Improve grip strength with this tool |

FFrom the time we get up to the time we go to bed, we probably use our hands more than any other part of our bodies to help us carry out daily activities. However, when you hear about the importance of building muscle strength, the hands get very little attention, if any. But grip strength (along with leg strength, if you’re someone who walks) is the most functional strength we have and must be maintained, says Isabel Garcia, DPT, a Florida-based physical therapist.

“We use our hands and arms for almost everything: brushing our hair, putting on a ponytail, opening doors or jars. That is why it is important that our grip strength is as strong as possible”, says Dr. Garcia. “We often don’t think of our hands as muscles because we don’t need to tell them to bend or grasp, but we use them for important fine motor movements in everyday life.”

Dr. Garcia says that most of us only realize the importance of grip strength when something affects it, such as an injury, carpal tunnel syndrome, or trigger finger, a condition in which the tendons become become inflamed, making it difficult to bend or straighten the fingers. (As someone who suffered from trigger finger and couldn’t open a door, write, or pick up anything for a month, I can attest to this being true!)

Having a strong grip also helps lessen the chance of injury, arthritis, and other painful conditions, not just in the hands and wrists, but also in the elbows, arms, and shoulders. “I see patient after patient who has a hand, wrist, or elbow injury, but can’t move their shoulder,” says Dr. Garcia. “The complex biomechanics of the hands, wrists, elbows, arms and shoulders is like going up and down a chain. Other muscles will make up for what you’ve lost if there’s a collapse.”

Try This Simple Tool To Strengthen Your Grip

Grip strength is something we can all work on, but it becomes especially important as we age and become more prone to muscle atrophy, says Dr. Garcia. She says that one of the best and easiest ways to improve grip strength is to wear heavy gloves. Her favorite: the Powerhandz Powerfit Fingerless Weighted Exercise Gloves ($44.99), with reinforced gel padding on the palm to protect against calluses and blisters.

Dr. Garcia recommends wearing the gloves when lifting weights, cross training, walking, or during other types of exercise to add resistance and strengthen the muscles in your hand. “One of the best ways to improve grip strength is to do weight-bearing exercises on the hands and wrists like a high plank,” he says, noting that adding heavy gloves will improve results.

Putting on gloves while performing daily activities is another way to improve your grip. “Using them while doing anything around the house will be the most functional way to integrate wrist and hand weight training into your day by adding resistance to the things you were already doing without the gloves,” says Dr. Garcia.

If you’re prone to hand and wrist problems, Dr. Garcia says you can kick things up a notch and wear the gloves while practicing all three types of functional grips:

key grip

Pinch your thumb and the top of your index finger and twist your wrist to the left or right as if you were picking a lock.

pinch grip

Pinch two fingers together in a small motion as if you are picking something up.

Cylindrical handle

Grasp your hands as if you were holding a bottle of water. You can also add the “hook” variation, curling your fingers the same way she would as if she were pulling up her pants.

What it’s really like to wear heavy gloves

I have been using the Powerfit gloves during weight training, and they have really made me more aware of my grip, and that it can improve a bit. I also wore a pair for a recent Pilates session and could really feel the resistance increase in my hands and wrists (the hundreds seemed more like thousands).

As someone who has had trigger thumb and occasional bouts of carpal tunnel syndrome, I hope being aware of my grip strength will help me avoid these painful conditions in the future, and doing something as simple as wearing heavy gloves to do so gets two (strong) thumbs up in my book.

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