Occupational Hand Exercises to Strengthen Grip

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Your therapist will use a variety of hand exercises to improve your grip strength.
Image Credit: Cavan Images/Cavan/GettyImages

Grip strength is critical for many aspects of daily life, from writing to weight lifting. It's a particular issue for people with health issues, like arthritis, or who are recovering from injuries. Fortunately, there are many different occupational therapy exercises to increase grip strength.

Read more: How to Treat Hand Tremors by Exercising

The Importance of Grip Strength

Grip strength is crucial for almost every daily activity, from using your phone or writing to lifting weights or carrying your groceries. Yet, hand strength is so taken for granted that most people don't consider it's importance until they get older or have an issue that's affected their health.

A July 2017 study in Acta Medica Indonesiana reported that hand strength is affected by various factors, including aging, nutrition, muscle strength, mobility and overall health. Certain health conditions, like rheumatoid arthritis, coronary heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and diabetes, can all affect grip strength.

Several studies, including a June 2012 study in the Indian Journal of Physiotherapy & Occupational Therapy _and a July 2018 study in the _International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health have shown that it's possible to improve grip strength through specific hand and arm exercises. These exercises can help improve your pinch grip, handgrip strength, handwriting speed and upper limb coordination.

Despite their importance, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) says that activities to increase grip strength are often left out of workout programs. Fortunately, there are a variety of different occupational therapy exercises to increase grip strength. If you work out regularly, you can even incorporate some of these hand-strengthening exercises into your regular workout routine.


If your weak grip is due to a health condition or related to an injury, you should talk to your occupational therapist about activities to increase grip strength.

However, if your hand weakness comes on suddenly or is accompanied by tremors, it may be best to consult your doctor instead.

Read more: Exercises for Shaky Hands and When You Should See a Doctor

Activities to Increase Grip Strength

Hand strength exercises typically require very little equipment, which means that they can be done at the gym, at home or even at work. For these hand exercises, you'll need a rubber band, stress ball and a weighted or EZ curl bar.

Move 1: Hand Grip Exercise

The National Institute On Aging recommends this handgrip exercise, which you can see demonstrated in their YouTube video '20-minute Sample Workout for Older Adults from Go4Life.'

Move 1: Go4Life Exercise--Hand Grip

  1. Hold a tennis ball, gyro ball, or stress ball in your hand.
  2. Slowly squeeze the ball as hard as possible. Hold your hand in place for between 3 and 5 seconds.
  3. Slowly relax your hand.
  4. Repeat 15 times, then switch to the other hand.

Move 2: Rubber Band Exercise

The rubber band exercise is one of several ACE-recommended fine motor strengthening activities for adults.

  • Wrap a rubber band around your fingers.
  • Slowly open your hands, then close them again.
  • Repeat as many times as you can until your hands become tired.
  • Once your hands are tired, rest for 60 seconds, then repeat again. If you can, repeat the process a third time.

Move 3: Reverse Curls

The reverse curl is one of the most common occupational therapy exercises to increase grip strength.

  1. Grasp your EZ curl bar so that your palms are facing down. Keep your elbows close to your ribs.
  2. Lift the bar up so that your hands are level with your shoulders.
  3. Keep the bar raised for a second or two, then lower it slowly.
  4. Do two or three sets of 10 reps.
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