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March 24, 2023
Grip strength is an essential function that allows people to live a higher quality of life. Hand and forearm strength show up in our daily lives, especially through exercise and sports. Maintaining and building grip strength by using a grip strengthener in your exercise routine can help maintain and improve fine and gross motor skills throughout your life.
Learn why a grip strengthener is a functional tool and all of the benefits it provides below.
Table of Contents:
A grip strengthener is a handheld device that directly targets the strength of your hand and forearm muscles. It also increases the capacity of the wrist joint. It is small, portable, and accessible to most people. The most common are spring-loaded hand grips that provide an array of resistance. This device is one of the most effective ways to create a strong grip.
One of the most important factors that the hand grip strengthener helps improve is day-to-day functions requiring hand use. Working with a hand grip strengthener consistently can improve strength within the hands and forearms and improve the dexterity of the fingers and wrists, which is a crucial skill to carry throughout daily life and exercise. In addition, grip strength training is essential to keeping a high quality of life, as we will demonstrate via various sources below.
Regarding exercise and sport-related performance, grip strengtheners improve athletic ability by increasing the strength of the hands and forearms.
A stronger grip is necessary to progress in lifting heavier weights, improving sport-specific skills and dexterity. In addition, studies show that the grip strengthener provides greater benefits to the body other than just increased muscular strength and endurance. Learn below how grip strength exercises lead to improved quality of life, decreased stress, and more.
Hand grip strengtheners target the forearms, hands, and fingers muscles. There are 19 muscles that comprise the forearm, with 8 classified in the flexor group and 11 in the extensor group. The flexor group is located at the anterior of the forearm, with the extensors located at the posterior.
There are two primary muscles in the forearm that are engaged when squeezing the hand with a tool like a grip strengthener. These two muscles are the flexor pollicis longus and the flexor digitorum profundus. Whereas releasing the grip strengthener mainly targets the extensor muscle called the digitorum communis.
The muscles in the forearms, hands, fingers, and to a lesser extent, the triceps and biceps make fine and gross motor skills possible, whether it be buttoning up a dress shirt or catching a ball. The flexor and extensor muscles of the forearm assist the hands, fingers, and wrists in functioning as a unit. When the hands, fingers, and wrists fatigue, most tension is displaced to the forearms, which helps sustain grip strength and functionality.
A crush grip is the most common way to use a grip strengthener. If it's your first time using the tool, start with a lower resistance or lower your desired repetitions and slowly build up to a more challenging variation. This how-to uses the crush grip and utilizes standard repetitions.
Grip Strengthener Tips:
There's a reason why this humble piece of equipment is used so frequently. Below we cover the major benefits of using a hand grip strengthener.
Grip strength measures the strength of your hands, fingers, wrists, and forearms. Regular strength training with the grip strengthener can increase your grip strength. This can directly improve pull-focused movements and isometric grip strength performed in the gym, like pull-ups, deadlifts, Farmer's carries, and more. It is shown that grip strength is strongly correlated to total body strength.1
A weak grip can be a limiting factor for most exercises. Having adequate muscle endurance means your grip strength can perform for a designated amount of time, even through fatigue. This can be challenging for most people, and once the fatigue sets in, the grip strength tends to "give out." When grip strength is developed, your body will be able to perform for longer amounts of time which can improve muscular endurance. A good indicator of improved grip strength is the ability to hold a dead hang for a longer period of time or the ability to complete a heavier Farmer's carry.
Dexterity is a specific motor skill that is performed by the hands. Dexterity includes tasks like:
Aging, injury, and/or symptoms of arthritis can be limiting factors that negatively affect dexterity. Consistent usage of this tool can help improve the function of your hands and fingers. A study that predicts hand dexterity in adults found that "Age and grip strength were statistically significant predictors of hand dexterity, and that aiming and tapping hand dexterity appeared to be moderated by the factor of grip strength more than age."2
A muscle mass decline of 3-8% per decade after age 30 is involuntary. It is even higher after the age of 60, which directly correlates to disability in older populations.3
When regular grip strengthening is introduced to adult populations, it is shown that enhanced grip strength is associated with lower prevalence of arthritis.4
A regular schedule of physical activity, specifically strength training, can help older adults maintain and/or improve handgrip strength, leading to the likelihood of reducing age-related decline.
Ever notice yourself fidgeting more when stressed? Similar to a stress ball, using the hand grip strengthener as a stress reduction tool is highly effective, low-intensity, and can help improve your motor skills simultaneously. However, the device can distract you if you feel restless, nervous, or overstimulated. Therefore, it is important to tap into deep, intentional breathing as you use the tool, whether your focus is stress reduction or weekly usage for strength/endurance training.
Using the tool to specifically target your grip strength can improve your daily functions, like opening a jar, washing the dishes, moving furniture, exercising at the gym, and more. However, as we age, these tasks may start to feel much more challenging and can decline our quality of life and sense of independence.
What's the connecting link between grip strength and mental health? One study has found that stronger grip strength is associated with better cognitive functioning, greater well-being, and reduced anxiety and depression symptoms.5 It also states that a change in grip strength can indicate a change in mental health.
Another study found similar, intriguing results that grip strength is correlated with reaction time, number memory, visual memory, and prospective memory in the general population.6 Who would have thought that depression and strength go hand in hand (pun intended).
Hand grip strengtheners are small, lightweight, portable, and affordable. You can have one handy anywhere you go; it is a great addition to your gym bag. Most hand grippers come with adjustable resistances, so you will not have to purchase more than one.7
As with most things in life not everything is all positive. Below we highlight some common downsides of using grip strengtheners.
Versatility is a great way to keep improving grip strength, and the grip strengthener is limited to a few functions. These tools can't be used for much other than gripping, compared to a dumbbell which can train the grip and target the entire body through varied movements. Grip strength training with steel maces is another excellent option as they a multifunctional and can provide a full body workout.
Also, some grippers do not come with a change in resistance. Once you adapt to the resistance, the likelihood of ditching the gripper is high.
Depending on your current routine, your grip may already be actively working and does not need additional resistance provided by the device. When first starting to incorporate it into your routine, there is a potential for overuse. You may enthusiastically approach this device and only realize you overdid it after experiencing DOMS of the hands and forearms. Follow a progressive overload approach even if you're tempted to go all in when first trying the hand grip strengthener.
We wanted to provide some context on using hand grip-strengthening exercises to improve your grip strength.
Standard repetitions look like squeezing the hand grip strengthener until the handles touch, then returning to the start position. With these reps, you can work your way up to higher repetitions, working more of the muscle endurance of the hands and forearms. If your goal is endurance repetitions, target 15-30 reps on each hand.
Once you meet the handles of the hand grip strengthener together, actively hold and squeeze your hand in the contracted position. Isometrics are a great way to target the specific range of a movement and strengthen the musculature within that range. Make sure to actively breathe through the isometric hold. Start your holds anywhere from 2-5 seconds, then challenge yourself to hold for 10 or more seconds at a time.
Eccentric loading can be incorporated with standard and isometric reps. After you meet the handles together, take 3-5 seconds to slowly open your hand to return to your start position. This way, the resistance is eccentrically loading your gripping muscles, challenging their time under tension. Eccentrics can easily fatigue the grip, so gauge how you're feeling and alter your sets and repetitions accordingly.
The above methods are different ways to complete hand grip repetitions. When it comes to specific grip usages, these are great variations to target your hands and forearms. Each grip puts a greater emphasis on specific muscles.
A well-rounded grip-focused routine should include a variety of grip strengthener approaches and grip varieties. This is a great way to enhance grip strength, endurance, and dexterity.
Note: We should mention one more grip although it's not necessarily related to a grip strengthener. The support grip is important in everyday life as it is used when you're holding onto something. Daily activities such as carrying grocery bags into the house require some level of support grip to make it possible. You can perform the Farmer's walk, a support grip exercise that will help you perform everyday tasks better.
The grip strengthener can be included in your fitness routine in various ways.
If your usual routine includes upper/lower body splits, the grip strengthener can be used as warm-up sets for the grip.
If your focus is primarily on the upper body, the grip strengthener can be incorporated into a work set or as an active recovery after a grip-focused movement.
If you're taking an active recovery day in between strength sessions and your upper body is feeling good enough to activate and move, incorporating the hand grip strengthener during the recovery days can be a great balance.
As mentioned above, working specific grips and different hand gripper techniques will be determined by how often you're training and if you can progress in your grip strength.
Below we created a sample workout with grip training exercises using a grip strengthener.
Repeat the following workout for 3 Rounds:
Note: Rest for 2 minutes after each round.
The frequency of grip strengthener usage depends on your weekly fitness routine. It is recommended to use this device 2-3 times per week. If you're feeling especially sore, decrease the frequency and resistance of the tool.
For the average person, grip strengthener usage daily can lead to overuse. It may be tempting to fidget with this tool daily, but try to avoid overuse by dedicating 2-3 days of usage per week. If you're achy and sore for a day's usage, take 2 days off and revisit how it feels. More rest can help you gain the benefits of hand grip strengtheners.
Hand grip strengtheners alone do not build muscle but can lead to increased muscle mass in the forearms and hands. The hand gripper provides a unique stimulus that targets the hands and forearms like no other tool can. When using this tool, make sure to use a full range of motion and apply training protocols like high repetitions, isometrics, and eccentric loading. Add additional grip-strengthening exercises to your routine to see apparent changes to increasing muscle mass.
Yes, they are! If you can use them without pain or constant cramping (some cramping is normal), hand grip strengtheners are an efficient way to maximize grip strength. When grip strength improves, mostly all pulling motions become much easier: pull-ups, deadlifts, curls, etc.
Hand grips improve hand and finger muscle strength and forearm flexor and extensor strength.
Yes, hand grips stimulate and increase blood flow in the localized area of the activated muscles in the forearms. This causes the veins to dilate and visually appear to "pop out."
Yes. Depending on the quality of the grip strengthener you're using, you should feel challenged with every repetition. Look for a gripper that can be adjusted to increase resistance once you gain strength. When you gain strength, your hands will improve in grip strength, enhancing the motor skills of your wrists and fingers.
We hope this post has given you a better idea of the benefits of hand grip tools and how you can improve your overall health in multiple ways. Incorporating grip-strengthening exercises is a must for anyone who takes their physical fitness seriously and wants to improve their overall well-being.
Looking to buy a grip strengthener? Make sure to check out our post that covers the best grip strengtheners on the market.
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