This article is inspired by a phone conversation with my Dad. In August he turns 65 and we were talking about how in recent years he has had a harder time holding onto things.
As we get older, it is normal to find a decrease in our strength. 65 years of age is actually when the average person tends to see the greatest decrease in hand function.
There are a lot of factors to consider with reduced grip strength as we age, but in this article we are going to zero in on the muscle strength aspect. Assuming that the subject has a disease free central nervous system and no severely crippling arthritis, one of the most common changes with age is a reduction in overall muscle mass. As we age, we begin to lose muscle mass faster.
Essentially, the old adage is true. If you don’t use it, you lose it. As our bodies age, we essentially need to work harder to slow down the decrease in strength.
One of the major supporting structures to grip strength is our forearms. If you were to take a stress ball and squeeze it, you would feel your forearm flex.
Rock climbers have really muscular forearms because their grip strength has to be extremely strong to support their bodyweight as they hold themselves up along a climbing wall or rock surface.
My Favorite Grip Strength Exercises
My favorite example of a grip exercise would have to be a farmer carry. This is ironically appropriate for my dad, as he is legitimately a farmer.
It’s important to emphasize keeping a neutral spine on this exercise. You don’t want your shoulders to be rounded forward or your back to have a curve in it as it will cause you to unnecessarily strain your body. You will also be able to breath properly with a neutral spine.
Another great grip exercise is just hanging from a bar. A pull up bar will work great but be creative if you need to and just find something that is able to support your weight. You can hang from a shorter height too if you have your knees bent.
When hanging, it is a good idea to engage the core muscles on the side of your abdomen. This once again helps you to obtain neutral spine but also engages your lats more in the hang reducing the risk of injury.
Essentially, what you will do for the hang is just see how long you can support your body weight, you’d progress this by trying to increase your duration each time you practiced this.
Things to Consider
When doing any exercise where your intentions are to strengthen your grip strength, take into consideration that gloves and chalk will act as an aid and will not assist in you being able to strengthen your grip. When you are training for grip strength, you have to accept that callouses may be part of the journey. Remember, it also doesn’t have to be with weight. Stress balls or an elastic band around your fingers and spreading them apart can be equally effective in strengthening your weakness.
I hope some of these drills help you with your grip strength!