After failing to open a jar the other day it came to me that the strength required to do so is not built in most exercises and also that it is a common test of strength in daily life.

Therefore I would like to do some exercises that will help build the strength necessary to easily open jars.

What muscles/muscle groups are used in the opening of jars (I imagine grip strength is the main factor) and what exercises will help increase the strength of these muscles?

Note I am not particularly interested in these sort of things. I'm more interested in more traditional exercises, body weight or free weight (bar/dumb) exercises that will also build the strength I'm looking for.

I have a power tower, barbell and dumbbells with variable weights available to me.

  • 1
    Not exactly the answer you're looking for, but if you want to open a new jar, get a bottle opener (either standalone or the hooked thing on the underside of a can opener) and slide the hooked tip under the rim of the jar lid, then apply very light force to it. You're not trying to pry the lid off, and ideally you don't want to deform the lid at all; you just need to momentarily open a passage big enough for a few air molecules to slip through and equalize the pressure. Once you do this, breaking the vacuum seal, the jar is much, much easier to open. Dec 14, 2015 at 0:31
  • Or even better than a bottle opener get one of those grip pads that conform to the lid. They are quite handy and effective without the risk of damage. As an added benefit you still work the muscles needed for that activity. Think of it as the lid version of building up weight. By making the activity a bit easier you build up the specific muscles and supporting infrastructure needed to do it. Dec 15, 2015 at 13:04
  • You can also grab a spoon or fork and tap it against the top rim of the jar lid. The small dents in the lid break the vacuum seal and make it much easier to twist off. A major factor in lid twisting is also friction surface - so some of that is hand size more than strength.
    – Bankuei
    Dec 24, 2015 at 19:40

3 Answers 3


Maybe I can help out a little. This kind of grip strength can be achieved by strengthening your forarms, wrists, thumbs, fingers and by learning to recrute more muscle as you do right now for opening a jar as example.

There are three types of grip strength:

  1. The Crush Grip is the grip between your fingers and your palm—the one you use for shaking hands and crumpling beer cans.

  2. The Pinch Grip is the grip between your fingers and your thumb. This can be further subcategorized into individual fingers + thumb grip.

  3. The Support Grip is the ability to maintain a hold on something for a while—think pull ups or long and productive shopping trips

To train the grip there are many ways to do it, Ill include some of my favourites that would help in your situation.

  • hanging or pull-ups with a towel
  • Fingertipp push-ups
  • thick bar training, including 'fatgrips' or towel to increase the diameter of the bar or bell.
  • plate pinches ( simply put some plates together and lift them with your thumb and fingers)
  • farmer carries and deadlifts
  • I personally include rise-buckets where I turn my hands in circles in it, to strengthen my wrists
  • sometimes I do push-ups with broomsticks in each hand or two peaces of wood with my thumbs up.
  • At some point, you’re going to need to open your hands again. Get a rubber band, slip it over your fingers, and open your hand as wide as you can. Add more rubber bands as needed.

Hope that helps.


Following on what Mitro suggested, for forearm strength, I would recommend the following exercises:

Dumbbell Hammer Curls which work the Bracioradialis.

Zottman Dumbbell Curls. A little known and not widely used exercise that works multiple forearm muscles.

For wrist and forearm, I suggest:

Seated Barbell Wrist curl. Make sure to rest the wrists on your knees since proper balance of the bar is important.

Standing Behind the Back Wrist Curls. This one of my personal favorites because it can be performed on in multiple ways. You can use a barbell, dumbbells, or, a plate loaded stack with a straight bar.

I'd also suggest you try squeezing a small baseball sized rubber ball. Squeezing a ball is often recommended therapy for recovering from carpal tunnel syndrome because it works the wrist and forearm.


Many years ago, a neighbor had a stroke, and lost the strength in his right hand, wrist, & arm. He could no longer remove the lids from any jars or bottles -- large (e.g., mayonnaise), medium (cranberry juice), or small (plastic soda-pop). A physical therapist had him do simple isometric exercises that required no equipment or expense, and they worked like a charm:
- To simulate opening larger lids, hold your left hand in a tight fist, wrap the finger-tips of your right hand around the fist, and try to twist your hand off...of course, you can't, but it really exercise the right muscle-groups. - For medium-size lids, the exercise is almost the same, but open your left thumb away from the fist, then grip down on the first two fingers of your left hand with your right thumb under the finger-tips, and the right index finger against the palm-knuckles of the left hand, try to twist the fingers open. Again, you can't, but the attempt closely resembles removing a juice bottle lid. - For smaller bottle-tops, just wrap your right hand around the base of your left thumb, and once again, try to twist it off. On this one, be careful to grip the BASE of the thumb...farther out will be painful to the left thumb.

I realize that you could do the exercises with real bottles of mayo, juice, or pop, but if you want to do these exercises many times each day, sometimes you simply don't have immediate access to the real bottles...but it seems like you always take your left hand with you.

What surprised my neighbor, he didn't even have to squeeze or twist really hard. He'd just do each exercise for about ten seconds each, then repeat them. He went through this routine four or five times a day for a month, and regained most of the strength in his right arm/hand. He had no trouble opening bottles and jars.

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