Episode 130: Stronger Hands

There is no substitute for hand strength.

Today what we’re going to look at are three quick strength-training exercises for the hands that deal with underused areas that you can do anywhere.

At Z-Health we spend a lot of time talking about hands. We deal with hand mobility but one of the things we also deal with a lot is hand strength. Why is that? Number one, there is no substitute for having a good grip. Regardless of what you do in the world and where you go, being able to hold on to what you grab is very important.

There’s also actually a very interesting correlation that has shown up in the medical literature that correlates hand strength, or grip strength, with increases or decreases in mortality. What we basically have seen in big studies is that the stronger your hands the less likely you are to die early. Kind of a weird correlation but it’s something that has been talked about.

Click here for links to related studies

We spend a lot of time, as I said, working on hand strength.

Now, if you think about what people do with their hands all day, generally we’re doing claw work. We’re typing, we’re carrying grocery bags, and we’re picking kids up. Whatever it is that we do. We spend a lot of time working on this flexion motion. There are a lot of other muscles in the hands and many of them are forgotten and abused. While we can spend … We could do tons and tons of exercises for grip strength, this particular aspect of it, what I want to focus on today is hand strength.

We’re going to look at some things, not so much involved in the flexion motion but rather in the spreading of the hands, the closing of the hands, and the extension of the hands. Let’s get into exercise number one. The first exercise that we’re going to do is basic finger spreads. Now, a finger spread, we’re going to do two different positions. We’re going to do a full spread like this and then a closed position. The whole idea is we’re going to start here, we’re going to take our other hand and we’re going to try and squeeze the fingers together and I’m just resisting that.

I want you to hold that for about ten seconds and you’re going to figure out that this is not a very strong area. Then you’re going to go a fully enclosed position and once again try to open against resistance. Again, we’re going to hold that for six to ten seconds and then we’ll go to the next set. We’re going to go here and you can just count it down in your head. Five, four, three, two, one. Bring them together, open against resistance. Six, five, four, three, two, one. Then you’re going to repeat that here. We’ll go ahead and do it since I’m doing it. Last. All right that’s great.

We’ve done our fingers we also want to do our thumb so we’re going to spread the index finger and thumb, try and pull them together. Turn like that so you can see. We’re spreading, we’re going to bring them together and we’re going to spread again. Good. Now, that hands going to feel like it’s just done a workout. You want to do it on this side then you’re going to switch and repeat the same little motions on this side. Those are basically finger spreads as I said. Done in two positions with fingers wide, fingers close.

Do each combination ten seconds of each version and now we’ll move on to exercise number two.

You’ll need a piece of paper. In our first strength exercise, we did finger spreads, now we’re going to do finger squeezes. For this you want a sheet of paper. This seems like it should be incredibly simple but you’re going to figure out some significant probably weaknesses in your hands as you do this. It’s a very simple idea. You’re going to take a piece of paper, you’re going to put it between beginning with your index finger and your middle finger. You’re going to try to squeeze the piece of paper and then you’re going to pull. You’re going to try to pull it out and you want to hole that for, again, six to ten seconds and then relax. Then you’re going to go between the middle finger and the ring finger once again they’re squeezing together.

You’re pulling.

What you’ll figure out is that it doesn’t take much. These areas tend to be very under trained and so our ability to squeeze and hold tends to go away over time. These muscles that we’re dealing with are very important in maintaining integrity in the hand particularly when you’re doing more difficult exercises. Then we’ll go to the ring finger and little finger, once again, they’re squeezing together as you’re pulling the paper. Pull for six to ten seconds and then finally you can do the same thing, thumb and index.

That should give you a good little work out.

Once you’ve done that you’ll switch to the opposite side and repeat. For our last exercise we’re going to go down to the floor.

Our third strength exercise, for this one I’m going to show it on the floor. You can do this at your desk, you can do on a table, doesn’t matter. Basically you want to be in a position almost as if you were going to do a push up. Now, this is way harder than it appears when you watch it on camera. What I’m going to recommend is if you start off in a push up position.

Don’t get into a full push up yet, be on your knees so that you’re just kneeling and you want to get your fingers spread.

Then I want you to rock back a little bit because the more weight you have on your hands the harder this exercise is. Basically what you’re going to do is you’re going to get into a push up position, you’re going to push back so that you’re not bearing too much weight. You’re going to press your palms into the ground or desk and then keeping your palms in place you’re going to try and lift your fingers off the ground.

Now, if you can lift your fingers off the ground, working on that extension you can then start to roll forward and you’ll figure out that it gets quite a bit harder. You can also play with doing this elbows bent or elbows straight. If my elbows are straight, I often feel like I’m working quite a bit harder. You’ll feel this through the back of the hand, all the way up into the forearm. In general, what I like to have people do is begin here, again press the palm in, lift the fingers, hold for ten seconds, relax, move forward a tiny bit so you’re getting a little bit more weight on it.

Press the palms down, lift the fingers, hold for ten.

Usually, two to three repetitions of that will be sufficient, you’ll definitely feel it. Now, we’ve gone through some basic exercises for strengthening. We did finger spreads, we did the paper pull finger squeeze, and then we finally did the push up finger extensions. These exercises I find to be very, very useful and very important to counteract most of the work that we do with our hands on a daily basis.

If you have hand pain, if you have stiffness, carpel tunnel issues, I think you’ll find these exercises really super valuable. However, please make sure that they don’t cause pain for you. If they cause pain you need to talk to your health care provider, we also have a lot of blogs out there on dealing with the nerves that come into the hands, so check out our carpel tunnel relief blogs; our hand mobility blogs, because generally what we try and tell people is let’s get rid of pain first and then rebuild mobility, and then in that process we’ll also help you rebuild strength.

Click here for previous videos for the hands.

I don’t want you doing these if they’re causing you a lot of discomfort.

If you have any questions about this please let us know otherwise, good luck and have fun.

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