In today’s world, most people recognize (or, at least, they should) that having some degree of physical fitness is vital for good health, improved quality of life, cardiovascular health, and maintaining a resilient and robust body.
And so, we often visit the gym to do strength or aerobics training and elevate our health and fitness. There’s nothing wrong with that, but we often forget one crucial factor of functional fitness:
Today, we’ll go over why having a solid grip is important and how to improve yours as a senior.
What Is Grip Strength and Why Is It Important?
Many people see grip strength and something that originates from our hands. And, while our hands play a vital role, there is more to it.
Grip strength is determined by every muscle from the elbow down to our fingertips. As we go down from the elbow, the muscles that influence our grip strength run down through our forearms (on both sides – this is important to remember) and into our wrists, hands, and fingers.
In other words, our grip strength is complex, and there is no single approach to go about improving it.
But, we must make an effort as having a firm grip is associated with good health, vitality, and physical function.
Different Types of Grip Strength
We have several types of grip strength. Let’s see:
As you’ve probably guessed, pinching strength is isolated to our fingers and consists of squeezing something between your fingers and thumb.
Clamping is the act of interlocking your fingers and squeezing something between your palms. Unlike the other types of grip, this one can also include larger muscles like our biceps, shoulders, and chest.
Crushing is the act of closing your fingers against resistance – for example, grabbing a barbell as squeezing it as hard as you can.
Supportive grip, as the name suggests, is the act of holding a weight in your hand and having your fingers take the majority of the stress. This type of grip also entails your fingers wrapping fully around the load.
If the weight is too large to allow for you to envelop it thoroughly and there is space between your fingers and thumb, the grip is considered crushing or open-hand supportive.
How To Increase Grip Strength For Seniors: Six Effective, Safe, and Easy Exercises and Tactics to Start Using Today
As we covered above, there are several types of grip strength, so, if we want to develop ours in a balanced and complete manner, we need to do at least three different exercises and activities. With that in mind, here are six great ideas:
Plate pinches, as the name suggests, are done by pinching plates between your fingers and thumb and, you guessed it, helps develop your pinching strength.
To perform these, grab two to three ten-pound plates and hold them for as long as you can. Once that becomes too easy, you can add another ten-pound plate or move to two 25-pounders.
Grippers are the most common grip-strengthening tool, which trains our crushing strength, and the market is flooded with all kinds of varieties. What’s great about them is that they are relatively inexpensive, and you can use them whenever you feel like it.
Much like the regular version, reverse-grip curls serve to train your biceps, but they emphasize your forearms and grip strength more due to the pronated wrist position. More specifically, this exercise helps develop your dynamic grip strength.
The farmer’s walk is an excellent exercise to build your supportive grip strength as it has you isometrically hold heavier weights in your hands. What’s more, the farmer’s walk helps develop your entire body, make you more durable, and improve your cardiovascular health.
Plate curls are a great exercise to build your supportive and pinching strength, as well as train your forearms and biceps. To do this exercise, grab a 10-pound plate and place it on your palm with your thumb firmly pressing at the top. From there, try to perform regular curls while keeping your wrist and fingers straight.
Ditch Grip-Assisting Equipment
Many people these days use wrist straps and hooks to handle heavier weight better, as their grip strength is often the limiting factor. But, for you to effectively challenge and train your grip, you need to reduce or eliminate the use of straps and hooks drastically.
Grip Training Tips For Safety and Effectiveness
Direct grip training is beneficial for everyone. But, as someone who’s just starting, there are several things to bear in mind:
It’s essential to build a foundation before trying to use heavier weights. So, with every exercise, err on the side of too light rather than too heavy.
For the most part, you should be able to complete at least 12 to 15 repetitions or, if the exercise is time-based (such as plate pinches), try to hold the weight for at least 35-40 seconds.
Do a Variety of Movements
Because grip strength encompasses several characteristics, one exercise won’t be enough to develop your gripping ability adequately.
So, it’s a good idea to combine some of the above exercises and perform a couple of sets for each.
For example, if you exercise three times per week, you can:
- Do three sets of plate pinches at the end of workout 1.
- Do two sets of reverse-grip curls and three sets of farmer’s walk at the end of workout 2.
- Do three sets of plate curls at the end of workout 3.
To that, add a few weekly sets with the grippers (where you perform as many repetitions as you can) and do most of your other gym exercises without the aid of wrist straps and hooks.
Don’t Do Too Much
Training volume refers to the amount of work you do within a workout or training week. Doing too little is wrong because it can’t cause sufficient stimulus for progress. But, doing too much is also counterproductive as it can lead to overtraining and regression.
So, it’s essential to strike a healthy medium and not overtrain yourself. For the most part, you won’t need more than six to ten weekly sets of grip, hand, and forearm training for optimal results.