By Gabe Sanders Ph.D., NSCA-CSCS
I am going to talk about a simple concept that many people do not relate to health and fitness. First, follow along with me, make a fist with your dominant hand. Now squeeze as hard as you can. Does it feel like you have a strong grip?
Do you think your grip strength is an indicator of your overall health? Grip strength is never thought of as an indicator of health, but there is research to say otherwise!
A strong hand grip indicates good health
Research over the years has found that a strong hand grip is a good indicator of health-related outcomes that range from heart disease to brain health. Regardless of age, young and old people alike benefit from improving their grip as well as their total body muscle.
While the exact mechanism is unknown, grip strength may be more related to total body fitness, thus an indicator of improved health. However, it is possible that training your grip strength can have unintended consequences that really do improve your health, brain, and longevity.
It is likely that the type of exercise required to strengthen grip strength also vastly improves the muscular strength and stamina of other parts of your body as well.
Buy a hand grip strengthener
A simple way to start to improve your grip strength is to buy a hand grip strengthener so you can exercise your hands while you sit on your couch. Now, this does not mean you can be healthy by sitting on your couch, but it is a way to improve your grip strength.
Try this exercise-“Dead-hang”!
One of the best ways to strengthen your hand grip and assess your overall grip strength is to do what is called a “dead hang.”
This exercise is simple, you hang on to a bar or pull-up bar for as long as you can without letting go. Essentially your body is hanging, while your hands are holding on to the bar. This exercise does require a good amount of total body strength, as you will experience yourself.
Do this exercise as part of your exercise regimen and complete 3-4 sets of dead-hangs within every workout you do.
The goal is to gradually be able to hold on and hang for over a minute, maybe two minutes for really advanced individuals.
Grip strength is a small component of a larger exercise regimen, however, there is a strong link between dead hang time and living a healthier, longer life.
Carson, Richard G. “Get a grip: individual variations in grip strength are a marker of brain health.” Neurobiology of aging 71 (2018): 189-222.
Musalek, Christina, and Sylvia Kirchengast. “Grip strength as an indicator of health-related quality of life in old age—a pilot study.” International journal of environmental research and public health 14.12 (2017): 1447.
Peterson, Mark D., et al. “Grip strength is associated with longitudinal health maintenance and improvement in adolescents.” The Journal of pediatrics 202 (2018): 226-230.
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