Healthypedia
Lillian Wilson

Grip Strength 101: Definition, How It’s Measured, How To Improve

Find out how handgrip strength works and how it can improve your health and wellness.

Front,Hand,Pull,Up

Bet at least once during your school years you’ve had your grip strength measured in the course of PE. Recalling this experience, you might have come up with a picture of you and your classmates squeezing the device called a dynamometer. Everyone was trying their best to grasp the dynamometer as hard as possible to prove to be the strongest.

But what exactly is this handgrip strength? Is it just a number showing how powerful you are? Definitely not, handgrip strength can bring much more than a figure identifying your muscle strength. It can provide eternal information about your health, disease vulnerability to disease and even say, presumably predict, how long you will live. And here is why…

What is grip strength?

Handgrip strength (HGS) is the amount of force you can exert with your hand to hold or grasp an object. It is an overall measurement of the strength and power of the muscles in the hand and forearm as well as overall physical fitness.

Grip strength as a health indicator

Besides indicating how strong your muscles are grip strength is considered to be a very reliable health and mortality predictor. People with decent HGS levels are shown to be less likely to succumb to chronic diseases and tend to live longer.

How is grip strength measured?

There are several ways to test your muscle strength, but the most common is to use a hand dynamometer. Make sure to be cautious about the testing protocol because if some of the rules are broken the results might be inaccurate.

Thus, follow these steps:

1. Bend your elbow at a 90-degree angle

2. As hard as you can, squeeze the dynamometer

3. Your motions have to be smooth when applying grip force

4. Repeat the test three times

5. Then calculate the average of these three attempts and that will be your hand grip strength

What should your grip strength be?

As you are already acquainted with the definition and way of measuring your handgrip strength (HGS), you may wonder what grip levels you need and what ‘good’ HGS is.

The thing is that there are no ideal grip strength levels. Your result depends on various factors including age, gender, fitness level and the hand you measure.

For instance, men tend to have higher grip strength as biologically they have greater muscle bulk which contributes to greater HGS. On average, for men, healthy HGS measures about 72.6 pounds (32 kilograms), while for women, it measures around 44 pounds (20 kilograms).

For a better understanding of how the classification moves across genders and ages, see the HGS charts below.

If your grip strength is stronger than most people your age, congrats:) You’re fit as a fiddle and ‘younger’ than your chronological age. But it is also true in reverse.

Why increase your muscle strength: benefits of having good grip strength

Handgrip strength is a great health indicator. Various pieces of research show that high HGS levels are positively correlated with better overall health, wellness and longevity. Researchers suggest that we may use arm dynamometry as a method to measure how muscles are used; muscle utilisation is directly associated with frailty, disability as well as mortality and disease risks.

A vast number of studies show that poor grip strength is a predictor of increased mortality from various chronic conditions including cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Here are six main benefits of firm HGS:

1Reduced mortality risks

Handgrip strength is inversely related to lifespan and all-cause mortality. A review of over 14 studies on HGS revealed that people with weaker grips are 167% more likely to die than those with stronger muscle strength.

2Lower likelihood of chronic diseases

Overall, grip strength is linked with almost all your body parts and diseases that may occur. Studies show that people with higher HGS are less likely to develop cancers, type 2 diabetes and even depression.

Plus, your muscle strength is an ultimate cardio-health indicator; one study shows that the increase in HGS might reduce the 10-year cardiovascular disease risk by 1.76 times.

3Better physical performance and endurance

HGS is among the strongest predictors of overall muscular strength and endurance, according to a study from 2011. A stronger, firmer grip will make you able to perform daunting workouts for a longer time.

HGS is important for lifting heavier weights in the gym. Improving your grip will lead to better results in pulling movements such as deadlifts and pull-ups. A stronger grip will also result in better endurance, allowing for more repetitions per set and contributing to weight loss and muscle building.

4Better quality of life later on

Grip strength influences both our present and future lives. If you choose the first option, a strong grip can help with daily tasks and chores such as opening jars, carrying groceries, and turning doorknobs.

When it comes to later years, grip strength is a reliable indicator of the ageing-related quality of life. A study conducted on this factor found that handgrip power was highly correlated with disability and functional limitations among healthy men between 45 and 68 years of age.

Good muscle strength during midlife can protect individuals from old age impairment by offering them a greater safety margin beyond the disability threshold.
From the study ‘Midlife Hand Grip Strength as a Predictor of Old Age Disability’

5Injury and fractures prevention

Grip strength is positively correlated with a lower likelihood of injuries because a stronger grip indicates improved control over body movements and greater stability in lifting heavy objects. This reduces the risk of muscle strains, sprains, and other injuries that can occur during physical activity.

One study reports that a strong hand grip is associated with better shoulder stability and fewer shoulder injuries. It was also found that athletes who had weak hand grips were more likely to sustain rotator cuff injuries. A rotator cuff is a group of muscles that allow you to move your arm and shoulder.

Additionally, a stronger grip may reduce the accidents of injury as people with decent HGS are less likely to fall and experience fractures. There is a 53% increase in fall risk when upper limb muscle weakness is present, according to a meta-analysis.

6Improved cognitive and mental health

Being physically active and having improved levels of fitness is positively correlated with better cognitive and mental health. Research has shown that grip strength predicts overall health and wellness, and improving grip strength can have a significant impact on self-esteem and quality of life. Plus, according to a recent study, grip strength is a good predictor of cognitive function.

How to improve grip strength?

In order to achieve all the health benefits enumerated above it is needed to improve and keep in check HGS levels.

The best way to do so is by enhancing different groups of muscles. Building overall muscle mass through resistance training can indirectly improve HGS, as the increased muscle size and strength will also affect the grip muscles. However, directly targeting the grip muscles with grip-specific exercises such as grip holds, crushing exercises, and pulling exercises can lead to more significant improvement in HGS.

There are also daily routines that may be helpful in terms of enhancing your HGS. These are washing your car manually instead of using a car wash, mowing the lawn with a push mower instead of a riding one, shovelling snow and raking leaves. These chores can be a useful cherry-on-top-like edition for your workouts that will definitely boost muscle strength.

Let’s Sum Up

Thus, an understanding of what your muscle strength is and how important it is can be helpful to improve your overall fitness and wellness. It can help you identify the sweet spots of your health and physique you need to work on. By being aware of your HGS levels and enhancing them you can level up your health and receive a bunch of health benefits discussed in the very article.

Not enough? Here are some more from our colleagues

Adam Sinicki is a health enthusiast, a writer with more than 10 years of experience, and the author of the book ‘Functional Training and Beyond’. On his YouTube channel, he creates video essays focusing on functional training, brain training, productivity, the human body, and more.

In this video, Adam discusses the anatomy of the forearms and grip strength and how to train for strong hands and forearms and shares a bunch of good exercises aiming to improve your overall muscle strength.


Healthypedia FAQ

It is the amount of force one can exert with their hand to hold or grasp an object, measuring the power of the muscles in the hand and forearm, as well as fitness age.

HGS may be considered a health indicator because people who have high HGS are less likely to succumb to chronic diseases and tend to live longer, according to several studies.

It can be estimated using a hand dynamometer, you have to squeeze the device as hard as you can while following the proper testing protocol that covers how to properly place the hand and use the dynamometer.

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