Hand-grip strength: An Introduction
We often take things for granted in our life such as our body and the body parts that are involved in performing some basic functions.
For example, we use our hands and legs to perform many day-to-day activities, but we never pay attention to them unless or until we lose the ability to use a hand or a leg due to an injury.
Focusing on the hand, have you ever given a thought about your hand’s grip strength?
Handgrip strength is a vital force that is required to pull, push, or suspend objects.
It is a part of hand strength or physical strength that is utilized by animals or humans, especially athletes such as rock climbers.
Rock climbers require muscle power and the force that is generated by hands, which makes the handgrip strength extremely critical for their sport.
Hand-grip strength from one person to the other varies based on the ability of the hand to grip objects in many different ways or positions.
Hence, the handgrip is classified into three types:
This grip is usually required by the hand to perform functions involving a handshake or gripping an object against the palm and wrapping the fingers around the object.
Did you know a stronger variant of this grip can be used to break objects?
In this grip, the fingers are on one side of the object, and the thumb is on the other side of the object, so the object will not be in contact with the palm.
This grip is comparatively weaker and is usually required by the hand to grab an object.
This grip requires muscular strength and muscular endurance so that the hand can generate a proper grip and hold on to objects for a long time.
Training methods to improve Grip strength
Any normal and healthy individual has some amount of grip strength in his/her body.
But, some athletes and professionals need to have a higher grip strength due to the activities they perform daily.
This needs them to increase or improve their grip strength, and this is possible by using different types of grip training methods.
Grip strength training requires a form of exercise that is different than what is necessary for muscular training.
All parts of the hand must be exercised to have a steady hand with a strong grip.
For closing grip strengthening:
Thick bar and Thick Grip
Working on a thick grip bar that is over 2 inches and performing activities such as deadlifts, pullups, or the farmer’s walk can help train the support grip.
This exercise involves grabbing plates smooth-side out and pinching them.
This activity includes levering a sledgehammer using the wrists to train the fingers and wrists.
Plate curls or wrist curls
This involves grabbing a plate and doing wrist or regular curls with them by placing the fingers on the bottom and the thumb on the top.
This helps train the wrists, fingers, and the thumb for a pinch grip.
This can be used for a full-crimp grip, a half-crimp grip, and an open hand grip, all of which are required for climbing.
For opening grip strengthening:
To strengthen one’s opening grip, the extensor muscles (that are the opposite of the flexors of the hands) need to be trained to achieve the right balance between opposing muscle groups.
These extensors are significant in grip because they contract to support finger flexion.
To train these muscles, you can shove your hand into substances like rice and try extending it or placing an object like rocks in a coffee can and put your hand in the box and try to reach it to pick up the coffee can.
This is a great way to train the extensor muscles in your hands.
High-resistance rubber bands
These are now sold by many companies and are a great way to strengthen your extensor grip.
Wrist extension exercises(also called as reverse wrist curls) are useful to stimulate the finger extensor fibers.
Another exercise that is good to improve the opening grip is fist pushups, done on the backside of the first finger bone that would increase the pressure put on the extensor muscles.
Handstands wherein the gripping strength is used to stabilize the hand to prevent the body from falling towards the front, and the extensor muscles prevent the body from falling backward.
Exercise using metal rods help to strengthen and stabilize one’s hand grip indirectly.
Fingertip pushups are useful to improve stabilization as they would use the opening as well as closing grip muscles to keep the fingers from sliding and help focus bone density in hand.
Exercises to improve hand-grip strength
Hand-grip strength tends to reduce as individual ages.
Men’s grip strength starts to deteriorate post 55 years of age.
However, some exercises can be done to improve hand-grip strength, such as:
- Modified push-ups
- Modified planks
- Squeeze a tennis ball or a rubber ball slowly but as hard as you can. Hold it in this position for 3-5 seconds and relax and release it. Repeat this for 10-15 minutes with each hand and daily.
- Try the two-arm hang
- Single-arm hang
- Pullups and chin-ups
- Inverted row
- Hammer curl
- Wrist extension
- Farmer’s walk
To improve grip strength, one must go through all these types of exercises and training and spread them out throughout the week.
Hand-grip strength: What’s the genetic link?
Handgrip strength has genetic links and is used as a market for the degree of one’s frailty and helps predict a wide range of morbidities.
Some genes and SNPs increase one’s susceptibility to good or poor handgrip strength.
Gene 1: DEC1
The A allele of SNP rs72762373 is associated with better hand-grip strength as compared to the G allele.
This SNP is present in association with the DEC1 gene, the exact function of which is still unknown.
Gene 2: GBF1
The A allele of SNP rs2273555 belonging to the GBF1 gene is beneficial for a better hand-grip strength because this allele is associated with higher levels of strength, muscle mass, and muscle fiber size.
Gene 3: GLIS1
The C allele of SNP rs4926611 belonging to the GLIS1 gene is associated with a better hand-grip strength compared to the T allele of the same gene.
Gene 4: HLA
SNP rs78325334 is located on chromosome 6 in association with the HLA gene.
This SNP has been linked to handgrip strength, and the presence of the C allele is a risk whereas, the T allele is beneficial to the same.
Gene 5: HOXB3
SNP rs2288278, located on chromosome 17 in association with the HOXB3 gene, is associated with handgrip strength.
The presence of the A allele is beneficial to people for better handgrip strength as compared to those who have the G allele.
Gene 6: KANSL1
rs80103986 is an SNP that is associated with the KANSL1 gene.
The presence of the A allele is beneficial and gives a better hand-grip strength as compared to the T allele.
Gene 7: MGMT
The presence of the T allele of SNP rs374532236 belonging to the MGMT gene is beneficial for hand-grip strength.
Gene 8: SYT1
A allele of the SNP rs10861798 belonging to the SYT1 gene is beneficial for hand-grip strength whereas, the G allele is a risk for the same.
The SYT1 gene is responsible for the release of neurotransmitter release at the synapse, which means that it is essential for the muscle movements and nerve signals.
In SNP rs958685, the A allele is beneficial for a better handgrip compared to the C allele.
Handgrip strength and heart health
Handgrip strength can be used to measure the risk of an individual with the onset of cardiovascular disease in adults.
Research studies have shown that a better handgrip is associated with healthier heart function.
An 11-pound decrease in grip strength is linked to:
- 17% higher of heart disease
- 9% higher risk of stroke
The association between gip strength and heart disease was a strong irrespective of age, exercise, smoking, and other factors.
Grip strength could be an easy and inexpensive test to assess an individual’s risk of cardiovascular disease, said Dr. Darryl Leong.
You might also be interested in: The Secret To A Healthy Heart Lies In Your Genes: Analyze Your DNA Raw Data
Dietary recommendations to improve hand-grip strength
Apart from the training methods and exercises mentioned to improve grip strength.
Diet plays a significant role in increasing the hand-grip strength.
Dietary protein intakes are proven to increase muscle strength in older adults, as the muscle strength increases the hand-grip strength, which is a part of it also tends to increase.
Protein, in combination with a healthy diet, can be useful in maintaining muscle strength.
Importance of measuring Hand-grip strength
Hand-grip strength is one of the characteristics used to identify adult malnutrition.
Clinically hand-grip strength is used to measure the risk of functional impairment of hands in older adults.
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