“Enthusiasm is the yeast that makes your hopes shine to the stars. Enthusiasm is the sparkle in your eyes, the swing in your gait. The grip of your hand, the irresistible surge of will and energy to execute your ideas.”
Humans have some very obvious physical abilities that differentiate us from all other species. Two of these are upright walking and grasping. The opposing digits we possess and the finely-tuned movements we can perform with them is quite outstanding really if you think about it. At a certain age we are capable of picking something up and putting it into our mouths. Then we move onto performing some very detailed movements, like using a fork or spoon to feed ourselves.
As we age, from our 20’s into our 50’s and then our 80’s, our ability to grasp and the strength of our grip actually lessens. We become less able to keep this fine motor skill and its strength. This is one of the main reasons that, no matter where you sit in your fitness level, you should consistently challenge your grip, so that it stays as strong as possible for as long as possible. We do not need it as much today as we did 10,000 years ago for survival, but we do need it to maintain good function. Here are five easy ways that you can train your grip – I’ve allocated one of these to each weekday to help you achieve consistency and a permanent habit change.
Choose an object that you can pick up in one hand (objects can be a milk carton with handle, grocery bag half filled, a DB, a stone you can hold, a backpack). Carry it for 1minute in one direction while walking; release the object and carry it with the other hand for 1 minute in the opposite direction; perform this action for 3-6 repeats per hand; challenge yourself each week with a different object. Ensure you walk tall, maintaining great posture and that the load you are carrying is challenging per arm for the whole of the minute.
Note: This grip is called farmers’ carry grip – it’s for endurance and day to day function.
Go find some monkey bars, preferably outdoors at a park that would require some walking to get there as well; hang on to one of the monkey bar rungs for 10 seconds with 2 hands; increase this time frame to 1 min as a goal with 2 hands; challenge this further by trying to go back and forth on the monkey bars for 10 sec; then try to increase your time on the monkey bars by going back and forth for 1 min (preferably the distance from your feet to the ground should be inches, not feet, to ensure safety).
Note: This grip is called a hanging grip – and it takes the shoulders and arms into the challenge as well.
Grab a thick book (textbooks from school work really well); while seated, place your thumb on one side of the spine of the book and fingers on the other and pinch the book to see how long you can hold it up. Use your non-dominant hand first. When you can pinch hold the book up for 1 minute per hand increase the weight or thickness of the book; when you can hold for 1 minute each hand at this time, now hold your hands out to the side as you stand and hold the book (ensure you maintain a great posture when holding the book out to the side).
Note: This grip is called the pinch grip; as the name suggests it improves pinching – which is quite different than grasping.
Grab an object that can be dragged around your house, yard or driveway; tie a rope you can grip to this object; walk 20-30 feet away from the object, sit down and begin pulling the object towards you hand over hand until the object is next to you. The object must be heavy enough that it is challenging to pull it but not so heavy that it takes you more than 2 minutes to pull the 20-30 ft. If you can complete this easily for 3 sets, next time add some load to this object to increase the challenge.
Note: This is called the pulling grip – pulling objects towards you is a very primal movement pattern that has been used since the dawn of mankind.
Hold a tennis ball in your hand; squeeze it as hard as you can for 10 seconds; switch hands and do the same for the other hand. Perform 5 sets per hand. To increase the challenge use a slightly longer time frame up to a maximum of 20 sec for the maximum effort.
Note: This style of grip work is called crushing grip – it’s for when you have to use your maximum grip in situations life throws at you.
Monday to Friday, practice at your own pace and level of effort.
Each week try to improve upon the grip work challenges at a slow and steady pace.
Make it fun and memorable, that is the key to keeping a life-long strong grip.
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