The Important Link Between Grip Strength and Longevity: 6 Key Exercises

The Important Link Between Grip Strength and Longevity: 6 Key Exercises

Discover the profound connection between grip strength and overall well-being. Strengthening your grip not only boosts confidence but also indicates enhanced strength, vitality, and longevity. Explore six effective exercises to improve your grip and enhance your health.

Dana Santas, also known as the "Mobility Maker," is a certified strength and conditioning specialist and mind-body coach in professional sports. She is also the author of the book "Practical Solutions for Back Pain Relief."

A firm handshake is usually seen as a positive first impression, but it goes beyond just showing confidence and trustworthiness. Studies show that a strong grip is crucial for overall strength and longevity. Research even suggests that the strength of your handshake can reflect your heart health.

Having a strong grip may seem minor, but it plays a crucial role in overall physical fitness. It is not only important for preventing injuries, but it also serves as a key indicator of health and functional independence as we get older.

Improved grip strength helps in stabilizing wrists, reducing the likelihood of strains and injuries during daily tasks and exercise. Daily activities like carrying groceries, opening jars, and even standing up from a chair all require a good grip. Furthermore, a stronger grip allows for more progress in fitness training, enabling individuals to lift heavier weights and do more repetitions.

Pro athletes focus a lot on grip strength training because it's crucial for holding onto equipment like bats or balls. However, this type of training is often overlooked in regular fitness routines. To help you understand where you stand with your hand strength, here's a guide to evaluating and improving your grip strength at home.

This myofascial release technique can help alleviate muscle tightness, soreness and inflammation.

This myofascial release technique can help alleviate muscle tightness, soreness and inflammation.

This myofascial release technique can help alleviate muscle tightness, soreness and inflammation.

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What makes up grip strength?

Grip strength refers to the force generated by the muscles in the hand and forearm to grasp and hold objects, and has three different aspects:

Crushing strength is how strongly you can grip with your fingers and the palm of your hand.

Supporting strength refers to your ability to hold onto something or to hang from something.

Pinching strength is how firmly you can pinch something between your fingers and thumb.

How to assess and track your grip strength at home

A hand dynamometer is used in clinical settings to measure grip strength by assessing the force applied when squeezing its handle. This device gives a quantitative assessment usually in units of force, like pounds or kilograms.

To test your grip strength at home without a dynamometer, use a bathroom scale or tennis ball to give you rough, trackable measurements.

Scale squeeze test

While standing, hold the scale in both hands. Place one hand on either side with the heels of your hands on top and fingers wrapped underneath the sides. Squeeze for five seconds.

Next, try the test using only one hand at a time. Repeat the process with both hands and then again with each hand individually.

Record your highest scores for both hands, left and right. Watch this video for a demo.

Tennis ball squeeze test

Sit in a comfortable position and take a tennis ball in one hand. Squeeze the ball as hard as you can for five seconds. Repeat this three times with each hand, taking a 30-second break in between. A stronger grip will allow you to maintain a firmer squeeze for a longer time. Compare the strength of your grip in each hand.

These simple tests can give you an idea of your grip strength. Keep track of your progress by noting the date and your observations during testing. Reevaluate your grip strength every two to four weeks to see improvements and make changes to your training routine accordingly.

It's important to be patient and consistent with your training. Remember, it may take time to see improvements.

Before starting any new exercise program, make sure to consult with your doctor. If you experience any pain, stop immediately.

Exercises to strengthen your grip

Improving grip strength involves incorporating specific exercises to address all three aspects of grip strength.

I have listed exercises for both beginners and advanced levels. Start with basic exercises as No. 1 and move on to more challenging ones as No. 2.

Include the exercises that match your strength level in your workout routine three to five times a week. Remember to take breaks between sessions to help your muscles recover and grow.

Ideally, you're incorporating a few simple grip strength exercises into your routine between three and five times weekly.

Ideally, you're incorporating a few simple grip strength exercises into your routine between three and five times weekly.

Ideally, you're incorporating a few simple grip strength exercises into your routine between three and five times weekly.

FluxFactory/E+/Getty Images

Crushing strength exercises

The dowel rod roll is another simple exercise that can help strengthen your hand and wrist muscles. Simply roll a dowel rod back and forth in your hands, focusing on your grip strength.

While sitting or standing, grasp a dowel rod, stick, or rolling pin with your palms facing downward. Rotate the dowel rod in your hands in one direction for 15 to 30 seconds, then switch to the other direction. To increase the difficulty, try rolling faster. You can also do this exercise with your palms facing upward for a different challenge. Aim for two to three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions, taking breaks in between sets.

For wrist curls:

Sit on a bench or chair with your forearms resting on your thighs, palms facing up and wrists hanging over the knees. Hold a light dumbbell of 1 to 5 pounds in each hand with an underhand grip. The weight should be enough for a slight challenge but should not feel like a strain.

Curl the weights upward by flexing your wrists, bringing the dumbbells toward your body. Slowly lower the weights back down with control, feeling the stretch in your forearms.

Perform two to three sets of eight to 12 repetitions, resting in between sets.

GoodLifeStudio/E+/Getty Images

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Supporting strength exercises

Farmer’s walk

Grab a dumbbell that suits your strength in each hand. Keep your shoulders relaxed, chest lifted, and core tight. Take steady steps forward with good posture. Try to walk for about 30 to 40 steps or for 30 to 60 seconds. Take a break and do this exercise one to two more times.

  1. Dead hangs

To do dead hangs, first, locate a strong overhead or pull-up bar where you can hang freely without your feet touching the ground. Grab the bar with your palms facing away from you, hands should-width apart. Hang from the bar with your arms straight, activating your shoulder muscles. Try to hold this position for as long as you can, aiming for 15 to 30 seconds when you begin. As you progress, work on increasing the time you can hang. Take a break and repeat this exercise one to two more times.

Shot of a man doing a plank exercise at the gymhttp://

Shot of a man doing a plank exercise at the gymhttp://

Shot of a man doing a plank exercise at the gymhttp://

Mikolette/E+/Getty Images

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Pinching strength exercises

To do a paper pinch, start by placing a piece of paper on a flat surface. Spread your fingers and thumb wide, then grab the paper with all five fingers. Keep your fingers and thumb as straight as possible, and apply downward pressure as you pinch all five fingers together to crumple the paper into a tight ball. For more challenge, add more sheets of paper. Repeat this exercise two to three times with each hand.

While standing, grab a light plate weight (5-10 pounds) at your side. Pinch the edge of the weight using only your fingers and thumb for 30 seconds. Repeat with the other hand. Do two to three sets, switching hands. To make it harder, you can either increase the weight or hold for a longer time. If you don't have a plate weight, you can use the end of a dumbbell and hold it with your fingertips and thumb.

By focusing on developing a strong grip during exercises that involve grasping objects like dumbbells, you can improve your grip strength. Incorporating this strength into your daily routine and fitness regimen will not only enhance your grip but also boost your overall strength and vitality.

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Editor's P/S:

The article highlights the significance of grip strength, extending beyond mere first impressions. It underscores the crucial role it plays in overall strength, injury prevention, and as a potential indicator of heart health. By exploring the different aspects of grip strength and providing simple tests for home assessment, the article empowers readers to evaluate and track their progress.

Moreover, the article offers a comprehensive guide to grip strengthening exercises, catering to both beginners and advanced levels. It emphasizes the importance of consistency and patience in training, while cautioning against overexertion. Overall, the article provides valuable insights and practical exercises to enhance grip strength, contributing to improved physical fitness, functional independence, and overall well-being.