Andrew C. Gallup and Bernhard Fink
Handgrip strength (HGS) is a robust measure of overall muscular strength and function, and has long been predictive of a multitude of health factors and physical outcomes for both men and women. The fact that HGS represents such a ubiquitous measure of health and vitality may reflect the significance of this trait during human evolution. This trait is also highly sexually dimorphic due to influences of androgenic hormones and fat-free body mass, suggesting that it has been further elaborated through sexual selection. Consistent with this view, research within evolutionary psychology and related fields has documented distinct relationships between HGS and measures of social and sexual behavior, especially in men. Here, we review studies across different societies and cultural contexts showing that male HGS predicts measures of aggression and social dominance, perceived formidability, male-typical body morphology and movement, courtship display, physical attractiveness, and sexual behavior and reproductive fitness. These findings underscore the value of including HGS as an independent measure within studies examining human sexual selection, and corroborate existing research suggesting that specific features of physical strength have and continue to be under positive directional selection in men.
Handgrip Strength as a Fitness Indicator in MenThe marked sexual dimorphism in overall HGS, combined with the distinct genetic and developmental factors influencing men and women, suggests that during human evolutionary history specific features of upper-body muscularity were further elaborated among males through sexual selection. Increased physical strength would have undoubtedly been favored within contexts of direct male–male competition and fighting (Sell et al., 2009), protection from predators (Sell et al., 2012), hunting (Apicella, 2014), and tool use and manufacture (Young, 2003). Arguably, HGS in particular, rather than other features of upper-body muscularity, would have had tremendous importance within these contexts. In regards to fighting, HGS alone is a robust predictor of ability and outcomes. For example, the correlation between HGS and ranking among amateur middleweight boxers is 0.87 (Guidetti et al., 2002). In addition, forearm strength is particularly important for traditional forms of hunting (Smith et al., 2017). Furthermore, tool use and manufacture has likely played a direct role in shaping both precision and powerful gripping during human evolutionary history (Young, 2003). Due to the vital importance of this trait within the ancestral environment, cues of upper-body muscularity and formidability seem to be important features of female mate choice among modern humans as they account for ∼70% of the variance in male bodily attractiveness (Sell et al., 2017). Thus, HGS has likely been under directional selection in men as it relates to reproductive competition.
Consistent with the sex-specific role of HGS within contexts of social and sexual competition, Gallup et al. (2007) found that HGS predicted self-reported levels of aggression, male-typical body morphology, and sexual behavior in men, while none of the variables examined were correlated with HGS in a comparable sample of women. Here, we review the latest literature to investigate the extent to which these initial findings have been replicated and extended. We focused on peer-reviewed articles in evolutionary psychology and related fields that explicitly examined relationships between HGS and measures of inter- and intra-sexual selection. Although a growing number of studies have included HGS within composite measures of upper-body strength (e.g., Sell et al., 2009; Lukaszewski and Roney, 2011; Smith et al., 2017), many fail to report on the specific connection of HGS to the dependent measures. However, in cases where HGS is parceled out of these composite measures we do report the documented effects. Table Table11 presents the findings over the last decade specifically linking HGS to measures of intra- and inter-sexual selection and reproductive fitness.
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Velocity programs are becoming more and more necessary since the demand to throw harder is expected by coaches at all levels. When putting MPH of a fastball you have an obligation to make sure the players you’re working with are doing as much of not more to build the muscles that actually decelerate the throwing motion.
You can’t put a Lamborghini engine in a Honda without changing the breaks and expect to stop without something breaking. Build the Hamstrings, Gluts, Lats, and Rear Deltoids “Posterior Chain Muscles” to ensure the player can decelerate their body as their velocity goes up and you’ll have a healthy athlete. Posture and Grip Strength are also things that need to be addressed! The KC GRIPZ Sports Kit has everything you need to develop your body correctly and balance your Kinetic Chain to ensure staying healthy!
Check out this playlist to learn how important Grip Strength and the Posterior Chain is to a throwing athlete!
Written by Brett Jones Thursday, September 14, 2017
Our hands are a major way that we learn and interact with our environment. The fine motor skills of our fingers allow us to manipulate objects and explore our world in unique ways. There is even a belief that our manual dexterity with our hands is part of what lead to the development of our neocortex by allowing for creativity and enhanced problem solving.
Our hands are mediators of social contact, “made possible by the seamless integration of our hands into our cognitive system, making our manual skills an important part of our interaction with the environment and of our capacities for feeling, exploring, acting, planning, and learning.”
The hands are responsible for a disproportionate amount of “real estate” in the cerebral cortex, the area of the brain that is responsible for processing to sensory and motor function. The cortical homunculus (below) represents the how much of the brain is dedicated to mapping, patterning and controlling various body parts. What’s the first thing you notice? Huge hands. Unlike our limbs and trunk, the brain demands an immense amount of motor and sensory information from the hands.
It would not be a stretch to say that the capabilities of our hands is one of the things that sets humans apart as a species. So what does this have to do with fitness?
In fitness, our hands are often our only connection to the weight we push, pull and lift. Additionally, our grip capacity may be an indicator of general health.
A recent study found that grip strength is closely correlated with all cause of mortality.
Before you run out and buy your grippers and grip tools, realize that because grip correlates well does not mean we should isolate the grip, but rather look at routines and activities in our “fitness lives” that bring grip strength along with them, such as: Deadlift, Farmer’s Carry, Bottom-up Kettlebell Drills, Pull-ups, and Kettlebell Ballistics.
A well rounded “fitness life” should build your strength and grip and it may be that healthier lifestyle and strength that makes grip correlate so well with lifespan.
This is highlighted in this recent article:
“Similarly, it appears that occupation, leisure activity, sport, and training status may also affect HGS (97, 151). Josty et al. (83), for instance, reported that male office workers had significantly weaker HGS compared to equally aged car mechanics and farmers. Based on job demands, the magnitude of force required during repetitive HG tasks performed by a car mechanic and other physical occupations (e.g. grasping and lifting heavy objects, using hand-tools, such as wrenches, ratchets, saws, drills, and hammers) will differ greatly in comparison to office workers (e.g. typing, clicking a mouse, filing, and answering the phone).”
The deadlift and its variations tap into the importance of the grip. We connect to what we are trying to lift via our hands. And the next link in that chain is the shoulder and on into the “core.” The connection between the grip and shoulder starts at the neck and through the brachial plexus and via irradiation the grip and shoulder communicate. An interesting study found that those with a history of a wrist injury showed weakness in the rotator cuff musculature. The deadlift is a great way to strengthen the grip and from the distraction on the joint, as well as strengthen the stabilizers of the shoulder.
A 2004 study published by the Journal of Hand Surgery found that there is “an increased prevalence of rotator cuff weakness is shown proximal to ipsilateral hand injuries or disorders.
The Farmer’s Carry is all about postural Integrity. Can you maintain alignment with integrity under load? Grab a pair of dumbbells, KBs, or sandbags and go for a walk. Your grip endurance will be worked and your postural integrity will be challenged by the shifting center of mass.
Bottom-Up KB Drills:
The design of the kettlebell allows us to turn it upside down and provide a unique challenge to the grip and wrist. And when we combine that KB position with the Military Press and Squat we have an opportunity to check the integration and efficiency of those patterns. Moving through the Military Press and Squat requires smooth transitions between muscle groups and joint positions. With the Bottom-up challenge we can see if there are “gaps” or challenges to those positions and transitions. Connecting the grip to the pattern as an indicator of efficiency.
Pull-ups, Chin-ups and other rowing variation use the grip to connect us to the bar or implement. When hanging from the bar we get to experience a form of brachiation (hanging from the limbs) and one of the most primal uses of our grip.
KB Swings and Snatches:
The thick handle and off-set center of mass of the kettlebell already make it a powerful tool for the grip and whole body but when used for ballistic drills like the Swing and Snatch those benefits are amplified. During a two-handed KB swing with a 24 kg KB I can produce between 3 and 3.5 x bodyweight loads in the eccentric “catch and redirect” portion of the swing and that load is handled (haha – “hand”led) through the grip.
I am not opposed to working the grip in “isolation.” The myriad facets of the grip; crushing, pinching, wide grip, supporting, and wrist work are fun and effective additions to a good strength training routine. But this is in addition to not in replace of a well-rounded routine. I can tell you that I entered into grip training at a fairly high level just due to the kettlebell work (swings and snatches) that I had been performing. Closing a #2 Captains of Crush gripper and bending a 60d nail on my first attempts were strong (haha – strong) indicators of a good grip built through strength training and kettlebell ballistics.
Our hands are a critical way what we interact with our environment and by encouraging exercises and activities that in include our grip we can enhance our overall fitness and health.
The shoulder joint is an amazing structure which allows us as humans to throw, pull, push and rotate our arm through a large range of motion. This joint is extremely mobile but is somewhat muscle-dependent as it lacks a strong surrounding ligament support system. The muscles that help secure our shoulder joint are the rotator cuff muscles and primarily consist of the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor and the subscapularis. Anatomical terminology aside, these muscles are part of the infrastructure that is responsible for the health of your shoulder joint. Exhibit weakness or inflexibility in any of these muscles and you’re bound to encounter shoulder tendonitis, bursitis or a potentially more devastating injury. Fear not, these muscles are easy to stimulate and require only a few minutes per day to activate, mobilize and strengthen.
Mobility is essential for allowing the soft tissues to align properly so the strengthening portion can be most effective. There are two spots that need to be addressed before we can work on the rotator cuff muscles.
1) Thoracic Spine – this area is located in the mid to upper back running along side the spine and between the shoulder blades. Lay down on a roller or conjoined ball then fold over the item. From here sit up by engaging the core and then relaxing. Perform this sequence 2 – 3 times before moving up the spine one vertebrae at a time. Remember, never roll directly on the boney structure of the spine, just the adjacent muscles.
2) Anterior Deltoid – this area is located in the front of the shoulder. Start by laying face down on a roller or large ball, targeting the specified area. Now raise the arm overhead then slowly perform a reverse snow angel until your arms are almost reaching into your back pockets before returning to the arm overhead. Repeat 10 times on each side. Remember, this technique can be performed against a wall should you experience a lot of discomfort on the floor.
Now that we have loosened up the area and allowed it to function more efficiently it is time to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles with a simple set of exercises, T’s, Y’s and I’s.
T’s – Lay face down with arms straight out by the side at 90 degrees so the body and arms form the letter “T”. Make sure the thumbs are pointing up at all times. Now squeeze the shoulder blades together by raising the arms a few inches off the ground, hold for 2 seconds then relaxing and repeating for a total of 20 repetitions.
Y’s – In the same position we now shift our arms up to form the letter “Y”. Again, make sure the thumbs are pointing up while lifting the arms and squeezing the shoulder blades for 2 full seconds before relaxing. Repeat for a total of 20 repetitions.
I’s – Lastly, the body position remains the same but the arms reach all the way overhead so the biceps are next to the ears with the thumbs facing up. Now pinch the shoulder blades together and raise the arms overhead for a 2 second pause before relaxing. You guessed it, another 20 repetitions.
These mobility techniques can be performed for a combined 5 minutes while the rotator cuff strengthening exercises should start with 1 set of 20 repetitions and then increasing to 2, 3 or 4 sets over the course of weeks or until the athlete exhibits the control and muscular endurance to perform properly. Stay on top of these techniques and your chance of injury goes down drastically.
The importance of hydration for good health and properly functioning body systems cannot be overstated. As the warmer months approach and outdoor activities increase, special attention needs to be given to proper hydration and to the prevention of heat illnesses for all, but especially for young athletes.
Because the body cannot store water, we must constantly provide and supply it with water to maintain our body’s many functioning systems. While water contains zero calories, it is considered a nutrient, comprising 55-70% of our body’s composition.
Acting as a cooling agent for our body, water is also essential for all major bodily functions, to include:
Contrary to popular belief, simply drinking water when you are thirsty is not good advice when it comes to properly hydrating the body. When the thirst mechanism activates, it is usually a sign the body is already under hydrated (and possibly headed toward dehydration). At this point, the body has to catch up to function properly.
How Much Water Is Enough?So, how much water should young athletes drink? The answer is - it depends. Water intake is based on several variables, and even within that set, will vary according to the needs of the individual. General considerations of hydration might be based on the length of the activity, environmental conditions such as heat and humidity, the length and intensity of the practice or game, and additional gear the athlete may be wearing, such as football or hockey gear.
While considering some of the environmental factors of hydration, consideration must be given to the individual needs of the athlete, such as the weight and age of the athlete, the intensity level at which the athlete trains or plays, the current physical conditioning of the athlete, and the current hydration level of the athlete. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)recommends drinking four to eight ounces of water every fifteen to twenty minutes of exercise as a good starting point for hydrating athletes.
The ACSM provides the following guidelines for the maintenance of optimal hydration:
The Importance of Grip Strength
Grip strength has been an integral part of conditioning for baseball for decades. Why? Because years of practical experience and scientific research indicate that grip strength can have a significant effect on offensive performance in professional baseball players. In a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (1), 343 professional baseball players in the Texas Rangers organization were tested over the course of two separate seasons. Players represented all levels within the Rangers organization. Ninety Rookie Ball players, 84 A-ball players, 50 AA players; 52 AAA players and 62 Major League players were tested for grip strength, power, speed and agility. Regression equations were developed to determine the relationship between each of these tests and performance as measured by home runs, total bases, slugging percentage and stolen bases. While the results indicated that the best predictors of over-all performance were power, speed and agility, grip strength was significantly related to home runs, total bases and slugging percentage. It is also interesting to note that the players that had the most lean body mass, greatest power, fastest speed and best agility, also had the most grip strength.
Training for grip strength should be similar to that for other forms of strength. Baseline values should be obtained and training should follow a periodization model in which exercises, volume and intensity are varied throughout the season. Assessments of grip strength should be performed at regular intervals to determine progress, evaluate program effectiveness and monitor compliance.
Most “authorities” on grip strength say that there are two basic types of grip strength:
Harvard Health Blog » Grip strength may provide clues to heart health - Harvard Health Blog
Grip strength may provide clues to heart health!
POSTED MAY 19, 2015, 12:11 PM , UPDATED SEPTEMBER 08, 2016, 5:16 PM
Howard LeWine, M.D., Chief Medical Editor, Internet Publishing, Harvard Health PublicationsA strong or weak hand grip carries more than just social cues. It may also help measure an individual’s risk for having a heart attack or stroke, or dying from cardiovascular disease.
As part of the international Prospective Urban and Rural Epidemiological (PURE) study, researchers measured grip strength in nearly 140,000 adults in 17 countries and followed their health for an average of four years. A device called a dynamometer was used to assess grip strength.
Each 11-pound decrease in grip strength over the course of the study was linked to a 16% higher risk of dying from any cause, a 17% higher risk of dying from heart disease, a 9% higher risk of stroke, and a 7% higher risk of heart attack.
The connections between grip strength and death or cardiovascular disease remained strong even after the researchers adjusted for other things that can contribute to heart disease or death, such as age, smoking, exercise, and other factors. The findings were published online in The Lancet. Interestingly, grip strength was a better predictor of death or cardiovascular disease than blood pressure.
“Grip strength could be an easy and inexpensive test to assess an individual’s risk of death and cardiovascular disease,” said lead author Dr. Darryl Leong, from the Population Health Research Institute at Hamilton Health Sciences and McMaster University in Canada, in a news release.
Is grip strength a measure of biological age?The findings from the PURE study aren’t new. Previous research has also linked grip strength with future disability, death, and the onset of cardiovascular disease in adults. But this is the largest study to have made the connection. The fact that grip strength was a relevant measure across high-income, middle-income, and low-income countries lends credence to the findings.
An individual’s age in years (chronological age) can be quite different from his or her biological age. Although there’s no exact definition for biological age, it generally indicates whether the body is functioning better or worse than its chronological age.
Many things influence biological age. Key factors include overall physical fitness, the presence or absence of certain medical conditions, and muscle strength.
The PURE study suggests that simply measuring one’s hand grip strength could be a good way to assess biological age. In an editorial accompanying the PURE results, Avan Aihie Sayer and Thomas Kirkwood of the University of Southampton and Newcastle University, both in the United Kingdom, suggest that “grip strength might act as a biomarker of ageing across the life course.”
One intriguing finding was that a weaker hand grip wasn’t associated with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, cancer, or other chronic conditions. So why would it be linked with a greater risk of dying? The researchers suggest that weaker muscle strength makes it more likely that a person will die sooner if he or she develops a chronic medical problem, compared with those who have more muscle strength. In other words, muscle strength could be good for survival.
Strong muscles need work, nutrients, restTo build muscle strength, do resistance training two or three times per week. Give your muscles one or two days off in between workouts.
Most people turn to dumbbells and weight machines to build muscles. Resistance bands work just as well. They are flat or tubular rubber bands that provide resistance as you move your arms and legs through different ranges of motion.
You don’t have to limit muscle building to workouts. Take advantage of daily activities to challenge your muscles. For example:
Finally, your muscles need healthy nutrients to get stronger. You don’t need protein supplements or lots of meat. Beans, nuts, and fish can provide plenty of healthy protein. Get your carbs from whole grains and foods made from them. And eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
Preventing Softball Injuries
Softball injuries in young athletes are on the rise and nearly as frequent as baseball injuries, but they generally result in less time lost to competition. These injuries most commonly involve the back, shoulder, forearm, wrist, and hand. Pitchers are not more prone to injury than position players; catchers and infielders have similar injury rates. However, pitcher injuries differ from position player injuries because pitchers use a windmill motion that places unique demands on the back, neck, shoulder, forearm, and wrist.
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WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON OVERUSE INJURIES IN SOFTBALL?
For pitchers, the most common overuse injuries are shoulder tendinitis (inflammation of the tendon), back or neck pain, and elbow, forearm, and wrist tendinitis. For catchers, back and knee problems in addition to overhead throwing shoulder problems are the most common. For other position players, overhead shoulder and sometimes elbow problems predominate.
HOW CAN OVERUSE SOFTBALL INJURIES BE PREVENTED?
Overuse injuries are preventable. Some tips to keep you in the game throughout your life include:
Warm up properly by stretching, running, and easy, gradual throwing.
Rotate playing other positions besides pitcher.
Concentrate on age-appropriate pitching.
Adhere to pitch count guidelines (see tables).
Avoid pitching on multiple teams with overlapping seasons.
Flexibility of pitchers needs to be the focus during the season rather than strengthening.
Don't pitch with pain, and see a doctor if the pain persists for a week.
Don't pitch more than two consecutive days until age 13, and then no more than three days in a row.
Don't play year-round.
Radar Guns should only be used during competition for best pitch of speed vs. change up (ages 15+).
Communicate regularly about how your arm is feeling and if there is pain or fatigue.
Develop skills that are age appropriate.
Emphasize control, accuracy, and good mechanics.
Speak with a sports medicine professional or athletic trainer if you have any concerns about softball injuries or softball injury prevention strategies
Return to play only when clearance is granted by a health care professional.
The athlete should return to play only when clearance is granted by a health care professional.
Maximum Pitch Counts
Days 1 & 2Pitches/Day
Once girls begin to play competitively, they often play two games per day on two or three consecutive days. Two days of rest for pitchers is essential to prevent injuries. Additional guidelines include:
Girls < 12 years - only 2 days of consecutive pitching
Girls > 13 years - only 3 days of consecutive pitching
Rest means no live pitches, including batting practice. Pitchers may need to 'loosen up' with a flexibility routine on the second rest day and can participate in hitting and field drills.
HOW IS AN OVERUSE ELBOW OR SHOULDER INJURY TREATED?
The most obvious treatment for overuse is rest, especially from the activity that created the injury. Ice is also used to reduce soreness and inflammation, and Ibuprofen can be taken to help with any pain. If symptoms persist, it is critical that a rehabilitation professional or physician be contacted, especially if there is a lack of full motion. Unlike baseball injuries, most softball overuse injuries do not require surgery, but the care by a professional is advised, especially if pain persists or the injury recurs. Under some circumstances, surgery may be necessary to correct a problem. After a time loss injury, a return to play throwing program should be used (see references).
REFERENCES AND ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
Krajnik S, Fogarty KJ, Y ard EE, Comstock RD. Shoulder injuries in US high school baseball and softball athletes, 2005-2008. Pediatrics. 2010. 125(3):497-501.
Sauers EL, Dykstra DL, B ay RC, B liven KH, Snyder AR. Upper extremity injury history, current pain rating, and health-related quality of life in female softball pitchers. J Sport Rehabil. 2011. 20(1):100-14.
Axe MJ, Windley T C, Snyder-Mackler L . Data-Based Interval Throwing Programs for Collegiate Softball Players. J Athl Train. 2002. 37(2):194-203.
Marshall SW, Hamstra-Wright KL, Dick R, Grove KA, Agel J . Descriptive epidemiology of collegiate women's softball injuries: National Collegiate Athletic Association Injury Surveillance System, 1988-1989 through 2003- 2004. J Athl Train. 2007. 42(2):286-94.
The following expert consultants contributed to the tip sheet:
Mary Lloyd Ireland, MD
Lynn Snyder-Mackler, PT, ScD
Bonnie Jill (BJ ) Ferguson, Coach
Sports Tips provide general information only and are not a substitute for your own good judgement or consultation with a physician.
Grip Strength and overall Health
How Your Hands Help Fight Off Heart Disease and Stroke. A new study suggests lacking this ability may lead to an early death.
Here’s how to boost it BY LISA FREEDMAN
Want to take control of your health? Get a grip. Your ability to squeeze things tightly may be as indicative as your blood pressure when it comes to predicting death, heart disease, and stroke, suggests a new Canadian study.
Researchers studied close to 140,000 adults from 17 countries over a 4-year period. Participants had their grip strength measured with something called a Jamar dynamometer—a handheld, squeezable metal contraption with hydraulics and a dial that measures force—and the scientists checked in again at the end of study.
The results: For every 5-kilogram (about 11 pounds) decrease in grip strength after the initial measurement, participants’ risk of death increased by 16 percent. Their risk of cardiovascular mortality also jumped by 17 percent, as did their risk of stroke by 9 percent.
The typical range that’s considered good for men in their 20s and 30s is around 36 to 56 kilograms, or about 80 to 123 pounds. The higher that number, the less likely you are to die early, the study suggests.
Researchers aren’t sure whether high grip strength is just a good marker of overall health, or if good muscle function can translate to less cardiovascular disease and vulnerability to other conditions.
Some reports say improved muscle strength may be linked with better blood vessel function, but more research is needed, says lead study author Darryl Leong, Ph.D., of McMaster University in Ontario.
The study results aren’t surprising to Men’s Health Fitness Director BJ Gaddour, C.S.C.S., creator of the Lose Your Spare Tire exercise program.
“If you can’t grip it, you can’t lift it,” says Gaddour, explaining that many of the best fat-burning and muscle-building moves require you to hold weights. “The more weight you can hold and the longer you can hold them, the better your exercise performance and overall fitness.”
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