Grip strength has been addressed previously on Breaking Muscle, and I hope you have gleaned something positive from those discussions. This time we’ll take closer look at this topic with particular attention to your hand digits (fingers and thumb) and their intrinsic muscles.
Possessing a strong ability to grasp is huge and can be the difference between victory and defeat. We work the forearms with conventional wrist flexion and extension exercises. The grip is addressed with gripping and squeezing exercises. But what about the digits? Can they be specifically targeted?
The muscles that control the fingers and thumb lie in the forearm and hand, so any forearm or grip exercise helps to strengthen them. But is there anything that can specifically target the digits to improve your clinging strength and add to overall gripping ability?
Finger and Thumb Muscles
Flexors (fist bump)
- Pollicis longus (thumb flexor)
- Flexor digitorum superficialis and flexor digitorum profundus (all finger flexors)
Those three muscles also flex the wrist along with the palmaris longus, flexor carpi ulnaris (adductor), and flexor carpi radialis (abductor).
Extensors (high five)
- Extensor pollicis longus and brevis (thumb extender)
- Extensor digiti minimi (pinky finger extender)
- Extensor indicis (index finger extender)
- Extensor digitorum (all finger extender)
Those four muscles also extend the wrist along with the extensor carpi ulnaris (abductor), extensor carpi radialis longus (abductor), and extensor carpi ulnaris (adductor).
As you see, there are many multiple-function hand and digit muscles. To completely isolate the digit muscles therefore is impossible. However, there are some exercises that place more stress on the fingers and thumb that you can incorporate into your grip-strengthening program.
Finger and Thumb Flexion Exercises
- Individual finger and thumb pinch gripping – weight plate pinching between the thumb and each finger.
- Fingertip pulldowns and upright rows – high pulley pulldowns and low pulley or dumbbell upright rows with a finger tip grip.
- Isometric press downs – with the tips of the fingers and thumb, press down on a sturdy surface with maximum isometric effort.
- Thumb band flexion – against the resistance of an elastic band, move the thumb from an extended position into the palm.
- Finger band flexion – against the resistance of an elastic band, move the fingers from an extended position into the palm.
Finger and Thumb Extension Exercises
- Isometric finger press ups – with the tips of the fingers under a sturdy table or desk top, press up with maximum isometric effort.
- Thumb band extension – against the resistance of an elastic band, move the thumb from a flexed position away from the palm.
- Finger band extension – against the resistance of an elastic band, move the fingers from a flexed position away from the palm.
- Finger and thumb tip band spread – with the fingers and thumb pinched together, attempt to spread them apart against an elastic band.
- Rice bucket spread – fill a container (bucket) with rice. Bury your hand wrist deep in the rice with the fingers and thumb pinched together. Spread them apart against the resistance of the compacted rice.
These are only a few of the exercises that target the hand digits. Incorporate them as a part of your overall grip strength program. Heck, they may even make you better at typing, playing a musical instrument, or saving your life if you ever find yourself clinging to the side of a mountain.
You can find more exercises, hand strengthening tools, and specifics at these links:
Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.