The stronger your hands the harder you are to kill. Ok, so it’s not that simple and this certainly isn’t what this blog post is about. But there is no coincidence that grip is a high indicator when we look into evidence reflecting one's overall strength capacity. Your grip is the strongest correlate of your body's overall strength capacity. Again, it’s not the only thing, but it is something to consider and think about.
Our bodies are meant to do much more than run, pedal a bike or sit on a machine and move our limbs for training. The evidence that grip strength is the greatest correlation to total body strength tells us that when we train we should often be using our hands! I don't mean just to move your hands, but to use your hands as the catalyst for the “work”.
Most compound movements in the gym and outside the gym involve some level of grip strength. Pull Ups, Deadlifts, Clean and Jerk, Snatch, any movement involving a dumbbell, push ups, burpee’s, and even the coveted press and bench press (as long as you wrap your thumb around the bar). No, not all of these movements require you to hang or to hang on, but even the palm position in a push up or press and bench press will create a stronger grip. We haven’t even scratched the surface of work outside of the gym. Think about any form of carrying for manual labor it involves grip strength. Even if you choose to put something to your shoulder or carry it on your back you first must grip it and pick it up. Working in a garden, being a carpenter of any kind, an artist, a chef/ cook, barber and yes even a keyboard warrior of any kind all involve conditioned hands. So, the question is why don’t we talk about them more? Or train them specifically?
We use our hands in most of life's tasks, so they are easily overlooked. But that doesn’t mean we can’t make them stronger and in turn make ourselves better and potentially healthier. Grip work is simple and improving your grip strength or stamina isn’t hard to do. Here are a few simple ways you can improve your strength, stamina and even the durability/ health of your hands.
- Plate pinch drills : Grab a light or heavy plate from the gym and pinch between your fingers and thumb. Stand statically or walk with the plates for a set distance. The key is to not really go to complete “failure” stop just short of failing. Then rest and repeat. A great go-to would be 1:00 of work with 1:00 of rest for 3-4 sets.
- Farmer Carries: This drill is done with something you can wrap your hand around completely in a full grip. It can be done with heavy or light weight and for short or long distances. In fact, you can even train this movement one side at a time (unilaterally) and get some amazing core results from it as well. You can use a barbell, Dumbbells, kettlebells or buckets laying around somewhere. Honestly, anything with a handle will do.
- Hanging drills: Find a place you hang with your hands. This could range from a pull up bar, a tree branch, a doorway (just make sure it is safe and sturdy and will support your body weight). The goal is to simply accumulate time hanging. This won’t just strengthen your grip but also your shoulder stability for any other hanging and or pressing activity. A great goal is to be able to hang with your body weight +20% for 2:00 straight! Of course you will need to build to that and the goal is to simply start small. If you haven’t done hanging drills before don't’ be afraid to just start with :10-:20 intervals. And if you are more experienced then hang as long as you can but drop down just shy of complete failure then rest and repeat around 2-3 sets. And yes, if you are more advanced you should be trying this move with one arm at a time a well!
- Rice bucket drills: Yes, this one sounds weird but its one for everyone! I think we’d all benefit if we had a bucket of dry rice to dig through in our homes. The reason for its value is because of how much time we all spend on our phones and on keyboards. We create very repetitive patterns with our fingers, hands, forearms and shoulder positions. We essentially become “locked in” to routine. And with any routine comes “overuse” injuries like arthritis, carpal tunnel, stiffness and inflexibility. The purpose of the rice bucket is to do a variation of movements that differ from our day to day patterns. This will strengthen the hands, fingers, forearms and even shoulders and make them more durable. This practice alone can help some people struggling with hand pain to become completely symptom free. Look up “Rice bucket drills” on youtube for more ideas and info, there are a lot.
So are people with strong hands harder to kill? Likely. Although of course it isn’t that simple. But I also have a hard time trusting another grown man that doesn’t have calluses on his hands either (yes that’s a personal problem of mine, haha!). My point is that we need to be training and doing so with intention. We use our hands for almost everything we do, train them and take care of them, you’ll be glad you did.