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Grip Strength: Why is it Important and How Much Should it Be?

 

Grip strength is an important variable to measure, track, and train. It plays a significant role in various everyday activities, as well as in sports and occupational tasks. Most importantly, research has shown us that we can make some predictions based off of your grip strength as well. Read more to learn.

 

Importance of grip strength:


1. Functional Ability: Grip strength is crucial for performing everyday tasks such as carrying groceries, opening jars, and lifting objects. I am reminded of the importance after my last weekend of travels. I had to pull a rolling golf bag case behind me for a very long walk from the airport to our parked car. Talk about a forearm pump and fatigue.


2. Sports Performance: Many sports including weightlifting, rock climbing, grappling sports, golf, tennis, and baseball/softball require good grip strength for optimal performance. Your grip strength also matters when your primary “sport” is gym activities or crossfit. Activities like rope climbs, heavy carries, pull-up variations, and more require a lot of grip strength.


3. Occupational Demands: Certain occupations, such as construction workers, mechanics, and firefighters, rely heavily on grip strength to perform their job duties safely and effectively.


4. Health Indicator: Grip strength has also been linked to overall health and longevity. Research suggests that lower grip strength may be associated with an increased risk of disability, cardiovascular disease, and mortality.



a performance, cash-based physical therapist shows a patient how to performa  dead hang exercise to improve her grip strength


Predictors of grip strength:


1. Muscle Strength: Grip strength is closely related to the strength of the muscles in your hands, wrists, and forearms.

2. Muscle Endurance: Grip strength is not only about how much force you can generate but also about how long you can sustain that force. Thus, grip strength can also be a measure of muscle endurance.

3. Overall Health: Grip strength has been identified as a predictor of overall health and functional ability in older adults, as well as a marker of disease risk and mortality in various populations.


Normal Grip Strength Numbers:


Check out this graph for normative data on grip strength in kg based on sex and age.


a graph on grip strength by side, sex, and age from the Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy in 2018

Exercises to improve grip strength:


1. Grip Strengtheners: Gripping isolation exercises using hand grippers, stress balls, or grip rings are effective for building grip strength. Simply squeezing these objects with your hands can help strengthen the muscles in your fingers, hands, and forearms. Some other exercises include using rice buckets (originally baseball/grappling specific), doing kettlebell flips, plate pinches, and forearm supination/pronation with a hammer.


2. Deadlifts: Deadlifts are an excellent compound exercise that targets multiple muscle groups, including the muscles responsible for grip strength. Holding onto the barbell during deadlifts helps improve grip strength significantly.


3. Pull-Ups and Chin-Ups: Pull-up and chin-up variations are challenging exercises that require a strong grip to hold onto the bar. Including these exercises in your routine can help improve grip strength.


4. Heavy Lat Pull-Downs and Row Variations: Both lat pull-downs and row variations such as bent-over rows, machine rows, and TRX rows will all challenge and improve your grip strength.


5. Farmers Walks/Carry Variations: Farmers walks involve walking while holding heavy weights, such as dumbbells or kettlebells, in each hand. This exercise not only strengthens the grip but also works the muscles in the arms, shoulders, and core.


6. Dead Hangs: A simple yet effective exercise for grip strength (with other amazing benefits) are dead hangs. Just hold onto a bar and hang for as long as possible.

 

Add a variety of these exercises into your workout routine to help improve your grip strength. A better grip will improve your daily function (think groceries to the car in one trip), sports performance, as well as health and longevity. Similar to all other exercises, remember to gradually progress over time.


Let me know if you have any questions!

 

Sincerely,

Dr. Sieara

828-808-3704

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