10 Exercises to Improve Hand Strength

With the increased use of technology, handwriting is becoming a less preferred method of communication. Ironically, today (1/23) is National Handwriting Day but fewer adults and children are using handwriting as a mode of communication. As a result, hand weakness has also become more prevalent in both youth and adults.

As a hand therapist, I see underdeveloped hand musculature (flat palms or lack of hand arches) in children as well as grip and pinch weakness in adults. The effects on handwriting are obvious (hand fatigue, illegibility), however, the effects can extend to other activities of daily living.

10 Fun Ways to Increase Hand Strength

1) Use theraputty for gripping and pinching. Hide coin and other small objects in the putty to encourage pinching and pulling with the thumb, index, and middle fingers
Tip: Use different fingers to pull objects out of the putty.

2) Pinch clothespins or use tweezers to manipulate small objects to work on pinch strength using the thumb, index, and middle fingers.
Tip: Use different size items to pick up with clothespins or tweezers and sort items (beads,marbles, beans, coin)

3) Tear and crumble paper into balls
Tip: Use different types of paper as strength improves (tissue paper, magazines, and construction paper)

4) Use a hand gripper
Tip: Purchase a hand gripper that can be easily adjusted with different resistive springs as strength improves.

5) Rubberband finger exercises: Place a rubberband around all fingers and thumb and spread fingers in and out. Tip: Use different strengths of rubber bands or multiple bands as strength improves.

6) Tracing objects or letters: Using a tripod pinch (using thumb, index, and middle fingers to hold pen) trace letters in print and cursive while maintaining this grip.
Tip: Use a vibration pen to trace letters which requires increased pressure around the pen in order to control and stabilize. Can also add shoulder strengthening component by taping the paper to a wall and tracing letters while standing.

7) China balls: Hold the China balls in one hand and rotate them around one another in a clockwise direction.
Tip: Reverse direction of balls in counterclockwise direction for added challenge.

8) Velcro object board: Purchase sticky back hook and loop Velcro. Attach loop Velcro to different objects (I like to use various sized buttons) then “stick” them on the hook Velcro board and pull off.

9) Use games and toys: Constructing Legos, rubber band loom board, or pop beads
Tip: Encourage pulling and pushing objects together and pulling apart with the use of different fingers. Start with using the thumb and index then progress to using other fingers.

10) Use an activity such as cooking (stirring, kneading dough, cookie cutters, rolling pen) or wood constructing (holding a nail and hammering) or a craft (cutting, coloring, painting, squeezing glue)or playing an instrument (piano, horn or wind instruments)
Tip: The key is to find an interest to you to make hand strengthening fun!

About the Author: Julie Freiner, OTR, CHT is an occupational therapist with over 18 years of experience as a certified hand therapist. She practices in O’Fallon, MO.