Grip strength refers to the force generated by the muscles in your hand and forearm to grasp, hold, or squeeze objects between your fingers and palm. It’s an important indicator of overall health as well as muscular strength and function. Today, grip strength is often used as a diagnostic tool in clinical settings for a variety of reasons:
- Functional Health: It can reflect the functional status of the upper extremities and is crucial for everyday tasks such as carrying groceries, opening jars, or turning doorknobs.
- Indicator of Aging: In older adults, grip strength predicts overall health and longevity. Weaker grip strength in this population is associated with a higher risk of mobility limitations and can indicate declining health.
- Rehabilitation: It’s measured during the rehabilitation process after an injury to the hand or arm to assess recovery and the effectiveness of treatment.
- Disease Monitoring: Certain diseases like Parkinson’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and other conditions that affect the nerves or muscles can lead to a decrease in grip strength.
- Athletic Performance: For athletes, especially those in sports that require holding or throwing, grip strength is a component of performance. Training to improve grip strength can enhance overall athletic ability in sports such as rock climbing, gymnastics, and weightlifting.
How is Grip Strength Measured?
Grip strength is typically measured using a tool called a hand dynamometer, which is designed to capture the maximum force exerted by the hand muscles when squeezing the handle.
Here’s how the Dynamometer works:
- Adjusting the Device: The dynamometer is adjusted to fit the individual’s hand size to ensure accuracy and comfort during the test.
- Starting Position: The person being tested sits or stands with their arm at a right angle and the elbow by their side. This standard position helps to maintain consistency across measurements.
- The Squeeze: Using maximum effort, the person squeezes the dynamometer with one hand as hard as possible. The device has a gauge that measures the force in units, typically kilograms or pounds.
- Recording the Score: The maximum reading on the dynamometer gauge is noted as the grip strength for that hand. The test is usually repeated for both hands to record any differences in strength.
- Comparison to Norms: The recorded scores can then be compared to normative data to determine how an individual’s grip strength compares to others in the same age and sex category.
Average Grip Strength: How do you measure up?
|Gender||Average Grip Strength (lbs)||Average Grip Strength (kg)|
|Men||98 – 106||44 – 48|
|Women||57 – 60||26 – 27|
Average grip strength can vary widely based on several factors, including age, gender, and which hand is dominant. However, to give a general idea:
- For men, the average grip strength for the dominant hand ranges between 98 to 106 pounds of force (44-48 kilograms).
- For women, the average grip strength for the dominant hand is typically between 57 to 60 pounds of force (26-27 kilograms).
Exercises to Improve & Increase Grip Strength
Improving grip strength is essential not just for athletes but for everyone, as it aids in performing everyday tasks more effectively. Here’s a detailed look at various exercises that can help enhance your grip strength:
- Purpose: Strengthen the muscles of the hand and forearm.
- Method: Squeeze the grippers and release. Perform multiple sets throughout the day.
- Progression: Start with lower resistance and increase as your grip improves. Some digital dynamometers can also be used instead of manual grippers.
- Benefits: Enhances grip endurance, total body strength, and postural control.
- Execution: Walk for distance or time while holding heavy weights. Keep your back straight and shoulders pulled back.
- Variations: Use different weights or walk on various surfaces to challenge stability.
- Advantages: Increases grip endurance, improves shoulder health, and can decompress the spine.
- Technique: Hang from a bar with arms straight. Aim to increase the duration of the hang over time.
- Safety Tips: Ensure proper warm-up and gradually increase intensity. Read our dead hang tutorial to learn more.
Wrist Curls and Reverse Wrist Curls
- Target Areas: Flexor and extensor muscles of the forearm.
- How-to: Perform curls with palms facing up for wrist curls and palms facing down for reverse wrist curls, using a lightweight for high reps.
- Equipment: Dumbbells or a barbell can be used.
- Objective: Strengthen the thumb and individual fingers.
- Practice: Pinch and hold weight plates or objects for time. Challenge yourself by adding weight or time.
- Application: Useful for tasks requiring strong thumb-finger coordination.
- Focus: Flexor muscles in the fingers and hand.
- Procedure: Let a barbell roll to your fingertips and curl it back up with finger strength.
- Frequency: Regular practice will yield the best results.
- Function: Builds wrist strength and forearm muscle.
- Usage: Roll the weight up and down. This can be part of a forearm workout or used as a finisher.
- Variety: Adjust the weight to match your strength level.
Rock Climbing or Bouldering
- Activity Benefits: Natural and dynamic way to improve grip.
- Skill Development: Climbing requires different grip techniques, enhancing versatility and strength.
- Community Aspect: Join a climbing gym to learn and progress.
- Concept: Improves pinch grip strength.
- Methodology: Pinch two weight plates together and hold for time. Try lifting them for an added challenge.
- Adaptations: Increase weight or duration as you progress.
Rope Climbs or Rope Pulls
- Strength Gains: Excellent for building grip, forearm, and upper body strength.
- Technique: Climb a rope using hands only or with minimal leg assistance. Rope pulls can be done standing or seated.
- Cross-Training: Beneficial for athletes in sports like wrestling, obstacle course racing, and climbing.
Each of these methods can be tailored to suit individual fitness levels and goals. For best results, incorporate a variety of these exercises into your regular training routine. Additionally, always focus on proper form to prevent injury and to maximize the effectiveness of the exercise. Remember, consistency is key to developing and maintaining strong grip strength.
Amine is a Toronto based entrepreneur who is passionate about Fitness, Diet and Health. He is passionate about teaching other entrepreneurs and “office workers” how to stay fit using simple yet effective bodyweight workouts that can be accomplished anywhere.