The First Impression
Have you been impressed by someone with a grip stronger than yours during a handshake. If you are man, you may have felt overwhelmed and weak in that person’s presence. On the other hand if you are a woman, you may have immediately felt attracted to a man who possesses such a strong grip! A strong grip makes a great first impression. Psychologically a strong grip gives us the feeling that that person is in control. Apart from that, a strong powerful grip is important for any physical activity be it golf, cricket, tennis, bodybuilding, martial arts, rock climbing or even Formula 1 racing.
In the medical world, grip strength is often a good indicator of overall health and strength. A strong grip is absolutely important in the martial arts. If you are grappling, a strong grip gives you the leverage to throw an opponent or lock his / her joints. If you are striking, your fingers, wrists and forearms need to be strong to deliver powerful blows. Let us examine the different types of grip strength and and then we can cover various ways to develop a strong grip.
Types of Grip Strength
There are three essential types of grip strength:
This is the grip used in handshaking or crushing a can in the fist.
This grip is used in well, pinching something between your finger tips.
This grip is used in holding shopping bags or clinging to a ledge while climbing. Martial artists need to develop strength for crushing and pinching grip the most. Even if you are not grappling with your opponent, grip strength comes into effect when trapping and checking as in Jeet Kune Do, Escrima or Wing Chun Gung Fu. You can prevent injury if you possess strong fingers and hands when you punch with your fists, throw finger jabs or use knife-hand strikes to break boards and bricks.
Grip Strength Anatomy
Grip strength is greatly contributed by two areas of your body viz. your hand including your fingers and palms and your forearms which includes your wrists. To prevent injury, you need to strengthen your finger and other parts of your hand when striking especially with non-fist strikes like the finger jab, eagle claw or backhand strike. You also need to strengthen the wrist so that it does not collapse upon impact during a punch. Your wrist should also be able to withstand the twisting of an Aikido throw. Both the hand and forearms are important to strengthen in order to get a strong grip.
Exercises for Developing Grip Strength
There are tons of exercises for improving grip strength. We will cover only a few – ones that do not require any fancy equipment or special apparatus and which you can do just about anywhere.
Exercises Without Apparatus
Simply clench your fists tightly for one second and splay your fingers outward, straightening each finger as far as possible. Repeat.
Pinch your index finger and thumb tightly for one second and then spread them outwards as far as possible. Repeat for the other fingers.
Make a fist and cover this fist with your other hand. Keep the other hand slightly cupped. Extend your finger outward from the fist and apply resistance with the hand that is covering the fist. Repeat a similar action for the thumb. Actually this is not an isometric exercise where you tense a muscle but keep the limb in stationary position. Your fingers must go through their entire range of motion just under resistance from the other hand.
Repeat until you can do no more and then move on to the other hand repeating the same sequence.
These are just like regular pushups. But instead of propping yourself with your palms, you use your fingertips. If they are hard to begin with, start by doing them against the wall. The great Bruce Lee used to do these by just supporting himself on his index finger and thumb on one hand. But you should ideally start off with all ten fingers.
Self Resistance Wrist Curls
Hold your arms in front of you and make them form a 90 degree angle with your elbow and hold them against your ribs. Make a fist and let your fists hang down from your forearm. Put your other hand on top of your fist and curl your fist upward applying downward pressure and resistance to make the curl hard. Repeat with the other wrist.
Next hold your palm downward and do reverse curls using self-resistance. Repeat this with the other wrist. Go through the entire range of motion.
Self Resistance Wrist Twists
Hold your hands in front of you using the same starting position as above. Form a fist and grab this fist with the other hand and try to twist your fist while the other hand applies resistance. If it’s the right hand, twist it counterclockwise and if it’s the left hand, then twist it clockwise. Repeat this with the other wrist.
Now hold your palm down, make a fist and twist your wrist the other way around. Repeat with the other hand and remember that your wrists must go through their entire range of motion.
These are again just like your regular pushup but here you use your fists striking your knuckles against the floor.
Exercises Using Free Or Cheap Apparatus
If the above exercises get too monotonous, you can also try a few grip strengthening exercises that use things that you can find lying around your home or office.
Pick up two buckets and fill them water, gravel or sand and walk around with them until you cant hold on any longer. Rest for a while and then repeat.
Spread a sheet of the day’s newspaper in front of you and crumple it into a ball starting with one corner. Keep your hands stationary and use only your fingers to pull more paper into your fist. Once the whole sheet has become a ball of paper in your hand, squeeze it tightly until it is compressed. Toss that ball away and do the same for another sheet. Repeat this with the other hand.
Bottle cap bending
This might be something that you can use to show off to friends at a party! After opening up a bottle of your favourite beer, bend the cap between your index finger and thumb and insert it into an empty bottle. Try to see how many beer caps you can bend and insert into the beer bottle!
Rubber Band Expanding
Wrap a rubber band around your fingertips and spread out your fingers against the rubber band’s resistance.
Rubber Ball Squeezing
This is a time honoured exercise of tennis players everywhere. Just take a tennis ball or any other rubber ball and squeeze it in your hand. The HR department of a lot of companies in fact hand out free ‘stress balls’ for office employees to squeeze during lunch breaks. These maybe great to start with but you should ideally move on to something that is a bit more harder and offers more resistance after some time.
Brick Pinch Left
Pick a brick up from the ground by picking it up between your fingetips and thumb and walk around the room carrying the brick but let your arm hang straight down by the side of your body. If you would like more resistance then try balancing a brick on one end and then pick up the whole thing.