Hand grip strength is very important but often overlooked. You use grip strength for everything from holding a pen to carrying a bag of groceries to turning the keys in your front door. Certain hobbies, such as playing an instrument or painting, rely on grip strength too. Here's how you can test and improve your hand grip.
Simple exercises using hand grippers or a tennis ball can improve your hand grip strength, making it easier to perform everyday tasks.
What Is Hand Grip?
According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), working on hand and grip strength should be an important part of your exercise routine, especially if you lift heavy weights. The ACE explains that there are two sets of forearm muscles involved in your grip: flexor muscles (which close your hand to make a fist) and extensor muscles (which open the fist when you are making a flat hand).
In a paper published in the September 2015 issue of Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, physical therapy researcher Richard W. Bohannon wrote that grip strength can be a good indicator of overall health in middle-aged and older adults and can predict cardiovascular health and even future limitations to mobility. Bohannon argued that grip strength should be routinely measured as a vital sign.
Test Your Grip Strength
Harvard Health Publishing says you can evaluate your own grip strength by performing everyday tasks and seeing if you find any of them difficult. Try opening a jar or turning a doorknob. If you find everyday grip tasks trickier than they should be, you should consider working on your grip strength.
You can also have your grip strength evaluated by a doctor, who can use specialized instruments like a hand dynamometer. Tufts notes that there are many different factors affecting your grip strength at any given moment, including your age, which hand is your dominant hand, how often you complete arm workouts, how tired you are, if gripping motions cause you pain and even the time of day.
Hand Grip Exercises
There are a number of exercises you can do to strengthen your hand grip. You can purchase hand grippers (sometimes just called hand grips), which are typically two handles joined by springs. These devices isolate your forearm muscles when squeezed, helping build up your grip strength.
If you don't want to purchase special equipment, the National Institute on Aging at NIH offers an exercise you can do with a tennis ball or any other small rubber or foam ball. Simply hold the ball in your hand then squeeze it as hard as you can for three to five seconds. Slowly release the squeeze. Repeat the exercise 10 to 15 times in each hand, or do two rounds for a total of 20 to 30 times per hand.
- American Council on Exercise: "How To Improve Grip Strength"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Give Grip Strength a Hand"
- Tufts University: "Hand Grip Strength Protocol"
- Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care: "Muscle Strength: Clinical and Prognostic Value of Hand-Grip Dynamometry"
- National Institute on Aging at NIH: "Hand Grip Exercise"