Building strength in the hand, finger, wrist and forearm can be important for many reasons. Musicians, rock climbers and arthritis patients each have different motives for exercising these joints and muscles. Whether you fall into one of these categories, or you just want to strengthen these regions, the types of exercise, frequency and degree to which they are used should be gauged appropriately. These are the most common exercises, listed by the levels of exertion required and strength achieved.
Bao Ding Balls
Chinese hand balls, known as Bao Ding balls, or Gi Gong balls, are usually about 1-1/2 inches in diameter. They come in pairs and are made of steel, glass, jade, bronze or porcelain. They usually have chimes inside which ring when the balls are rotated. Both balls are held in one hand and rotated around each other, over the fingers and across the palm. This builds strength and dexterity in your fingers and hand muscles -- as well as working the muscles in the wrist and forearms.
There are many devices available for strengthening hand grip, including plastic or rubber massage rings, rubber balls and spring-loaded exercise handles. Tennis balls can also be used. The grip strengthener is held in the hand and rhythmically squeezed by the fingers and released. These strengthen the forearms, fingers, wrists and hands. They only need to be used for a few minutes two or three times each day to dramatically increase strength.
Curls are done with dumbbells or other weight, held in the hand, while sitting or standing. The weight is lowered down to the thigh until your arm is nearly straight, then the arm is bent at the elbow, lifting the weight toward the chin. This exercise strengthens your hands, fingers, wrists and forearms, as well as your upper chest and shoulders. Turning the wrist inward while lifting the weight gives your wrist even more of a workout.
Chin ups, also known as pull-ups, are done by placing both hands on an overhead bar, about shoulder-width apart, then pulling yourself up from the ground until your chin is level with the bar. Not only does this benefit your hands, wrists and forearms, it also strengthens your back and abdominal muscles. To get maximum benefits in your hands and wrists, alternate your grip on the bar from overhand to underhand, and vary the distance between your hands.
Push-ups build strength in many muscle groups including the hands, wrists, arms, elbows, stomach and chest. Finger push ups, where weight is on your fingertips rather than your palms, have the added benefit of building strength in the fingers as well. While push-ups are usually done by pushing your body up onto the hands and toes, this can be modified for beginners by pushing up from your knees instead of the toes. As with chin ups, vary the spacing between your hands to exercise different groups of muscles.
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