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Easy Ways to Strengthen Your Grip

Simply put, grip strength is a measure of how much force or power you can create with your forearm and hand muscles. Weak hand and wrist muscles are very common. Especially as we age. As with any exercise — walking to maintain weight, stretching to remain flexible, etc. — exercising your hands are a great way to keep them strong and limber.

Toning the micro muscles in your hands has many benefits: • It can help prevent tendinitis. • You'll improve your fine motor skills which makes everyday tasks easier. • You'll get stronger and be able to lift heavier items.

Watch for these signs that your hand muscles could use some strength training: • You have trouble carrying grocery bags without putting them down for a break. • You consistently drop items, whether they are heavy or not. • Your hands often cramp. • You feel grip pain when lifting. • Your hands and forearms fatigue when shoveling snow or walking your dog. • You get tired from typing on your keyboard.

If you recognize any of these issues with your own hands, here are some simple exercises you can do at home to start rebuilding the strength in your grip.

Flex and Extend: Make a fist and squeeze as hard as you can, holding for two or three seconds. Open your hand and extend your fingers as long and as wide as possible, holding for five to 10 seconds. Do three sets of five to 10 reps.

Stress-Ball Squeeze: Squish a stress ball (a tennis ball works, too) with your entire hand for 5 to 10 pulses. Repeat using just thumb and pointer finger. Progress through each finger. Switch hands and repeat sequence. If a ball is too difficult to grip and squeeze, consider a can of child’s PlayDoh. Squish and reshape the dough one hand at a time to build strength; then progress to a ball.

Wrist Rotation: Grasp an unopened wine bottle or the handle of a cast-iron pan, keeping upper arm by side and elbow bent 90 degrees. Rotate bottle or pan toward your midline, bring it back to center, then rotate in the opposite direction. Do two or three sets of 20 to 30 reps. Switch hands and repeat.

Book Pinch: Using two books of the same size (preferably coffee-table books or textbooks), grip one in each hand, arms at sides. Squeeze with fingers for 30 seconds, then relax for 30 seconds. Do three to five sets.

Newspaper Crumple: All you need for this exercise are those newspapers that appear in your mailbox every week. Grab one corner of the newspaper with your fingers and start crumpling it up until it becomes a ball. After that, give it a couple of good squeezes. At first, it will feel easy, but your fingers and forearm will start to burn after the second newspaper. Switch hand and start all over again. Repeat until you have a good pump in your forearm.

Finger Bends: This is a simple exercise that keeps the joints in your fingers moving. For best results, perform these bends on each individual finger of both hands. Begin by holding up your right hand straight. Bend your thumb downward in the direction of your palm.Hold the bend for two to five seconds. Straighten your thumb. Repeat on each finger on the right hand. Repeat the entire sequence on the opposite hand.

Make a Fist: While this may seem like a simple exercise, the movements performed when making a fist can help alleviate tension while improving the movement in your finger joints. Start by holding your right hand up and straight (as if you were going to shake someone’s hand). Keep your wrist and forearm close to a tabletop or another flat surface. Close your fingers together to create a gentle fist. Try not to squeeze your fingers into your palms. Slowly and gently return your fingers to the starting position. Repeat multiple times on each hand.

Thumb Bends: This exercise targets the thumbs specifically, and is ideal for people who regularly engage in repetitive-motion tasks. Start by holding your right hand up and straight – just like you did with the previous exercise. Bend your thumb down and inward toward your palm. The goal is to reach for the bottom of your pinky finger, but don’t worry if you cannot reach that far just yet. Hold the bend for a few seconds. Return to the starting position. Repeat 10 times. Repeat on the left hand.

Make a “C”: To get the joints in your upper fingers and lower thumb moving, try performing this simple “C” exercise. Begin with your right hand up and your fingers straight. Curve your fingers downward and your thumb out and to the side to create a “C” shape. Return to the starting position. Repeat multiple times on your right hand. Repeat on the left hand.

Finger Lifts: Designed to strengthen each finger, finger lifts will help restore mobility while giving tight hand muscles a good stretch. Start with your hand palm-side down on the table. Lift your thumb slowly off the table. Hold for two seconds. Gently lower your thumb back down. Repeat on each finger. Repeat the entire sequence on the opposite hand.

Wrist Stretches: Arthritis can extend all the way down to the wrists, which can make it difficult to perform tasks like typing on a computer, opening a jar and cleaning your home. Wrist stretches can help alleviate tension while improving mobility in this important area. Begin with your right arm stretched out in front of you, hands flat. Gently press down on your right hand. The tips of your fingers should be facing the floor. Hold the stretch for a few seconds. Repeat 10 times. Repeat on the left hand.

Give the Okay: This exercise will work each of your fingers while giving your palm a good stretch. The movement will work both the top and bottom joints of the fingers. Begin with your hand up and straight (as if you were going to shake someone’s hand). Create an “O” shape by touching your thumb to your index fingertip. Next, touch your thumb to your middle fingertip. Repeat the same movement on the remaining fingers. Repeat the sequence multiple times. Repeat the entire exercise on the opposite hand.

These exercises can help alleviate joint pain while restoring mobility and building strength. Whether you’re already showing signs of arthritis or are looking to take preventative measures, these exercises will keep your hands and fingers healthy.

For more information or to request an appointment, please contact Dr. Patrick McDaid, M.D. at


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