Grip StrengthAug 15, 2022
“Can you open this jar for me?”
We’ve all done this before, right? We reach for a jar of pickles, try to twist it open, put it down and take another breath, try again and turn beet red, but still no pickles. We finally concede and ask a spouse, significant other, or a friend-- “Can you open this jar for me?”
Why do I bring this up?
Because grip strength is an important bio-marker to assess our health, and longevity!
The research concerning the value of assessing grip strength is long and rich, but here are just a few health factors associated with a loss of grip strength:
- Physical limitations with mobility have been associated with decreased grip strength.
- Decreases in bone density and an increased risk of falling and fractures.
- Increased risk of mild cognitive impairment and cognitive decline.
- Greater sleep impairment, lower sleep quality, and sleep duration.
- An increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
- And, a greater propensity of risk of injury towards the rotator cuff and elbow.
However, before we go out and buy the entire stock of Stress Balls and grip trainers on Amazon, we need to apply some critical thinking to the information.
It’s an easy assumption to make that by simply improving only our grip strength, we could possibly build our resilience from all of the woes listed above. However, the data is more suggestive of deeper health factors. Anecdotally, we can observe many of those disorders, diseases, or conditions are also associated with leading a sedentary life. So a loss of grip strength is more suggestive of a loss of muscle strength. And, the loss of muscle strength is what actually puts us at a disadvantage towards overcoming disease, injury, or disorders. From an orthopedic stance, the loss of muscle strength can lead to injuries such as muscle strains or tendinitis, specifically with the upper body like the rotator cuff and elbow.
So let’s take an inventory of our grip strength
Are you struggling with opening jars?
Are you having a harder time holding on to things for longer periods of time?
Do you notice more a difference between your left and right sides? While we likely have a dominant hand, the less dominant hand should only be about 10-20% less than the dominant hand.
How’s your grip strength been since 2020? It’s fair to assess that the pandemic took a toll on all of us in different ways and grip strength decline may be one thing that occurred without much notice.
If you've noticed some changes, what's next?
1. Find out what your grip strength actually is.
2. Compare it to the norms of your age group and sex.
3. Start a strength training program and address your deficits or decline.
Are you actively training your grip while you workout?
If you’re already lifting weights, GREAT! But how active is your grip when you lift weights? Are you paying attention to it? Are you simply holding the weights or are you using an active grip?
Example of an inactive grip.
Example of an active grip.
At the PT Lab we use Loaded Carries to train grip. There are multiple iterations of loaded carries, however, one example is the Farmer Carry exercise. The Farmer Carry is simply carrying two weights in your hands and walking, similar to what a farmer would be doing when carrying bales of hay or feed for the animals.
The obvious benefits associated with the Farmer Carry would be the real-life application of carrying groceries, luggage while traveling, baby carriages, etc. But a deeper look at the Farmer Carry actually reveals the benefits of the exercise include core strengthening, cardiovascular output, total body strengthening, postural correction, overall work/strength capacity, AND grip strength. The Farmer Carry which is a low risk, high reward exercise everyone should incorporate into their routines.
How to do the Farmer Carry:
Pick Up The Weights
Grab the weights tightly with a firm grip all the way around the handle and hold just below hips at sides.
Stack all of your joints
a. Ears, Shoulders, Ribs, Hips, Knees, Ankles should be in one straight line
b. Remember, we carry the weights, not the other way around!
Brace your core
Give the handles an extra squeeze and hold it for the entire carry.
a. Don't simply hold the weights in your hands, but grip them!
Walk with smaller steps to keep your feet underneath you
Go for distance or time - maybe 10 yards, 25 yards. Keep your grip firm and walk a distance you can maintain that initial firmness.
Example of unstacked joints.
Example of stacked joints.
Do you know what your grip strength is? Did you know there are norms for every age group?
As we age, we need to stay strong. Weightlifting will help us! It’s not just for looking good! It’s for autonomy and freedom! It’s for longevity! If we look specifically at grip strength as a biomarker, we should actively train our grip strength to promote our overall health and wellness.
Are you curious now?
Come check us out and get a FREE grip strength assessment!
Call 626 683 8536 and schedule a time - it only takes about 10-15 minutes.
What is a grip strength assessment? It involves squeezing a tried and true Jamar Dynamometer which gives strength reading in terms of lbs of force. Incidentally, this device has been so used in the research that their age / sex matched norms for each decade of life. Knowing how your grip strength ranks with "a peer group" along with recommendations to strengthen should you be behind others your age or just want a better grip. We usually don't change things we don't measure so a free grip assessment is a good way to begin any needed change for the better.
Email or call us to schedule your free grip strength assessment today at [email protected] or (626)683-8536.
At the PT LAB, we’re getting people stronger every day. Grip strength is regularly addressed in our programming. Next month we will be introducing another health biomarker to test. September will present data on single limb balance or standing on one leg balance. Stay tuned.
The whole month of October will be dedicated to getting ahead of the New Year Resolution momentum and encouraging real change. During that month we will have open houses, biomarker testing , baseline assessments , all geared to help folks get a head start by encouraging consistency over momentum in quarter 4 of 2022. Stay tuned.
For those eager to get started, join us and we’ll test your strength, pick up and carry some adjusted heavy stuff, and together we’ll work to open our own jars.
Isak earned his Master’s degree in Physical Education at Azusa Pacific University, where he worked with the Women’s Volleyball, Baseball, and Men’s and Women’s Tennis teams. From there, he spent seven seasons with the San Diego Padres organization as a Minor League Athletic Trainer, working at all Minor League levels. Isak believes in the power of exercise and movement as medicine and exercise’s ability rewrite the narrative of people’s lives.
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