How to Exercise With Hand Grips

Building hand grip muscles has a number of practical applications from opening doors to playing several sports, including tennis, golf and rock climbing. You can practice building hand grip strength by using hand grippers or doing other exercises, such as squeezing a ball.

Hand grips are a great way to increase you hand strength. (Image: yipengge/iStock/GettyImages)

A Hand Grip Overview

A forceful hand grip involves flexion of the finger joints and a combination of flexor and extensor muscles. According to the Tufts University Nutrition Collaborative and a July 2017 study in Acta Medica Indonesiana, some of the factors that affect grip strength include:

  • Muscle strength
  • Sex
  • Nutritional status
  • Hand dominance
  • Fatigue
  • Time of day
  • Age
  • Pain
  • Restricted motion
  • Certain chronic diseases, such as coronary heart disease

The study in Acta Medica Indonesiana concluded that elderly patients over the age of 75 with malnutrition had an increased risk of low grip strength.

You can test your hand grip strength by using a hand dynamometer — which, according to Harvard Health Publishing, measures the maximum strength at which someone can squeeze two handles together — and evaluating the results.

How to Use Hand Grippers

An instructional video by Kootek , which manufactures hand grippers, demonstrates how to use a hand gripper to build grip strength with exercises that require repeatedly squeezing and relaxing. Begin by turning the knob to adjust the resistance. There are a number of ways you can position the hand gripper, including:

  1. Place your thumb on one side of the gripper and your index and middle finger on the other; then squeeze.
  2. With the gripper upside down, place your palm on one side and your pinky and ring finger on the other; then squeeze.
  3. Squeeze only with your thumb and index finger.
  4. Squeeze only with your thumb and middle finger.
  5. Push only with your thumb, with your other four fingers wrapped around the bottom handle of the grip. Then reverse the grip and perform the exercise with your four fingers wrapped around the top.
  6. Place the grip inside one hand and squeeze for a whole-hand exercise; then reverse the grip inside your hand with the opposite side of the gripper facing upward.

Alternative Hand Grip Exercises

The American Council on Exercise points out that grip-strengthening exercises will help you perform everyday activities with ease, such as opening jars, walking the dog and shaking hands. Exercises that strengthen your hand grip but don't involve the use of a hand gripper include:

  • Rubber band exercise: Weave a rubber band around your fingers; then open and close your hand as many times possible. You can do this exercise anywhere, including in your cubicle at work and at home while you're watching a video.
  • Squeezing a tennis ball: Hold on to a tennis ball and squeeze it for as many repetitions as you can. Rest for 90 seconds; then continue squeezing.
  • Fingertip push-ups: Perform a normal push-up, except instead of your hands being flat on the floor, use only your fingertips as the point of contact. Complete as many fingertip push-ups as you can.

Harvard Health Publishing also recommends grip exercises that strengthen the thumb and fingers, and increase wrist flexibility and range of motion, including :

  • Squeezers: Squeeze a stress ball between your thumb and fingers, hold for 30 to 60 seconds then repeat with the opposite hand.
  • Cloth wringing: Wet a small towel or cloth then wring out the water using both hands. Repeat this movement many times.
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