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How to safely train with grippers to avoid problems with fingers and joints?

I've once started training with Heavy Grip 150lbs, which was too hard for me on begin. But after a few weeks I've forced to close it. Probably I was training too intensively for my hands not used to professional grippers, because I've started to have some 'clicks' in smallest finger. The binding of finger was not smooth, as if it was blocked. When the blockade was released, there was such click.

I've read on such forums that the climbers have also problems with that think. This is now over, but I've stopped training with grippers for almost a year and now I'm beginning once again. This time I want to be very cautious.

How should I train in the safe way, to prevent such things to happen again? Should I stop to try to close the gripper and concentrate on endurance not the pure strength? Should I use some supplementary exercises to prevent single-direction strenght training? Or my previous problems were caused by the lack of professional warm-up?

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I'm a climber with decent finger strength, and I've had a similar problem with grippers. I find that subtle changes in my hand position can make my fingers get loaded at bad angles, and lead to minor pain. I've had better luck doing finger curls with a barbell. That seems to lead to a more consistent movement pattern, incremental weight progression, and longer range of motion (holding the barbell with my finger tips, then pulling it into a closed fist). That's what I did, instead of fixing the issues I had with grippers. My $0.02 –  DavidR Jan 13 '13 at 21:00
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Your muscles and tendons get used to new movements faster than your joints and bones. It takes the body much more time to harden your bones than it takes to grow muscles. That might have caused your problems back them. –  Baarn Jan 13 '13 at 21:21
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1 Answer

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Hand Injury

Hands can easily be injured because the tendons must glide thru a sheath. You describe

“The binding of finger was not smooth, as if it was blocked. When the blockade was released, there was such click.”

This American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons info link gives a nice diagram and explanation of how the tendon gets stuck and then “triggers” as it gets unstuck.

Because you have already injured your hands the safest way to resume strength training for your grip is to see a hand therapist. Hand therapy is a specialty of either physical or occupational therapy. They can test your grip and pinch strength with a dynamometer and tell you how to proceed given your condition.

Here is some additional information that you can consider, but ask your hand therapist to direct you.

  • Alternatives to Grippers

    Given your previous injury, a gripper may not be the best way for you to strengthen your grip. It may not be the right resistance or the right size for you causing strain to the tendons. Thera-putty of varying resistance levels could be better matched to your ability and to the shape of your hands.

    Increasing the size of your grip can help increase your strength. Using a fatter bar or adding a product like a fat grip to your bar, dumbbell, wrist roller or cable handles can help to improve your grip strength. (Link is from our site's amazon store).

  • Forearm Muscle Strengthening

    The forearm muscles should also be targeted in order to have a strong grip. To strengthen the forearm muscles, curls and reverse wrist curls with a bar, dumbells or a roller are effective exercises.

    Depending on the reason you are working to increase your grip strength, a gyro or spinning device can be effective to help you increase your grip strength and forearm muscle control. (Link is to our site's amazon store). These spinners can be good for developing grip and arm control for sports like tennis or golf.

    Farmer’s Walk improves your grip and also increases overall arm strength.

As with any exercise make sure that you warm up well and gradually increase your resistance levels over time. Given your previous injury, go slow and pay attention to any signs of discomfort or lack of smooth motion.

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