You may not think about it that often, but gripping power—the ability to hold and control an object for an extended period of time-is crucial to your ability to perform everyday tasks. Of course, you need it in the climbing gym or when lifting weights, but you also need gripping power for more mundane activities such as carrying races or even driving your car.
Insufficient gripping force makes it harder to grasp things, but it also creates a cascade effect that prevents other muscle groups from getting stronger. “The body uses tactile feedback from the hand and grip to give the joints information about the necessary stability and activity,” says physiotherapist and co-founder of MOTIVNY, Luke Greenberg, PT, DPT. “When the hands are weak, it becomes difficult to train the shoulders, chest and back with sufficient loads.”
Outside of the gym, the decrease in grasping power may be a sign that your overall health is not in the right place; in fact, a 2018 study published in the BMJ found that there is “clear evidence that low grasping power is associated with a range of health outcomes,”and the researchers also found that grasping power was predictive of longevity because it was associated with cardiovascular health issue (or lack thereof).
Most likely, this has to do with the fact that those with stronger handles are more bodily active than those with weaker ones; however, inactivity is not the only factor at stake here.
Below, Greenberg shares 3 important reasons why your grip can slip even when you are bodily active
“Overuse of adhesion or tendinopathy [collagen breakdown] at the elbow will reduce the adhesion force,” explains Greenberg. “The body is afraid to increase the load on the inflamed tissue and prevents the grip from intervening more intensively.”
2. Shoulder Problems
“If the shoulders are unstable, weak in terms of load or tired, it will be difficult to bring the necessary strength through the handle,” says Greenberg.
3. Neck Problems
“Neck problems, including compression, nerve root impact, or disc protrusion, can lead to downstream weakness,” Greenberg explains. “It is likely that you would see this as weakness throughout the arm, but possibly more intense than a decrease in gripping force.”
Those who doubtful any of the above elements should consult a body therapist for specific care of their situation, says Greenberg.
Test your grip strength
If you’re not sure you have good grip strength, Greenberg offers a way to find out at home: see if you can comfortably carry a load that makes up a third of your weight for 60 seconds-this can be a dumbbell or kettlebell, but also other items with a handle that you can fill with weight like a suitcase or gym bag.
“For example, if you weigh 210 pounds, carry 70 pounds for a minute without losing posture, grip or afteral swinging,” he says. If you can do this, then your gripping power is probably sufficient.
How to strengthen your grip
You can also use the same load you use to test your gripping power to improve it, Greenberg says. “Pull for three sets of one minute per page, “” he says. “These can be done daily if there is no pain in the elbows or shoulders.
Tools to strengthen adhesion can also be effective. “If you use something more isolated, such as pliers, then you might want to make three sets of 20-25 repetitions,” Greenberg says. “Start every day until the pain occurs, increasing the frequency to three times a day for maximum results.”
In the end, the key is just to use it before you lose it, so all you can do to work your grip strength is make a profit—be it those nine hand exercises, or just as much housework as possible. Because, as Greenberg points out: “The more you use your grip power, the stronger the body will strengthen you.”