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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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+50

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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  • Your comment on him being injured is false. I am experienced in grip training and have kept up with other's grip training and it's like this: the muscles and tendons are tight and since the crushing muscles are stronger than the ones that open the hand, they resist being opened. Tendons roll all the time and it is normal. If your tendons don't roll on the knuckle it is because they are so small. Force generation slowly engages more and more muscles to perform something and the biomechanics is tricky so there is a "trigger" effect. His finger extensors must be trained to smooth it out. Dec 28 '21 at 5:19
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Try adding a few layers of fabric between the grippers and your fingers. But make sure to not wrap them too thick.

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    It might be good to explain how that would help a joint/tendon/muscle issue; I'm having difficulty understanding how it would do anything other than making the gripper more comfortable on the skin or allow a tiny bit of additional movement. At 150 lbs it doesn't seem like that'd be the gating issue. Dec 16 '21 at 12:56
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Haha. You are not injured man. It is quite common and is just a sign of your training. Everyone gets stiffness and tendon rolling from hard exertion.

You should definitely train your finger extensors though. Your hands will be in top shape and will heal much better when the antagonist muscles; the muscles opposite of what are being used; are strengthened. You can't have weak antagonists or your progress will be crap. Don't make your body have to work around weak finger extensors. You can slide a weight plate across the ground forward and back, using full range of motion. The finger will remain mostly straight but get a large range of motion in the knuckle. Do this for each finger individually. Finger bands are also quite good. Straightening your fingers out against resistance is very good too. Do all three.

You should train wrist extensions as well. This is a weak movement for the wrist. Use something close to your max, then lower the weight and do sets to failure or whenever you reach your pain tolerance. Make sure it's pretty even on both sides. Do extra on your lazy side.

For general development wrist twists are great. Using a sledgehammer or something weighted on the thumb side you twist your wrist and then twist it the other direction. The weight adds resistance as you bring it back up. Get a big stretch. It is painful but I do it. Great stuff. You can have the sledgehammer head on the pinky side of the hand as well and twist it up to parallel with the ground. With a sledge hammer besides the twists you can bend your wrist laterally and let the sledgehammer lower away or towards you.

Besides that there is the simple wrist curl.

Go ahead and keep using grippers. Make sure to include endurance work and use high relative intensity. Good luck.

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  • Hello, It's quite an old question, and I've dedicated myself to running in the meantime, but I'm 40 and I feel it's time to try things I have once failed in my life. You mean, from your experience, that the actual problem is, that using only grippers is bad training because you need to target opposite muscles? Maybe it was exactly my point of failure... Dec 28 '21 at 18:19
  • Yes. You want any limb, any digit, to be strong in both directions and directions 90 degrees to this. Extreme imbalances creates issues like having difficulty opening the hand when the muscles are stiff on the stronger side. It also allows the body to progress easily and use its strength much more easily. There may be benefits to neurological efficiency. I know from experience vascularity and blood flow improves IMMEDIATELY when you strengthen the weak side. Strengthen the opposite and 90 degrees ALWAYS. This applies to shins and calves, toes on the feet even, arms, hands, and the torso. Dec 28 '21 at 18:33
  • I got it, muscles strong in one direction create imbalance for a tendon, right? Dec 28 '21 at 20:22
  • Not really. I know you are referencing articles and persons that call imbalances dangerous. Strengthening any direction strengthens all. But if you want your hand to open more easily when things are stiff you need more strength in those muscles. You will progress the most training all around as well. It is just easier and better. Dec 28 '21 at 23:33
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Hand gripper should train progressively , start with 50lbs and gradually increase to next level gripper as joints and muscles getting stronger. I started off with 50lbs and now at 250 lbs in 2 years of training

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  • Could you share what was your training plan? How many series/repeats you were doing before switching to higher level? Esp. transition from 100 to 150 and 150 to 200. Dec 6 '21 at 18:23

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