Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – Part 3: Exercises to Improve Grip Strength

 

Now that you are fully rehabilitated from carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), we are ready to progress to strengthening your grip again. If you are still feeling or begin feeling symptoms of CTS, read my previous blog here for some rehabilitation exercises.

The primary muscles involved in determining grip strength are your forearm, hand and finger muscles. These muscles are often indirectly engaged during your typical workout routine. The performance of rows, pull downs and bicep curls assist these muscles to a certain extent, however, further training would need to be performed to maximize grip strength.

Whether individuals want to improve grip strength for a competitive sporting event or for daily activities, adequate grip strength will greatly benefit the individual. Most sports require the athlete to hold an object or equipment and it can often be the determining factor in the amount of power being generated. On the other hand, gripping exercises are used in almost all day-to-day activities. Whether opening a jar of peanut butter, carry grocery bags from your car or washing dishes, grip strength is necessary to complete these actions. A nice firm handshake can also showcase confidence and add personality to your character.

Aside from improving grip strength, having conditioned forearms can greatly benefit the connective tissue such as your ligaments and tendons.

Muscles involved in Grip Strength

Interossei (Dorsal and Palmer) muscles – The dorsal interossei enables us to spread our fingers apart while the palmer interossei pulls our fingers close. They are located in between your finger joints at the base of the hand.

Hyperthenar + Thenar muscles – The hyperthenar muscle group forms the majority of the pinky side of the hand and enables movements on that area. The thenar muscle group is responsible for movements on the thumb side.

Flexor digitorum profundus/superficialis – These muscles are responsible for flexing the finger muscles and enable you to make a fist with your hands

Extensor indicis, extensor digiti minimi, extensor digitorum – These muscles are responsible for extending the finger muscles and allow you to spread your fingers apart

Lumbricals muscles – These muscles are located at the base/middle portion of the hand is is responsible for straightening the fingers

Adductor pollicis muscles – This muscle is located between your pointer finger and your thumb and enables you to pinch objects.

Flexor carpi radialis, flexor carpi ulnaris, flexor pollicis longus muscles (flexor muscles of the forearm) – These muscles are located on the inside of your forearm and are all used to flex the hand (bringing the palm of your hand towards the forearm).

Extensor carpi radialis brevis/ longus, extensor pollicis brevis/ longus muscles (extensor muscles of the forearm) – The extensor muscles allows the hand to perform extension (lifting the back of the hand towards the forearm).

Here is a link with diagrams and more information about the muscles I have listed above.

Exercises to Improve Grip Strength

Farmers walk

Perform 3 sets of 45-60 seconds

  • Grab a dumbbell or kettlebell of the same weight in each hand
  • Begin walking from point A to point B OR perform a loop around your gym floor with weights by your side and palms facing inward
  • Each length should be at least 45-60 seconds in duration for maximum effect

Tip: Have a strong grip on the weight to fully engage your forearms during this exercise

Dead hang

Perform 3 sets of 30-60 seconds

  • Standing below a bar that enables you to stay elevated above the ground when hanging on
  • Jump up or use a stool to reach the bar, grasping slightly wider than shoulder width apart
  • Hang for 30-60 seconds before releasing

Tip: Try to minimize swinging by keeping your legs crossed at the bottom or using an object to prevent swaying.

Stress ball or grip strength tool

Perform 3 sets of 15 reps per hand

  • Using a stress ball or grip strength tool
  • Fully contract the hand creating as much tension as possible before releasing and repeating
  • Switch hands

Tip: As your grip strength improves, gradually use denser objects for this exercise. Begin with a stress ball and work your way towards a tennis ball. Ultimately a lacrosse ball or similar material object will be used. Alternatively, different weighted grip strength tools can be purchased to match power.

Dumbbell shrugs

Perform 3 sets of 12-15 reps

  • Grab dumbbells with palms facing inwards and standing shoulder width apart
  • Let dumbbells hand by your side
  • Contract the trapezius muscle by bringing your shoulders towards your ear lobes
  • Hold this position for .5 – 1 second before relaxing the muscle
  • Return to starting position and repeat

Tip: Ensure dumbbells are facing forward and not slanted by externally or internally rotating shoulders.

 

Wrist curls (Supinated & Pronated)

Perform 3 sets of 12 reps for each exercise

  • Start with a light dumbbell in each hand and go into a kneeling position
  • Place forearms on a bench, perpendicular to the length of the bench about shoulder width apart
  • Begin with palms facing up (supinated position) and let the wrists drop
  • Curl the wrist up by flexing the dumbbell towards you
  • Switch and perform the same exercise with palms facing down (pronated position)

Tip: Make sure to maintain proper posture and keep back straight

  • Perform the exercise slowly to feel the burn in your forearm extensor and flexor muscles
  • Ensure dumbbells are horizontal and do not tilt excessively

Pull ups or chin ups

Perform 3 sets of 12 reps

  • Standing below a bar that enables you to stay elevated above the ground when hanging on
  • Jump up or use a stool to reach the bar, grasping slightly wider than shoulder width apart OR use a chin up handle bar with palms facing each other / yourself
  • Retract shoulder blades and pull yourself until your chin is over the bar
  • In a controlled manner lower your body back down until fully extended at the bottom

Alternatively this exercise can be done on a assisted pull up / chin up machine or with a resistance tube under a single foot

Hammer curls

Perform 3 sets of 12 reps

  • Grasping dumbbells with palms facing the body and being seated on a 90 degree bench
  • Place feet about shoulder width apart and plant firmly into the ground
  • Flex at the elbow joint bringing the forearm towards the upper torso
  • Hold for a brief moment at the top of the lift before lowering the weight down slowly
  • Ensure palms are facing each other throughout the lift

Tip: make sure back is pressed firmly against the bench and no arching persists

Plate pinches

Perform 3 sets of 30-60 seconds

  • Holding a plate (preferably a bumper plate, however, a regular plate will do) with palms facing each other
  • Pinch the plate with thumbs and four fingers
  • Hold this position for 30-60 seconds
  • Switch hands and perform the exercise again

Tip: If your grip strength is strong enough, you can perform this exercise with both hands simultaneously.

 

Get Fat grips

Fat grips can be used to wrap around dumbbells, barbells and cable attachments to provide a greater difficulty for the exercise. They increase grip strength by increasing the width around the weight requiring greater effort upon lifting. This increases forearm muscle activation and enhances the stimulation of muscle fibers.

 

Kevin Kwok – Studio Coordinator

Kevin enrolled in numerous sports program as a child, which exposed him to an active lifestyle early in life. He played ultimate frisbee competitively at the junior level while in high school. Kevin now focuses his training exclusively on dragon boating. He has been paddling for the past 3 years and hopes to make the Canadian National Team in 2019. He hopes he can motivate others to accomplish their short and long term fitness goals!

This post has been developed by studio contributors which include Co-Op students, kinesiologists, therapists and our expert colleagues

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