By Niall Ebbs
ACE Personal Trainer, Health Coach, Weight Management Specialist
We do a lot of work with our fingers and hands that we often take for granted. Even as I write (type) this, I am relying on the dexterity and coordination of my fingers to form the words and sentences. Although my amateur typist’s approach may not be the most impressive display of such skills, it still requires that I have the appropriate level of mobility in my fingers to accomplish the task.
As far as our hands go, consider all the repetitive movements that we perform with them – picking things up, carrying things, opening jars, twisting doorknobs, pushing or pulling doors open/closed. This is not an exhaustive list, by any means, but it provides a little reminder of the importance of having good mobility and grip strength in our hands.
As we age, we do not necessarily lose the know-how to complete these tasks, but we do lose hand/finger strength and dexterity. This is particularly relevant if we become affected by osteoarthritis or other inflammatory conditions. We all want to retain our independence for as long as possible. A large part of this depends on our ability to perform the mundane daily activities such as opening a jar and carrying our groceries into the house from the car without difficulty.
These abilities can be maintained quite easily if regularly trained. Here are a few ways to improve and maintain the strength and mobility of your fingers and hands:
- Grip Trainers – These squeeze-it type tools have been around for many years, but they do work. I recommend that when using these, you include sets where you squeeze and hold for time as well as conventional repetitions. Here is a product from Amazon.com and here’s one from Amazon.co.uk.
- Pull-Ups/Chin-Ups – Any form of pulling movement will improve grip strength, but body weight movements are especially functional in this case as they are relative to your own body mass. If you are not yet at the point of performing full repetitions, you can try negatives (get in the top position with assistance, lower yourself under control) or just try hanging in the bottom position for as long as you can and try to increase your time.
- Fingertip Push-Ups – Performing the traditional push-up – only this time on your fingertips instead of with palms flat – will challenge your finger strength. If you’re not yet ready for the full push-up, you can try this kneeling or even on a wall first.
- Dumbbell Wrist Curls – Wrist curls will develop the forearm muscles which assist with grip strength. Siting in a chair, hold a dumbbell and rest your forearm on your leg with the dumbbell hanging off the edge of your knee. Without moving your forearm, curl your wrist up so that the dumbbell comes towards your body. Do this with your palm facing both up and down.
- Pinch Carrying – Take two barbell plates, choosing a light weight at first. Pick up a plate in each hand by pinching close to the top and walk a distance of your choosing. This is an excellent way to develop finger strength. As you progress, you can either walk the same distance as before with a heavier weight, or you can walk a longer distance with the same weight.
- Odd Object/Oversized Carrying – Testing and pushing your limits of grip can also be done by trying to carry oddly shaped objects or maxing out the capacity of your hand size. For example, you could try holding onto as many golf balls as you can in one hand or picking up an obscurely shaped rock without letting it slip.
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