb or all fingers to thumb depending on what you are pinching.
3. Support Grip. This grip assists you in holding items for longer lengths of time. For example pull ups or hanging from monkey bars or holding shopping bags.
Depending on what type of training interests you may have will determine which type of grip you will use (you may use all of them). If you are a rock climber, pinch and support grips will be your choice for holding on. Martial artist can use support grip for wrist grabs and holding weapons.
Grip Training 101
The different hand gripping positions are:
Palms facing you (chin up style)
Chin Up Grip- Palms facing you.
Palms facing away from you (pull up style)
Pull Up Grip – Palms facing away
Neutral (palms facing each other)
Mixed (one palm facing in, one palm facing out)
Hooked (just fingers on bar no thumbs or palms on bar)
Hook Grip – just fingers
Individual finger hook (less than five fingers hooked on to bar with no thumbs or palms)
Exercises to Improve Grip Strength
Grab a pull up bar and hang (feet in the air) for as long as you can. Holding the bar in different positions can round out your forearm strength (see above for different grips).
Ways to make hanging more challenging
Make the width of your bar thicker. You can purchase thicker grip tools at a sporting goods store or you can simply wrap material (like towel or sweatshirt) around the bar.
Another way to challenge the hang is to sling a rope or towel over the bar and hang from holding the bottom ends.
You can use dumbbells, kettlebells, large water bottles, buckets, suitcases, duffel bags …anything that you can add weight to and hold with your hands. Pick them up in each hand and start walking.
Using weight plates that you would slide onto a barbell bar, without the bar, pick up individual plates using a pinch grip. You could also do this as a Farmer’s Walk or Bicep Curls.
The Flip-Side of Your Grip
Every muscle in our body has an opposing muscle. Biceps opposing muscle are the triceps. Quadriceps are opposite the hamstrings. Well, your finger flexors (the ones gripping) have an opposing muscle group called extensors. In order to create muscle balance we need to work the extensors too.
Some Extensors Exercises
Get a thick rubber band and attach it around your fingers. Try to open your fingers. Add more rubber-bands as you get stronger and need more resistance.
Side view of Grip Extensors Exercise
Grip Extensors Exercise
Begin with fingers in a relaxed position, then as quickly as you can extend (open) you fingers as much as possible. Imagine you are flicking water at someone.
Place hand palm down onto table. Begin with index finger (pointer finger) and raise the finger up while keeping palm on table then lower. Move to next finger. Repeat with all individual fingers. Can also be performed with all fingers. Need to add more resistance? Place a rubber band over finger and hold it down with other hand.
Gadgets for Grips
You can also purchase equipment from sporting goods stores to increase your grip strength.
With any of the exercises listed above start off slowly (3 sets of 5 repetitions) and build your reps as you get stronger.
As we age, grip strength can decline…so improve your grip strength today so you will never have to ask someone “Can you open this for me?” ever again.