According to a recent study published in the Cachexia, Sarcopenia and Muscle Diarygrip strength is “inversely associated with accelerated age of DNA methylation”…which is the science for better grip strength means healthier aging and longer life.
It’s true, for years grip strength has demonstrated prognostic value for longevity. It is linked to cardiovascular health, bone mineral density, mobility, overall strength and even cognitive function. Older people with stronger grips consistently score better on “tests of working memory, processing speed, and verbal ability.”
When we think of grip strength (if any), we tend to conjure up those dollar store stress balls and sneakers, or Alex Honnold’s mitts. But grip strength is more than a novelty in strength training or an asset for climbers; it is an important biomarker that deserves your time and attention.
After all, as we get older (and do so in this age of “functional fitness”), what could be more functional than being able to walk home with your groceries? Or squeeze a rake or a shovel? Or raise your grandson? Grip strength pays dividends in many aspects of life, making you feel included or Every man for himself. It keeps certain activities alive in your life, which in the long run will help you keep you alive.
If you would like to get an official reading of your grip strength, you can ask your gym, health club or weight center if they have a dynamometer handy (these are also available online ). It will spit out a number between 60 and 100, indicating the pounds of force that particular hand is capable of exerting.
You don’t really need to gamify grip strength. You’ll be best served by practicing some basic tests that engage with the three most common holds: crush, pinch, and sustain:
- Crush: Use your fingers and your palm. You can improve this grip by squeezing a tennis ball at your desk 100 times a day, in each hand. You will see improvement over time. To take it to the next level, consider getting a heavy-duty crimp or incorporating techniques into your strength training program that activate your grip strength. (Here’s an example of a guy wrapping a towel around a kettlebell to do prison curls. Check out how hard his hands are working.)
- Pinch: Use your fingers without the Palm. So here you are “pinching” objects between your fingers and your thumb, which is dynamite for overall grip strength, forearm development, and learning to rely on the palm less. You may be used to grabbing everyday objects between your fingers and your thumb (cups, pots, plants, whatever), but these grips are best practiced in the gym, with light plates. We like to grab 10-pound dumbbells for pinch-grip shoulder presses.
- Support: Using the whole unit to cling/cling to something for an extended period of time. You’ve probably heard of the benefits of daily blockages. Or you tried farmer runs in the gym (or practiced them in normal life, walking around with bags of mulch or jugs of milk, what the hell). This is where support grip strength reigns – an uncomfortable isometric grip, where having a reliable set of hands can really make all the difference.
Note that the path to great grip strength is an interaction between the weight room and home. Any work in one will spawn the other, catalyzing a delicious chicken or egg that will likely end up adding a few years to your life. You can tell the difference today, simply by balancing your cup between your fingers and your thumb.
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