Grip Strength correlates to EARLY DEATH?!

Ben Dearman

Here’s an eye opener – your grip strength can predict early death and overall functional capacity!  Click here to read the meta-analysis or just keep reading and I will sum it up for you.handgrip-dynamometer

This study looked at 45 different studies and summarized the results.  Here is the relevant information followed by what you can do about it.

  • Majority of studies focused on middle aged and older adults.
  • The measurement of grip varied from – dominant hand, right hand, non-dominant hand, both hands and stronger hand.
  • Low grip strength was a consistent predictor of death and high grip strength was a consistent predictor of survival in studies with diverse samples of subjects.

  • All studies examining the relationship of grip strength with future disability demonstrated that low grip strength was accompanied by a greater likelihood of functional limitations.

  • Decreased strength, most often grip strength, has been prescribed as an important sign of frailty. Syddall et al even proffered grip strength as a “single marker of frailty.”  Two other variables, sometimes included among markers of frailty as well, are nutritional status and vitality.  Grip strength has been shown to be a legitimate indicator of nutritional status.

Is this really surprising?  We all know the old man with forearms like hoagies that is still kicking butt at 90 and can crush cantaloupes in his bare hands (ok, I made that one up).

When we have someone in their 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and older come into us for training, a recurring theme is always – “I want to age well and be able to do everything I can do now, but better.  I don’t want to slow down as I age.”  One of the quickest ways to put the brakes on your ability to do what you want to do as you age is to have a weak grip! If you can’t hold onto something, then how can you lift it, control it and/or manipulate it?

My thoughts – if your grip is weak…you are weak. We have seen this time and time again.  A member (usually female) will comment about how she can lift more weight in the step up or bent over row or deadlift (just to name a few) but that she can’t hold onto any more weight.

To a point this is expected in an exercise like the deadlift, but not in an exercise like a step up or post lunge.  With the DL the weight you are lifting is substantial (a high percentage of body weight, i.e. 100-200% of body weight), where as in the step up or post lunge the weights are generally in the neighborhood of 20-50% of body weight.  So if someone comes in weighing 200 pounds, it’s not unrealistic to have them hold onto a 20 lb DB in each hand to perform step ups.

Holding onto a 20 lb weight should be easy for anyone!  If fact, you should be able to hold your own body weight for at least 30 seconds with no problem at all.  Think about that – if you are so weak that you can’t hang from a tree for 30 seconds, changes are, you are are also not that healthy.

In our programming we use A LOT of farmers carries (carrying a weight), hangs (hanging from a bar) and pulls (pulling something) to help strengthen the grip of our members.

Here are three ways you can add in grip strengthening to your program with out having it negatively affect your over all results.  Do any of the three (or all of them!) at the end of your work out.

  1.  Grab a DB in each hand that is roughly equivalent to half of your BW (i.e. weigh 200 lbs, grab two fifty’s).  Now walk around for 5 minutes, put them down when ever you need to, but shoot for the whole 5 minutes.  Once you can do 5 minutes non-stop, up the weight.       IMG_3240
  2. Hang on a pull up bar for 30 seconds with both hands and slowly work up.  Once you can do both hands for 60 seconds, go to one hand for 10 seconds and work up to 60 seconds.IMG_3242
  3. Pull a sled, or anything across the ground.  IMG_3236

The ultimate goal is for you to be able to hold your own body weight in various positions for 30 seconds.