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Sunday, September 15, 2013


Hand Exercise & Grip - The Role of the Finger Extensor Muscles

I get a lot of questions asking about the agonist/antagonist theory to hand exercise and grip muscles, which confuses a lot of people. What is the role of the finger extensor muscles and why do I keep harping on training them properly?

The grip muscles are not an agonist/antagonist relationship as are the biceps/triceps, quadriceps/hamstrings, for example. They are a co-contraction kinetic chain. We have clearly demonstrated this is The finger extensor muscles contract during grip as do the flexor muscles, obviously, together. You can view any activity that we have studied to show that the finger extensor muscles contract to support the flexor muscles, they do not relax. Hand exercise and grip is a co-contraction.

The problem with this mechanically is that, in the long term, where gripping is repetitive, the extensor muscles are obviously contracting in a small ROM (not opening hardly ever through their full natural ranges of motion (ROM)) so they become a shortened, static, unhealthy muscle group/chain over time, thus becoming weak and even easy to injure. The weaker they become, the less they can do their part to support grip and the more the grip (flexor muscles) have the full un-aided responsibility of the grip action. 

Thus for best grip performance, strength, hand speed, stamina, ROM, and injury prevention, both the supportive muscles (extensors/abductors) and the action muscles (flexor/adductors) must be strengthened in the best way, that being through their full natural ROM's, like any other muscle or group. So for the grip stabilizer muscles (again, the hand opening muscles, extensors and abductors), this means they must be trained through full opening and spreading which keeps them at their best health, strength and function and stimulates the most healthy circulation for repair and maintenance of tissues. In turn, they are able to perform their best role in being there to support the grip muscles. They are then also able to offset shortening of the flexor muscles to keep the fingers, thumb, hand, wrist, carpal tunnel and elbow stable (i.e. not allowing flexor domination, collapse and joint instability). 

By the way, the finger extensors would then also be best available to open the hand in hand opening functions as well... but name me a function we perform where the hand opening muscles are used - none or very few will come to mind. 

So grip support seems to me to be the main role of the finger extensors, we simply need to understand that they are healthiest and strongest themselves ONLY when trained through full natural ROM's. 

Handmaster Plus does this easily and conveniently, plus stimulates all peripheral nerve routes (neuropathy) and maximizes blood flow (repair). Pretty complete, I'd say, and why people get such wonderful results with an array of conditions using Handmaster Plus... compliments all grip activities (including repetitive grip during gym training) so that weakness, imbalance & injury are held at bay and performance is always maximized!

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