This is the last installment in my four-part series on handcare. I hope you enjoy it. Please read parts one, two and three.
NOTE: I apologize for the long lag-time in between posts. I was searching for a cheap and easy way to do the video and post it to Youtube. My Flip Video camera apparently does not work as well as I had hoped. I solved the problem with a little piece of software called Vidnik. Unfortunately, there is a bug where the audio and the video don’t sync up once you upload to YouTube. Hopefully, they’ll resolve this. I’m saving up for a nice video camera just in case.
He that gives good advice, builds with one hand; he that gives good counsel and example, builds with both; but he that gives good admonition and bad example, builds with one hand and pulls down with the other.
— Francis Bacon
Whether you are doing Gymnastics, Olympic weightlifting, Crossfit, or manual labor, your hands take a beating. Your hands and wrists are susceptible to carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, strains, sprains and all sorts of trauma. Doing some or all of the following things can help keep you injury-free and prevent your training from getting derailed. [Do not worry about bulking up and looking like this.]
Before training, get into the habit of doing a thorough warmup that includes mobility and stretching exercises for the hands and wrists. I really like the mobility drills from Z-Health.
Shaking. Vigorously shake your hands. This will increase the bloodflow to the hands and improve circulation.
Paint the Fence. Just like in The Karate Kid, you should practice moving your hands up and down like you are painting a fence. It is best to move the wrist up and down as if you are being moved by your watchband.
Lateral Glides. Similarly move the wrists side to side as if you are being pushed and pulled by your watchband.
Wrist Circles. Trace large circles with your wrists. Be sure to try and keep the knuckles parallel to the ground.
Finger Waves. Start by curling the fingers into the hand into a tight fist and then in a wave extend them. Then wave the fingers closed into a fist and curl the fingers in and extend them.
Finger Circles. Circle the fingers in both directions. Don’t forget your thumbs.
Wrist Stretches. Stretch the wrists into flexion and extension. You can do this by placing the hands of the floor and slowly leaning your weight into your hands. You can also grab the hands and stretch them individually.
The exercises above are demoed in this video. Note that it takes less than 5 minutes and you can do it sitting down. There is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to do it before and/or after a workout and/or while sitting at your desk at work.
The stronger your hands are the less prone they are to injury. Here are some essential exercises that you need to do to keep your hands strong and healthy.
Captains of Crush Grippers. These are the real deal when it comes to hand strength. These aren’t the cheap plastic hand grippers they sell at your local sporting goods stores. These are serious strength training tools. Closing these grippers is hard and will make your hands and your grip formidable. I recommend getting a “Sport” or “Trainer” to start with and working up to at least a “No. 1.”
Wrist Roller. The wrist roller is a classic wrist/forearm exerciser. You can make these for really cheap with a PVC pipe and a length or rope or you can just buy a cheap one online. Doing some of these every week will keep your forearms and wrists strong.
Indian Clubs/Hammer swings. Hammers and Indian Clubs (Clubbells) are basically long levers with a small weight on the end and that means lots of torque. That torque is great for building up super strong wrists and forearms. If you don’t have a heavy hammer or don’t want to build your own Indian Club, then load one side of dumbbell and try that.
Extension bands. The finger extensors need some help because we do not exercise them enough and exercising them will help avoid muscle imbalances and keep your hands healthy. Ironmind makes a Healthy Hands Kit that is pretty cool. It contains the bands and some eggs. The Eggs that come with this are pretty cool but don’t compare to the Captains of Crush grippers. Still they are probably good to have around.
As important as working out your hands and forearms is knowing when to rest them. Get yourself a pair of lifting straps. Lifting straps are essential tools for training but they need to be used at the right time and for the right reasons. Use them for warming up if you know your workout will be especially taxing on the hands. Use them to continue to train when your hands are fried or injured. Do not get into the habit of using straps when they are not necessary. Strong hands are earned through hard work.
After a particularly hard day of training you should soak your hands in ice water. Five to ten minutes should be sufficient. If your hands still hurt after they warm up then soak them for a second time. Avoid soaking in ice for more than 10 minutes to avoid frostbite. Remember to shave your calluses, get lots of sleep and take your fish oils.
Was this article helpful to you? Do you have any other good hand training tips? Please leave a comment.