A strong grip is easy to take for granted. A grip strength test can give you an idea of how you measure up compared to your peers. Whether you're performing daily tasks — such as doing laundry — or lifting weights in the gym, a strong grip is key to your success.
Read more: Benefits of Hand Grip Exercises
Perform the Grip Strength Test
Grip strength is tested using a tool called a "dynamometer." These devices test isometric grip strength — while you are squeezing the handle; it does not move. Instead, the machine is measuring the amount of force being applied to it.
Traditionally, hand dynamometers function on a hydraulic system, but electronic versions are also available.
The Jamar Hand Dynamometer is commonly used in professional settings and wellness centers. This device uses five different hand positions, progressing from a tight grip to a wider grip with the fingers and thumb spread farther apart.
If you test your grip in all five positions, your results should form a bell curve. You are weakest when your fingers are closest to your thumb and when they are spread the furthest apart. Average grip strength is typically measured in position two — the second smallest grip — when using an adjustable dynamometer, according to the National Institute for Health Research.
To obtain the most accurate results, use the hand grip testing protocol. You will need a tester as well as a participant.
- Have the participant sit in a chair with her elbow bent to 90 degrees.
- The participant will then grasp the device with the gauge facing the tester, wrapping the fingers and thumb fully around the handle.
- The tester will then instruct the participant to "squeeze, squeeze, squeeze," providing verbal cues to encourage maximum effort until the needle stops rising.
- The tester will then read the result, and document it in pounds.
- Turn the needle back to "zero."
- Repeat this process on the other hand.
- Perform three trials, and then calculate the average for each hand.
Grip Strength Norms
A person's average grip strength in lbs. depends on age, gender and which hand — right or left — is being tested. Grip strength norms developed and published in March 1985 by Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation are still widely used by physical and occupational therapists who work with people recovering from hand trauma. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee developed these norms after collecting data on more than 600 participants.
Grip strength norms are categorized in five-year blocks, from age 20 to 74. The final category applies to any individuals who are 75 years of age or older.
Norms are further broken down by gender, as well as the right and left hands. In addition to the average measurement, grip strength norm charts also include the standard deviation for each norm, providing a "range" of normal values.
Grip strength tends to peak between ages 25 and 39 years for both men and women. The following are grip strength norms for females, measured in pounds:
- Ages 20-24: Right 55.9-84.9; Left 47.9-74.1
- Ages 25-29: Right 60.6-88.4; Left 51.3-75.7
- Ages 30-34: Right 59.5-97.9; Left 50.3-85.7
- Ages 35-39: Right 63.3-84.9; Left 54.6-78
- Ages 40-44: Right 56.9-83.9; Left 48.5-76.1
- Ages 45-49: Right 47.1-77.3; Left 43.3-68.7
- Ages 50-54: Right 53.9-77.4; Left 46.6-68
- Ages 55-59: Right 44.8-69.8; Left 35.4-59.2
- Ages 60-64: Right 45-65.2; Left 35.6-55.8
- Ages 65-69: Right 39.9-59.3; Left 32.8-49.2
- Ages 70-74: Right 37.9-61.3; Left 31.3-51.7
- Ages 75+: Right 31.6-53.6; Left 28.7-46.5
The following are age-specific average grip strengths of a man in pounds:
- Ages 20-24: Right 100.4-141.6; Left 82.7-126.3
- Ages 25-29: Right 97.8-143.8; Left 94.3-126.7
- Ages 30-34: Right 99.4-144.2; Left 88.7-131.7
- Ages 35-39: Right 95.7-143.7; Left 91.2-134.6
- Ages 40-44: Right 96.1-137.5; Left 94.1-131.5
- Ages 45-49: Right 86.9-132.9; Left 78-123.6
- Ages 50-54: Right 95.5-131.7; Left 84.9-118.9
- Ages 55-59: Right 74.4-127.8; Left 59.8-106.6
- Ages 60-64: Right 69.3-110.1; Left 56.5-97.1
- Ages 65-69: Right 70.5-111.7; Left 57-96.9
- Ages 70-74: Right 53.8-96.8; Left 46.7-82.9
- Ages 75+: Right 44.7-86.7; Left 38-72
Read more: Gyro Ball Exercises
Grip Strength and Overall Health
Grip strength isn't just important for daily tasks. According to a July 2015 study published by the Lancet, grip strength can be a predictor of overall mortality. People with decreased grip strength were found to be at higher risk of all-cause death, cardiovascular-related deaths and cardiovascular disease in general.
Grip strength was not found to be linked to diabetes, risk of falls or fracture, or hospitalization for respiratory disease.
Although the relationship between grip strength and systemic disease might seem odd, the study points out that a person with overall muscle weakness — assumed to occur with decreased grip strength — is less likely to recover well from a medical condition that affects other parts of the body.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, you don't need a fancy exercise program to help improve your overall muscle strength. The website recommends lifting a milk carton a few extra times, taking the stairs instead of the elevator and doing some leg exercises while talking on the phone.
Hand Grip Strengthening Exercises
You can also increase your grip strength with hand gripping exercises.
Move 1: Squeeze a Stress Ball, Tennis Ball or Sponge
- Squeeze the ball or sponge as hard as you can.
- Hold it for three to five seconds, then relax.
- Repeat 10 to 15 times in a row on each hand, working up to three sets.
Move 2: Resistance Putty Strengthening
- Shape the putty into a ball and hold it in your palm.
- Squeeze the putty and flatten it until your fingers are fully in your palm.
- Open your fingers and reshape the putty into a ball.
- Repeat 10 to 15 times on each hand.
Make this exercise harder by increasing the resistance level of your putty as your grip strength improves.
Move 3: Hand Gripper
Choose a hand gripper that fits comfortably in your hand.
- Squeeze the gripper and release 10 times.
- Repeat on the opposite side.
- Work up to three sets in a row, then advance to the next level of resistance.
Move 4: Bar Hang
- Grip a pull-up bar with your fingers and thumbs wrapped fully around the bar.
- Hang from the bar as long as possible, until your grip begins to slip, then release.
- Practice hanging each time you perform a weight training workout to build grip strength and endurance.
- Gradually increase the amount of time you hang in small increments, such as 10 to 15 seconds.
- Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation: "Grip and Pinch Strength: Normative Data for Adults"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Grip Strength May Provide Clues to Heart Health"
- National Institute for Health Research: "Procedure for Measuring Grip Strength Using the JAMAR Dynamometer"
- The Lancet: "Prognostic Value of Grip Strength: Findings From the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) Study"
- "NSCA's Essentials of Personal Training"; Roger Earle and Thomas Baechle; 2003
- "ACSM's Resources for the Personal Trainer"; American College of Sports Medicine; 2007
- "NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training"; April 2007