Having good grip strength is important for so many different reasons. I learnt first hand, excuse the pun, about the issues caused by not being able to hold onto things properly after an accident. I ended up cutting the tendons in my pinkie finger.
Bet you might not know, but the 5th finger is super important to be able to hold onto something. In fact the little finger is one of the most powerful gripping fingers.
Try it out yourself right now.
Squeeze your hand to make a fist. Feel how your index finger and thumb feel strong, but if you really clench your fist that it is actually the little finger and ring finger that should feel really strong. So my severing the tendons in my hand and needing them to be surgically repaired taught me how I needed to do rehab exercises and treatment to repair the damage I had done.
Below you will find out five good exercises to help build up the strength in your forearms and hands to be able to improve your gripping ability.
How Grip Works
Our four fingers, along with our opposable thumbs move predominately in a flexion direction to work like a pair of pliers to be able to hold onto things. The palm works as the base to help control and keep objects within reach of the fingers.
The powerful flexor mechanics of the hand is supported by the weaker extensor mechanics, whose primary function is to help open a fist & raise the fingers against gravity forces during grasping activities.
You have either 35 or 34 muscles in both the forearm and hand involved in grip strength. About 20% of people do not have a palmaris longus. That means they will only have 34 muscles. The two groups of muscles used for grasping are divided into the extrinsic ones in the forearm and the intrinsic ones in the hand. The extensors tend to help add stability control whilst the flexors work to create grasping power.
Here is a list of the different muscles that work together to help us hold onto and release objects.
- Flexor carpi ulanris
- Flexor digitorum superficialis
- Pronator teres
- Flexor carpi radialis
- Palmaris longus
- Flexor digitorum profundus
- Flexor policus longus
- Flexor pollicus brevis
- Abductor pollicus brevis
- Pronator quadratus
So a bunch of muscles, bones and nerves need to work together to help in hand movements. It enables us to pick, hold, pull and push things.
How to Measure Grip Muscle StrengthGrip strength in a hand is measured using a dynamometer medical device. A hand dynamometer is a strain-gauge meter device measuring the ability to hold an isometric contraction. It is used to measure: grip strength, pinch strength, or to test muscular fatigue in research studies.
A dynamometer is useful for both healthcare professionals, like physiotherapists or occupational therapists, doing post-surgical rehab measurements, and strength and conditioning coaches in sport wanting to evaluate grip power of athletes. This can help guide the sports coach as to what training exercises need working on to help improve maximum power values, improve endurance and control.
List of Activities that Involve Gripping
- Sports involved with holding a racquet or club like golf, tennis or baseball
- Catching a ball
- Lifting up a cup
- Holding onto a car steering wheel
- Opening up a closed bag
- Opening and closing a window or door
- Hold onto work tools like a saw or drill
- To be able to hold a pen write
These are just some examples of common events that require the ability to pinch and grasp your fingers. There are a ton of situations where you might not realise how important being able to pincer grip or a hold a broad grasp onto something is allowing you to perform a daily task. Everyone needs to have adequate strength in their hands and forearms, both young and old.
Some need even more powerful grips than regular people.
Professional sportsmen and women need to have good hand control to play well. MMA fighters grappling on the floor, cricketer swinging a bat, rugby player holding a rugby ball, olympic athlete throwing a javelin etc… all involve hand strength and control movements to be able to do them well. Apart from that wrestlers and athletes need good hand grip to perform well on the floor.
Strength & Rehabilitation Exercises
Anyone who has had an injury to their neck, shoulder, arm or hand can benefit from doing specific strengthening movements. This is especially true for anyone who has had surgery to their hand, wrist or elbow. In my case I had surgical repair to the flexor tendons, blood vessels and nerves in my little finger after slicing them by falling onto some broken glass with an outstretched hand.
People who indulge in heavy physical activities as well as mechanical jobs, tend to have more hand injuries.
Hitting the gym and doing some wrist curls is not enough to create strong hands and forearms. If you are looking for the simplest and best ways to improve grip strength then try the following exercises. Here are 5 hand grip exercises that you can use for creating and maintaining healthy and functioning hands.
Standing Static Barbell Hold
A straight bar or EZ barbell is always useful piece of home gym equipment. You get to see visible results using a barbell for hand exercises. You always see deals from Sports Direct and other big name brands selling home sporting equipment. This is because they are a very useful and popular piece of workout equipment.
- Grip the barbell & raise it up from the floor lift area to standing
- Hold it straight in front at 90 degrees to your arms
- Try to hold the position for up to 2 minutes
If you are new to this and not able to hold it for long, try for as long as you can even if it is a minute. You can increase the difficulty by trying under hand, over hand or sumo type grip positions to hold the barbell. You might find that if you start lifting some really heavy barbell weights that you might need some of these wrist straps. Of course you’ll need an adjustable barbell weight selection which you can get on Amazon here.
Dumbbell Wrist Rotations
Dumbbells help to challenge each arm separately. A straight barbell can hide weakness on side, like having a weak left or right side. You can’t hide your weak muscles when holding a dumbbell. Apart from working on hand grips, it helps to make your forearms strong.
- Take a pair of dumbbells & hold them with your elbows bent at 90 degrees
- Hold your elbows next to your sides
- Roll your wrists outwards as far as you can
- Now rotate them inwards as far as you can
- Repeat until fatigued
Try keep your shoulder muscles relaxed down to help prevent any neck and shoulder injuries. You can even start with no weights and work your way up to increase the dumbbell weight to make it more difficult. Of course you will need a good pair of adjustable dumbbells from Amazon to use this at home.
Squeezing a Stress Ball
Very simple movement that creates lost of benefits to to loads of muscles all at once. Plus it is a very functional movement required in our activities of daily living.
- Hold the stress ball in your hand
- Wrap your fingers and thumb around it
- Start squeezing the ball slowly & relaxing your grip slowly
- Keep doing this for 1-2 minutes
- Repeat the squeezing a stress ball exercise on your another hand.
You could always start with no ball. However, you will eventually need a soft ball like this stress ball you can get on Amazon. This is one of the best hand strengthening exercises ever. I do this to stimulate my left hand grip and coordination, which is naturally weaker for me being right handed.
Hand Gripper Exercises
Hand grippers come with two handles that are connected with a spring under tension. These can be really hard to do, but you’ll love the sense of accomplishment when you see how you improve with practice over time. You get some basic looking ones all the way up to advanced ones too as I read in the review on gains bible.
- Hold the hand gripper in one open hand
- Try squeezing the two handles closed
- Hold for 1-5 seconds
- Repeat until fatigued and then pass on to the other hand and do the same
Personally I find this is one of the most difficult hand and wrist exercises to doI find. It is like the stress ball movement, but just 100x harder. A more advanced way to challenge yourself is try holding the gripper handles in one hand for as long as you can. You can also vary it up and do quick repetitions, trying to close the gripper as many time as possible within a short time period. You could even have one in each hand and try coordinate or alternating the squeezing. You can get one of the best hand grippers on Amazon here.
Working on your shoulders and forearms is a must to help your hands & wrists. The wrist push-ups exercise will benefit both the upper and lower arm. Lots of times a pain signal or weakness higher up even into the neck can lead to weakness down the biomechanical line.
- Get down onto your hands and knees
- Put your arms inline, or just beyond, your shoulders
- Slowly lower your upper body to the floor keeping your elbows tucked in
- Slowly push-up from the floor
- Finish the move with elbows still slightly bent
- Repeat until fatigued
A normal push-up is a classic body weight exercise. It is such a primitive move to help build power in the whole upper body plus the arms. I’d suggest starting on by doing push-ups on your knees. As you get stronger you can go onto your toes by stretching out your legs. You have to watch your form as it is easy to try cheat and use your neck to compensate or round your thoracic spine. Remember that fewer quality movements trumps quantity. Do this anywhere you are.
To get maximum benefit from the top 5 exercises above complement them with stretching the arm and wrist during and after. Initially, you can do it once in a week and increase the frequency depending on your comfort level.
I hope you found these tips helpful tips. Following these exercises can help you develop stronger arms that will serve you well in both the short-term and long run. I’d suggest reading this post on how to exercise only 15 mins per week using the Body by Science work from Dr Doug McGuff and also how to do shoulder blade push-ups to compliment these moves above.[expand title=”References:”]