What can hand grippers do for you?
Surprisingly, hand grippers can do… a lot. In this article, you’ll find all of the benefits in detail, which thankfully stretch beyond opening a can of salsa.
Whether you’re new to fitness, a seasoned bodybuilder, or someone who just wants to improve their grip for daily tasks, this article can serve as a one-stop resource for everything you need to know about hand grippers.
Unpacking the Importance of Grip Strength
It’s challenging to explain the benefits of a hand grip strengthener without first fleshing out the debate around grip strength, and why it’s so important.
Basically, the research suggests that a weaker grip is associated with increased mortality rates related to cardiovascular disease and cancer in men. While this may be true, it’s important to recognize that a stronger grip probably doesn’t directly slow aging or guarantee you won’t die of cardiovascular disease. But rather, grip strength serves as a proxy for overall strength, which is often associated with a longer life. In other words, it’s important to understand that correlation does not imply causation.
With that being said, prioritizing grip strength will certainly not hurt you. We use our hands for everything– typing on a computer, stirring a coffee, and opening a jar are just a few examples. Unfortunately, grip strength naturally wanes as we age, making everyday tasks more challenging and potentially impacting our quality of life. Regular grip strength training can slow this decline, which ideally leads to stronger, more independent years later on in life.
So, grip strength isn’t just about crushing it at the gym (although, it helps there too), it’s an important aspect of our everyday functionality and overall health. Whether you’re a beginner or a professional, hand grippers are an excellent tool to assist you on your grip strength journey.
The Magic of Hand Grippers
Below I’ve listed some potentially surprising ways hand grippers can benefit you.
If you don’t already know, hand grippers target muscles in your hands, wrists, and forearms. If you care about looking good, using a hand gripper consistently can lead to increased muscle mass in these areas, giving you a more defined appearance. Not only that, but more muscle is proof that you are strengthening your grip.
Improved Muscular Endurance
You know when you’re halfway climbing up a wall, or on your last set of barbell deadlifts, and all of a sudden, your hand starts to slip? This is where your grip endurance comes in. Performing grip strength exercises trains your hand grip to resist fatigue. While this comes in handy when you’re weightlifting, muscular endurance isn’t just for climbers and bodybuilders. It’s also helpful when carrying in groceries, or doing push-ups in your home gym.
Hand grippers could be the difference between a good lift, and a great one. Progressing in your grip strength training should also allow you to do more reps, and lift heavier weights especially when performing pull movements. Deadlifts, rows, and pull-ups are just a few movements that engage our hand and forearm muscles. So, a stronger grip could mean heavier, more intense back and bicep days, too.
Enhanced Sports Performance
Take a minute to think about all of the sports that use forearm strength– Basketball, tennis, rock climbing, and golf, to name a few. With a stronger grip, you’ll be able to hold onto equipment more tightly, throw more effectively, and generally have more control when you play.
Grip strengtheners not only enhance our physical health but also help with our mental health too. Many people like to use hand grippers in between periods of work at their desks because physical exertion helps us to relieve stress in a healthy way. They are kind of like stress balls– The best part is, you don’t even have to get up.
Convenient & Portable:
Another benefit of hand grip strengtheners is how small, lightweight, and portable they are— Unlike dumbbells, which are also used for grip training. Especially if you love to travel as much as I do, this makes them a very convenient way to strengthen your hands and forearms.
Dexterity refers to fine motor skills involving smaller muscles in the hands. Some daily tasks that involve dexterity include: eating with chopsticks, typing on a computer, playing the guitar, or using the piano. If performing the correct hand grip exercises, these helpful tools can improve our finger strength too, resulting in more coordination and control.
*Grip Strength & Longevity:
Research suggests hand grip strength is highly associated with an increased risk of health conditions such as cardiovascular disease and arthritis. As mentioned, this correlation does not imply causation. More research is needed to solidify the role grip strength plays in regard to mortality. Until then, using hand grippers is low risk and has a plethora of proven benefits that still make it worth your while.
For example, grip strengtheners can help prevent de-conditioning as we age. Unfortunately, we lose muscle as we grow older, making it more difficult to perform daily activities that involve our forearms, hands, and fingers. For this reason, it’s important to prioritize strength in all areas now, in order to prolong our independence later on in life.
Easy Ways To Use Hand Grippers
Now that we’ve laid out the benefits, here are a few grip-strengthening exercises to get you started:
The Basic Squeeze
This is the most basic way to use a grip-strengthener tool. All you have to do is hold the gripper in your hand, squeeze the handles together, and then slowly release.
Try 10-15 repetitions on each hand and repeat 2-3 times.
One Finger Squeeze
This exercise will help you work the smaller, individual muscles in your fingers (aka, dexterity). Hold the gripper like you would in a basic grip squeeze, but use one finger at a time (in combination with your thumb), squeeze, and then release.
Just like the basic squeeze, you can try this 10-15 times and repeat for 2-3 sets.
This technique is pretty self-explanatory and helps with muscular endurance. All you have to do is squeeze the handles and hold for 5-10 seconds before releasing.
Try 5-10 repetitions on each hand for 2-3 sets.
Choosing The Best Hand Gripper For You
There are many types of grip-strengthening tools. Here is a list of things to consider when choosing the right one for you:
Each tool comes in different resistance levels, usually displayed in pounds or kilograms. Make sure you pick a hand gripper that correlates with your current strength level and also leaves room for improvement. In the last section, I’ve included more suggestions about how to do this.
Most hand grippers are made of metal and have foam padding around the handles. If you’re planning on using hand grippers amidst your workout sessions, I’d recommend finding a hand gripper that allows you to grip the handles comfortably even when your hands are sweaty.
If you want to see consistent progression, make sure you select a hand gripper with an adjustable resistance feature so that you don’t have to buy a new one when your muscles adapt. This feature is also super helpful if you are sharing the device with someone else.
Comfort & Fit
Before squeezing the handles, the hand gripper should fit comfortably in your grip with your thumb on the bottom and index and pinky fingers on top. Make sure you’re able to comfortably form a good grip around the handles when you’re at rest.
Different Kinds of Hand Grippers
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These are the most common type, with a spring-loaded between two handles. They’re compact, generally inexpensive, and come in various resistance levels. Check out “Recommendation for Different User Levels,” to find out which resistance level is right for you.
These grippers are a little more fancy, and allow you to change the resistance level, usually by twisting a knob or dial. These are highly recommended, as they can grow with your strength levels.
If you’re looking to buy an adjustable grip strengthener from a reputable company with great reviews, this one is a great option.
Finger Extensor Grippers
These look like rubber bands with multiple rings to insert your fingers and provide resistance when you spread your fingers apart. This version will help improve finger dexterity.
Recommendations for Different User Levels
If you’re new to using a hand gripper, start with a lower resistance level—usually around 60-100 pounds (or even less if you find this too hard). An adjustable gripper can be a good choice because it will allow you to gradually increase resistance as your strength improves.
If you’ve been working on your grip strength for a while, you might choose a gripper with a resistance level between 100-150 pounds.
If you’ve been at this for a while, hand grippers with a resistance of over 150-200+ pounds might work best.
How to Incorporate Hand Grippers into Your Daily Routine
Use Them As A Warm-Up Tool:
Start your workouts with hand gripper exercises to warm up your hands and forearms. This will help increase blood flow to these areas which prepares them for heavier weights and lowers your risk of injury.
Superset With Other Exercises:
If you’re doing an upper body workout, you can use hand grippers in between sets of other exercises (otherwise known as a superset). For instance, once a set of bench presses or squats is completed, instead of resting, use your hand gripper. This is a good way to increase the volume and intensity of your workout.
End of Workout Burnout:
At the end of your workout routine, your grip may already be fatigued—especially if you’ve been lifting weights. This is a great time to incorporate hand gripper tools, and fully exhaust the muscles in your forearm and hands before ending the workout.
On your rest days, consider some light hand gripper work. It’s a low-impact exercise that doesn’t require much physical exertion, and can also be done at home. If your forearm and hand muscles are sore though, make sure to give them time to rest and fully recover before your next training session.
At Your Desk
Try keeping a hand gripper on your desk and doing a few sets in between work sessions. This can give you a break from your work, be a great stress reliever, and strengthen your grip all at the same time.
In between walking on the treadmill or riding a stationary bike is a perfect time to use your hand gripper. Multitasking is an easy way to get more out of your cardio session.
How often should I use my hand gripper?
This depends on how often you are currently performing grip-strengthening exercises. Regardless, the goal should be to make sure you’re adding volume to your grip strength consistently over time.
If you’re a beginner, try 10-15 reps and repeat for 2-3 sets. Start by adding this to your workout routine 2-3 times a week.
Once your muscles adapt, and it becomes easier for you to do the same amount of reps, increase frequency to 4-5 times a week and add additional reps if needed.
Is it OK to use hand grippers every day?
While yes, it’s okay to use hand grippers every day, it’s best to leave time in between sessions for your muscles to recover. Recovery allows your muscles to recharge so that you can continue lifting heavy weights.
What is the best type of grip strengthener?
The best type of grip strengthener is totally subjective and depends on your personal fitness level. Regardless, I’d recommend looking into an adjustable model so that you can increase the weight as your muscular strength progresses. If you’re looking for a grip strengthener, this one is sold by a reputable company, is adjustable, and has great reviews.
What muscles do grip strengtheners work?
Grip strengtheners benefit the forearms, hands, and fingers. There are 19 muscles in the forearm. Eleven of them are involved in extension movements, while 8 are involved in flexion.
The muscles involved in extension are located on the anterior of the forearm, while the extensor group is located posteriorly.
Does it matter what kind of hand gripper I use?
Yes, for sure. The best hand grippers for you will depend on your current strength level and goals. Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced user, I’d recommend using an adjustable gripper to make sure you can progress as time goes on.
How long does it take to see results?
This depends on your current strength level, consistency, the intensity of your workouts, and your body’s unique response to exercise. Generally speaking, with consistent use you should see noticeable improvements in grip strength in about 4-6 weeks.
How do I know if I’m doing it correctly?
When using the hand gripper, make sure your grip is firm and your wrist is straight. Squeeze the gripper in a slow and controlled motion, then release it. If you feel pain when using your hand gripper, this might indicate that you need to adjust your form or use less resistance.
I highly recommend putting your ego away– It’s not about how hard you go, it’s about how smart you train. Listen to your body, and progress at your own pace.
About the Author
Shylin Santana is New York-based Fitness Coach and Registered Nurse. When she’s not helping stressed-out nurses look good naked, she’s traveling the world, sipping hot lattes, and learning Spanish on Duolingo.