By WIN Contributor: Dr. Nicholas Slowinski, Chiropractor
With the sun shining down on us, it’s time for all of us to get back to the things we love and look forward to in the summer months… but for some of us there may be some nagging injury that is keeping us from doing the things we love. For example, WIN Health providers often hear things like “I would love to get out for a round of golf this summer, but that old wrist/elbow/shoulder issue flares up on me every time”… “I’ve tried the rehab thing, but nothing works!"
If this sounds at all familiar to you maybe it’s time to take a new look at an old problem. Think about it, which muscles did you use the most over the past hour? How about during your last workout? What about the past day? The answer is the muscles of your fingers, hands, wrists, and forearms!
Think about it... Nearly every sport that exists, from swimming to wrestling to golf to tennis to football to basketball to baseball to climbing to obstacle course racing and beyond require extremely high activity levels of the thirty-five tiny gripping muscles in your forearms and hand. Having sufficient strength and endurance of these muscles is also important for our activates of daily living such as typing, doing dishes, turning door knobs, or even opening prescription pill bottles.
Having insufficient strength and endurance of these muscles often results in frustrating injuries from chronic repetitive strain, such as tennis elbow, golfers elbow or carpal tunnel. These conditions are often caused by improper strength ratios between the elbow muscles and the forearm muscles.
For example, if the elbow flexors, like the biceps and brachialis, are too strong for the forearm flexors, uneven tension accumulates in the soft tissue and results in elbow pain. If these insufficiencies are not addressed, it can significantly influence how we recover from this type of injury. If the weakest link in the chain is never addressed, and certain exercise is continued, this may make your condition worse!
For those who are injury free, having a weak grip may even inhibit the progress you make in the gym or your sport of choice. Enter the shoulder….
It is no secret that shoulder related pain and dysfunction is one of the most common reasons people come to visit us at WIN Health, and this summer will be no different as people start to participate more in activities such as their weekend softball tournaments and beach volleyball games. Many people who regularly enjoy these activities come to us with nagging rotator cuff issues, which keep them from participating.
Research now shows that a significant correlation exists between the strength of your grip and how healthy your rotator cuff is! That means that if you strengthen your grip you can improve your shoulder mechanics…meaning you can play/train harder!
More on this available here https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4950463/
Improving your grip strength, and subsequently, neighbouring joint strength and stability is based on a concept commonly known as the “Irradiation Effect.” If you want to find out more about this phenomenon, I suggest reading the book “The Naked Warrior” by Pavel Tsatsouline. Now, without spoiling the ending, we can simplify this concept by understanding the more we train our grip the more activation we get from other surrounding muscles up the kinetic chain, thus improving stability and force output.
Now if that’s not enough for you to add grip training back in to your training or rehab programs, research has also found that grip strength correlates positively to other health measures including recovery after surgery, cardiovascular health, as well as other measures of old age disability.
If improving your grip is something you’d like to get a handle on, talk with our Chiropractic team for solutions and strategies... and in addition... here are a few key exercises that are a great introduction to building grip strength.
Grab a pull up bar. Get your feet off the floor. Hold on for dear life. Many people find the limiting factor in their pull ups. Hanging for time can be an excellent way to overcome this issue. Try holding the bar for longer each time! If you really want a challenge try to hang with one arm or with the hands in different positions.
For this exercise you can also use dumbbells, hex bars, straight bars, large water bottles, suitcases—anything you can carry that hangs from your hands. Pick up one or two and walk as far as you can with it. Make it challenging. This not only trains support grip strength effectively, but also is a heck of a full body workout!
Get two weight plates, (start small) preferably with smooth backs. Stack them together so the smooth side on each faces out. Pinch them together and try to pick them up. Better yet, try to take a walk with them after you’ve picked them up.
This one is pretty simple. Fill a bucket or a large bowl with uncooked rice, drive your hands and arms into the bucket, and get to work gripping and mashing the rice with your hands.
**Bro tip** ...An old 5lb protein container works well for this!
**Pro tip** ...Try for 20-30 second intervals each hand, squeeze and release as fast as you can. This can even be done while you watch Netflix. :)