Grip strength is important for everyone, but especially for dads. From twisting caps on milk bottles to opening containers of strained applesauce, your hand grip has been tested again and again since you first welcomed your kids into the world and embraced your role as chief bottle opener. But that doesn’t mean you need to bother with hand grip exercises, right? When you’re struggling to fit fitness into your parenting routine, are grip exercises really worth your time?
Absolutely. Because strong hands hold the key to many things, not the least of which is a firm handshake, which studies suggest help you make better first impression. Strong hands make it easier to grip stroller handles and grocery bags; when your child wants to swing from Daddy’s arms like a monkey again you can actually offset some of that dislocated shoulder thing with a firmer grasp. And in terms of your overall fitness, a stronger grip makes it possible to lift heavier weights and maintain proper form for more reps, which in turn lets you build bigger muscles.
If you’re a fan of office stress balls—those semi-soft, rubbery masses that you squeeze to release tension—then you’re already on your way to giving your hands a workout.
Here are a few more tools to add to your arsenal:
Hand Grip Exercises for Dads
- Make a fist. Very basic, very effective. Bunch both hands up into tight fists, keeping your thumb on the outside of your fingers. Squeeze as hard as you can for 30 seconds. Relax. Repeat three times.
- Have a ball. Using your stress ball (or a rolled-up pair of socks) contract your hand muscles as hard as you can while you squeeze the object for five seconds, 10 times.
- Rotate your thumb. Hold your hand in a thumbs-up position, thumb extended, the rest of your fingers in a loose fist. Make slow, deliberate circles with your thumb in a clockwise direction 10 times, Reverse direction and do 10 more.
- The Claw. Start with your fingers extended, palm flexed. Bend your fingertips to make a claw-like shape. Extend back out, contract again. Do 10 times.
- Open The Flower. Pinch all five fingertips of one hand together, as if you are pinching salt or imitating a flower bud before it opens. Use your other hands to place a rubber band around fingertips (choose a size that fits snuggly, but not super-tight). Expand your fingers wide against the resistance of the band, as if they are flower petals opening. Contract back to the start. Do 10 times. Switch hands.
- Raise Your Fingers. Isolate individual finger muscles by placing your palm flat against a table, then one by one, raise each finger off the surface as high as it will go, then release. Go through all five fingers a total of 10 times.
- Build Wrist Strength. Grab a can of soup or light dumbbell in each hand. Flex and relax your wrists. Do two sets of 10.
- Practice Farmer’s Carries. This classic strength-training move will help your hands as much as your arms. Grab two heavy gallon jugs of water (or jerrycans), one in each hand and… walk. Back and forth across the living room, up and down stairs, down the hallway and back. What feels light at first rapidly becomes cumbersome. Start with a one-minute walk, and slowly build from there.
- Stretch It Out. Let your arms fall by your sides, palms facing forward. Grab your right fingers with your left hand and press them back toward your forearm. Push into the stretch by pressing the “heel” of your hand down toward the floor. Release and reverse the stretch direction, this time using your left hand to press your right fingers up toward the inside of your arm. Release. Repeat on the opposite side.