Carrying grocery bags, typing, opening a jar, walking an unruly dog — these are just a few of the myriad daily tasks that require hand strength. On top of that, you’ve got gym exercises such as bicep curls, chin-ups, push-ups and dead lifts, which demand that your arms, wrists and hands be in peak shape. In order for our hands to do their job, they need to be strengthened just like any other muscle in the body.
Have you ever been in the gym lifting weights, and your grip gives out way before your muscles? Or maybe you’re in downward dog in yoga, and your fingers start tingling? Strengthening your hands and grip can be the key to doing more reps, increasing weights, holding a pose longer and avoiding injuries.
Exercising all parts of the hand helps to avoid creating an imbalance; for example, most people use an overhand grip, which strengthens the forearm in only one direction. Over time, this can cause you to become weaker in other exercises. The following exercises, stretches and massage can help you achieve healthier hands.
Fun hand facts
- The human hand has 27 bones, 29 joints and at least 123 ligaments.
- Muscles that move finger joints are in the forearm and palm, so fingers do not have muscles.
- Your palm and underside of your fingers cannot get a tan.
- No two human fingerprints will ever be the same. Everyone’s unique DNA makes sure of that.
Try this: Curl your middle finger in toward your palm and lay your hand flat on a table. Next, lift your pinky, thumb, and index finger. This is easy. Now, try lifting your ring finger. Doesn’t work, does it? Your ring finger shares a muscle with your middle and pinky fingers, so it won’t work independently.
Incorporating hand exercises into your workout 2-3 times per week is optimal. Doing these exercises increases flexibility and strengthens your grip.
In one hand, hold together two small, weighted plates (the kind you put on a barbell) with fingers on one side and your thumb on the other. You can do this exercise using both hands at the same time. If it’s too heavy, use lighter weights, or if it feels too easy, make sure to increase the weight.
Body weight hangs
At a pull-up bar, use an underhand grip and hang with your arms straight for as long as you can. Repeat using an overhand grip. Then hang with one hand in an over grip and the other in an under; reverse hand grips and hang again.
Regularly stretch fingers, hands and wrists — especially during any overuse. These stretches can easily be done at your desk or just about anywhere.
Sitting or standing, press your palms together in a prayer position with elbows pointing straight out to the sides. Lower hands down to waist height and hold for 20 seconds. Rest and repeat several more times.
Arm wrist curls
Stretch your right hand out in front of you with your palm facing out and fingers together pointing up. Gently, with your left hand, pull your fingers toward you so that the right hand is bending back. Hold stretch for 15 seconds and repeat with the left hand.
Now, do the opposite: Extend your right arm with the wrist bent down so your palm is facing toward you, fingers pointing down. Using your left hand, press gently the right hand toward you. Hold for 15 seconds and repeat with the other hand.
Squeeze a tennis ball or stress ball in one hand, working up to a minute. Repeat with the opposite hand.
Doing this exercise helps to strengthen your hands and wrists in addition to stretching them.
Begin by interlacing your fingers and stretching arms out with palms facing away from the body. Reach hands up toward the ceiling and hold for 10 to 15 seconds then repeat.
This exercise not only stretches your hands and forearms, but it also improves circulation.
A hand massage may offer significant health benefits you can feel immediately, such as improved wrist and finger range of motion, greater circulation and the reduction of trigger points (painful knots in muscles). Not only is a hand massage typically quick, but it’s also extremely relaxing.
With hand or massage lotion, begin rubbing the palms of your hands in circular motions. Next, grasp the muscle tissue between your thumb and forefinger and gently move it up and down. Then, at the bases of your fingers, massage the muscles and joints using a circular stroke. Lastly, gently pull on each finger to stretch the muscles and gives your joints some much-needed aid.