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Thursday, May 14, 2009


Hand Grip Strengthening & Body Building

A grip strength supplier contacted me with a common question that I get from athletes that are bodybuilders and strongmen. I wanted to post my answer to better educate anyone wanting to train grip strength properly.

Thanks for your q's...
Your q regarding finger extensors is a good one; and vital issue for anyone pursuing high grip strength and/or repetition. The reason that finger extensor muscles are so vital is that they are 'stabilizers' for any finger flex activity, especially grip. They contract statically (in one static position) anytime the fingers are flexed. The harder the flex, the harder they contract as well.
In using standard grip strengthening items (coiled grip strengtheners), grip strength will improve, until a point of eventual plateau (the stabilizer muscles are not strong because they have not been trainined through full range of motion (ROM)). Or the user will run into injury, because traditional grip strength items strengthen the finger extensors in a static position (in other words, when I grip with a coiled grip strengthening item or by gripping a barbell or dumbell, as in the video, I am training the finger extensor muscles to simply conract in one static position). Muscles that are trained in a static position are not strong, are hugely open to injury and are non-flexible. People are not educated about this fact because it is not well known. We have studied the finger extensor muscle fire pattern for many years and are eager to educate distributors. The athlete may train improperly for years and never notice a problem. Most body builders are strong in the other stabilizer muscles (upper arm & shoulder especially, as the fellow in the video). But once they develop 'tennis elbow,' they will be debilitated. All from improper education regarding training. It is very sad to watch. And difficult to rehabilitate. Make sense?
People pursuing grip strength may not understand why they need to training finger extensor muscles, but the fundamentals are not complicated, especially because 'core muscle training' has become such a popular phrase. Finger extensor muscles are the first core muscles that stabilize the grip, as are the upper arm muscles (second), shoulder muscles and, to some extent, torso muscles. It is a kinetic chain. If one of the chain is weak/unhealthy/injured, grip strength will be compromised & injury will be likely.
I am not saying that using coiled grip trainers is super-bad, especially as they are the standard for grip strength competition. I don't recommend a lot of coiled grip strength training for other athletes, because these items train the body to move in one plane only, which usually does not lend to natural balance...but some training is okay. I use Handmaster Plus exercises because it trains the body to move through full ranges of motion, and in natural 3-dimensional planes (the same as using free weights versus machines).
For athletes that do pursue high grip strength (the fellow in the video is an animal! Very impressive strength focus), I do not see any problem with this pursuit if it is their passion. For body-builders of any type, they must use Handmaster Plus to strengthen finger extensor muscles properly though full ROM. Repetitive use of dumbell grip, barbell grip, coiled grip strengthener will train the finger extensors into a very unstable static position. They will be much stronger & have much less chance of injury if they simply add a finger extensor exercise to their regular routines (Handmaster Plus is the standard for full ROM finger extensor training).
Hope that helps...
Dr. Zachary


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