The limp, lifeless, dead-fish handshake.
The inability to open a jar of gut-health boosting sauerkraut.
Not being able to carry that 50lb water jug up the stairs at the office without stopping and re-adjusting every two steps.
Let’s face it, we simply don’t use our hands like we used to. A lot of us work at computers all day long and never need to do much more than tap keyboard for hours on end. Hands and fingers have been relegated from ‘the thing that totally got us ahead in evolution‘ down to Emojii dispatch units.
Do you remember being a kid and shaking an old person’s hand? Remember how it felt like that palm could probably crush a lump of coal into a diamond? I sure do.
Having strong hands is beneficial in the gym(since one of the largest limiting factors in moving up in weight on big lifts is grip strength) but more importantly, it is beneficial to a long and healthy life. Did you know that grip strength is a good indicator of overall health?
If you work at a desk all day, purchase a small hand-strengthening device to use periodically throughout the day.(set a timer to 30 mins and do 10 reps per hand when it goes off ) Stress-balls are fine, as are the more traditional grip trainers. I personally use the Gripmaster Hand Exerciser. I like this option because it allows me to isolate individual fingers. I broke a few of them playing soccer and this device let me focus on the affected fingers more than the other options did. If you feel weird about doing this in the office, chuck it into your bag and do it on your commute instead.
Instead of cruising the parking lot at the grocery store, waiting for the closest spot to appear, park further back. Once you’ve left your car in the back third of the lot, ditch your cart at the store exit and carry the bags by hand to your car. Try to distribute the load evenly between your left and right. If you lug a laptop to work with you each day make it a point to carry it by the handle instead of the shoulder strap. Look at briefcases from 20 years ago, not a strap to be seen! Remember your Dad’s vice-grip handshake……. sensing a theme yet?
The nice thing about strength training is that about half of the movements involve hanging onto, pushing off of, pulling or swinging something (barbells, dumbbells, bodyweight, kettlebells, etc). Stronger grip/hand strength grows organically as a byproduct of regular training.
If you have access to moderate/heavy dumbbells or kettlebells you can’t beat the farmer’s carry. Simply squat down, pick up the weights, stand, and walk around. Believe me, after about 20-30 seconds you’ll know what’s up.
If you don’t have those tools, find a horizontal bar and introduce the dead-hang into your bodyweight training routine. This is a pre-cursor to the full chin/pull-up and helps build up your grip strength fast. Simply grab onto the bar in an overhand or underhand grip, keep your shoulder blades back and down, lift your feet off the floor and try to hang there without collapsing the shoulders for 20-30 seconds. Exercises like pull-ups, ring rows, pushups, and handstands(Thanks Happy Fit Yoga!) all call on the hands to be strong and resilient.
Having stronger hands makes life easier, plain and simple. By taking a little bit of time to focus on them each day you’ll build up a pair of claws that would rival the toughest lobster in the sea. Opening mason jars, scraping frozen car windshields, tug-of-war and holding onto your pal as they dangle over a volcano will all become child’s play to you.
Be warned though, your newly formed, ferocious flippers may be too much for the average person. Try dialling back your high-5 velocity a touch so that you don’t demolish your friend’s hands.