Grip strength is your ability to hold onto something with your hands. It directly impacts your daily life—from carrying shopping bags to opening jars, shaking hands, or lifting weights at the gym.
And surprisingly, it might even play a serious role in predicting longevity. So, let’s take a closer look.
Poor Grip & Longevity: What’s the Problem?
There are three main types of grip strength:
Crush strength - how hard you can squeeze your fingers into your palm (crushing a paper ball)
Support strength - how long your hands can support weight (carrying a bag or hanging from a bar)
Pinch strength - how hard you can pinch your fingers to your thumb (pinching yourself)
But grip strength is so much more than squeezing or lifting—studies show that grip strength is a helpful health marker.A poor grip can indicate low overall strength and upper limb function, reduced bone density, depression, malnutrition, and even sleep disorders. Older individuals with a weak grip are more likely to suffer from future illness, increased hospitalization, and poor health. In contrast, individuals with a strong grip are more likely to enjoy a higher quality of life and better overall health for longer.
How To Improve Your Grip Strength
It’s easy to overlook your hands, but your grip strength is directly affected by the small muscles in your hands. The best way to improve it is to put your hands to work in different ways. Here are simple and practical ways to improve your grip strength on a daily basis—so you can enjoy a healthy body and enhanced longevity.
Squeeze Your Hands
When you squeeze your hands (make a fist), you work the muscles of all your fingers. The harder you squeeze them, the better the workout. Be sure to keep your forearm and wrist straight to avoid straining the soft tissue of your wrist. Squeeze your hands in sets of eight to 12, two to three times daily (minimum).
Tip: To help you remember to squeeze your hands, place squeezable objects like stress balls or blobs of Blu-Tack around the house.
Pincer Grip (Tip-to-Tip) Exercise
With your hands outstretched, take turns pressing the tip of each finger into the tip of the thumb—with your other fingers stretched out. This tones the small muscles of the fingers and keeps your fine motor skills strong and precise. You can do this exercise with a stress ball to increase resistance. Repeat this activity at least three times each time.
Hand Pushes and Pulls
Other beneficial exercises that don’t require any aids, are hand pushes and pulls. Place the palms of your hands against each other and push as hard as you can. Then, lace your fingers together and holding them tight, “pull” your hands away from each other—you’ll notice the muscles in your forearms working hard too!
Another great way to strengthen the muscles of your hands is to roll your wrists. The exercise mirrors twisting and squeezing out a wet wash rag or towel. Hold onto a dowel rod and roll your wrists forward and back. Switch directions as you go. You can speed up to increase the intensity—simple and effective.
Tip: this exercise can be done using the top of your steering wheel when you’re stuck in traffic.
You might feel like a kid again but find two marbles (or get some baoding balls) and rotate them in your hand. This exercise strengthens your hand muscles, refines your fine motor skills, and is therapeutic as well. Choose marbles that feel comfortable for the size of your hand. Again, place them around the house to help you remember this helpful exercise. And don’t forget to switch hands!
Find two similar books at home and pinching one in each hand, hold them with your arms at your sides. Do this for 30 seconds and then relax for 30 seconds before repeating three or more times. To increase difficulty, choose heavier/thicker books.
Learning to hang from a bar is a great way to test your grip strength and improve it at the same time. Stand comfortably with your hands on the bar and slowly take the weight off your feet.
Depending on your goals, you might work towards doing complete chin-ups or aim to simply lift your feet off the ground. It might take a few weeks until your hands can carry your full weight, but you should notice an improvement in your grip strength with consistency.
Nourish Your Body
Your goal is to build and tone the muscles in your hands and eating right helps! Protein is necessary for muscle gain so add healthy protein sources to your diet: poultry, dairy, fish, nuts, and meat are all good options. For the best results, include protein in all your meals, not just one. Eat a colorful range of fruits and vegetables too—and drink plenty of water.
Enjoying a healthy diet also boosts energy which encourages an active lifestyle—something that naturally improves grip strength.
Did you know there’s a link between inactivity and weak grip strength? Too much time sitting in front of screens affects the grip strength of youth (and older individuals).
When you keep active, you keep your muscles working, and in many cases naturally strengthen your hands. You’ll enjoy many other health benefits too. Here are some ideas (there are many others):
Play a musical instrument
Spend time gardening
Start a new hobby
Engage in DIY
Go to gym
And remember, when you relax, you can still keep your hands busy with some of the exercises mentioned earlier.
Inadequate sleep may contribute to muscle loss and fatigue is a common reason for a lack of inactivity—which leads to weakened hand muscles. Aim to get enough sleep (at least 7 hours) so that you have sufficient energy to enjoy doing things and exercising. The best part is, you’ll sleep better too!
In most cases, you can overcome weak grip strength with targeted exercises, an active lifestyle, good nutrition, and enough rest. The simple goal of toning and strengthening your hand muscles today is a helpful tool but also a valuable investment in your future.