Hand Exercise Neglect – A Convenience Issue?

January 31, 2014

When I first started thinking about hand exercise, I was as a young athlete growing up in my hometown of Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada. My early sports loves were hockey and golf. In fact they still are. And both were very much grip related sports. I had to learn about hand exercise. I have since added personal interests in the grip-related activities of music, ergonomics and rehabilitation.

Back in the day, grip-only hand exercise was all I knew. Spring loaded hand grippers and squeeze balls (especially racquet balls) for me did the trick. They really seemed to work well. And man, they were easy to do! Squeeze, relax, squeeze, relax… repeat… repeat. Strong hands were on their way. Easy Peasy! Right? Right!

Later in life I became more deeply enthralled with learning about muscle training and balance, not only in the hand, but in the rest of the body. As a health care professional in training, I was taught to think outside the box and question any health or fitness habit or belief. And I did. And I still do. At the very least, this strategy has helped me learn well… and at the most, this approach really has helped me to see many misunderstandings – frankly, folklore – in our health and fitness systems. There is a lot of poor advice that we have come to accept as fact. Be careful.

One of the great folklore categories was hand exercise. 18 hand muscles affect the working of the hand itself and only 9 of those are involved in the direct closing of the hand. Grip-only hand exercise was not only not the way to train, it could lead to debilitating muscle imbalance and joint instability. Simple anatomy. No chance for controversy. Hand grip is a co-contraction between the flexor and extensor muscles of the hand. Wanna be your best? Gotta train them all. All 18. In balance. No question. Carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, DeQuervain’s tenosynovitis, cramping, fatigue, weakness, numbness, adhesions… all can have the base cause of hand muscle imbalance.

My love for hockey and golf later placed me in the spotlight as an adviser for grip mechanics to many athletes and musicians, and my advice did not often thrill them. Balls & elastic bands would be necessary to properly train their hand muscles… and I taught them that in no uncertain terms, proper hand muscle training would be the key to stabilize the hand, as well as wrist, carpal tunnel & elbow. Two items and multiple exercises later, they were burdened with trying to get this all done. I bet they wish they had never learned the details, because the program I gave them was unreasonably time consuming… and as a result, few really complied.

I knew that to train people properly, complete hand exercise would have to be simplified to a point that anyone could understand it and anyone could do it. This path has been a blessing because Handmaster Plus was developed through these failures, experiences and challenges. And we are now helping people strengthen the 9 muscles that close the hand AND the 9 muscles that open the hand in one simple exercise… around the world. It’s now just as convenient to train the hands properly as it was in the day where I only used a racquet ball only.

Convenient and complete hand exercise. That’s good news for athletes, musicians, ergonomics and therapy. But if you won’t train your hand properly nowadays, it’s your own fault. Handmaster Plus makes it so easy.

Click on Handmaster Plus hand exercise system or more information. Click BUY NOW for purchase information. Feel free to contact us at any time for more information or to inquire about distribution.

Hand Exercise & Finger Extensors

January 30, 2014

Hand exercise (and hand exercisers) has neglected the value of strengthening the finger extensors for the past 40 years. Has this been a grave mistake? I think so. And our sEMG (electromyography) studies prove it over and over again.

We know a lot more about the coordination of the body nowadays – as well as the existence of some very real and intricate kinetic chains – than we did 30 years ago. So why then, when it comes to hand exercise training, are we stuck in the dark ages? We seem to have ignored all that we have learned about the body when it comes to addressing the hands, more specifically the extensor muscles of the hand.

Hand exercise illustrating extension

Hand exercise – finger extensors

Kinetic chains are observed when coordinated – though traditionally seemingly unrelated – body areas are enacted in perfect synchronicity to ensure that a desired action takes place. Usually there is a more ‘core’ type muscle fire followed in synchronicity by more peripheral type muscle firings. Or depending on the action needed the firing maybe reactive and the firing basically occurs backwards.

Indeed the body does not waste effort or form by design. We must try our best to observe the wonder of our own nature to understand why these thumb and finger extensor muscles (and abductor muscles) exist and what they actually do.

Handmaster Plus of course addresses the finger extensor muscles through full, natural 3-dimensional ranges of motion. So why do we stand out so much from the norm of hand exercise to do this? Refer to the sEMG muscle fire pattern chart below to understand:

Hand exercise - extensor & flexor muscles

Hand exercise muscle pattern

Notice how the finger extensor muscles contract just as much as the finger flexor muscles during this example of a hockey slap shot? The finger extensor muscles are very active ‘in support’ of the finger flexor muscles, even though the lay person might think this action was dependent only on the finger flexor muscles. No. Both are key. A standard co-contraction that we see on all grip activities. And note that repetitive grip is a daily feature in nearly all of our lives, especially NOW with our dependence on smartphones. We’d better learn now about the grip muscles and proper health and hand exercise!

So why then are the finger extensor muscles a problem you might ask? If we use them all of the time, aren’t they being strengthened? And the answer is no. They are being shortened.

Think of what happens when you grip anything. Now that you know that the extensor muscles are actively contracted, ask your self if they are contracting through their full NATURAL range of motion (ROM). Of course you can see they are not. And like any other muscle in the body if it is chronically contracting in a small range of motion, it will eventual build itself weak relative to its potential.

The second problem with chronically shortened and weakened extensor muscles is that they will be overwhelmed by the opposing flexor muscles – that ARE trained through more full of ROM’s during the course of regular grip activities. Imbalance and instability of the joints and structures that the two groups support is inevitable. Thus fingers, thumbs, wrists, carpal tunnels, forearms and elbows are all shortened into a flexed or closed position. The best example of comparison is to say that the imbalance is akin to ‘bad posture’ of the hand wrist & elbow structures. Suggesting that someone use a ‘grip-only’ hand exercise product is like telling someone with bad posture to slouch more. It just does not make sense.

In the old days I would give patients 3 or 4 awkward exercises to do to train these extensor and flexor muscles properly. Only a small percentage would actually do them, so I ecstatic to have access NOW to Handmaster Plus. One easy exercise solves this whole problem… through full natural 3-dimensional ROM’s. Nothing could be easier. Hand exercise has reached its modern place in time.

Click on Handmaster Plus hand exercise system or more information. Click BUY NOW for purchase information. Feel free to contact us at any time for more information or to inquire about distribution.

Now go get those hands, wrists, carpal tunnels & elbows strong, balanced & healthy for a lifetime!

Hand Exercisers for Grip Strength vs. Handmaster Plus

January 28, 2014
Hand exercisers have NOT come a long way in the past 40 years. And that may come as a shock to many people. But once you read about hand grip strength mechanics in sports and everyday activities, you may see why. And you may see why it is time for a change.

hand exercisers

Hand exercise extension

Hand exerciser

Hand exercise flexion

My name is Dr. Terry Zachary and I am the developer of Handmaster Plus.

The hand exerciser that I grew up sensing was the best was the classic coiled hand gripper. Two handles and a coil – and it was tough to move. One handle grip rested on your thumb pad, one in your fingers. Squeeze, release, squeeze, release… as long as you could go! Pretty soon I would be very tired. What a hand exercise workout! I could feel my hand and forearm muscles tighten, so it must be a good exercise – right?

Then as I became interested in competitive golf, the default hand exerciser became… the tennis ball. Being a Canadian, Moe Norman had used this hand exercise approach, so how could it be wrong? Golfers grip the club and this more grip strength. Made sense.

Soon I became aware of the next of the next accepted traditional hand exercisers, the spring loaded gripper. The key difference here was that the user could use each finger separately, if they choose, and hey this would allow me to strengthen specific fingers that are more involved in the golf grip. So wow, it couldn’t get much better than that right?

All of these experiences happened before I went to Palmer College in 1986 and during that time I played on the school’s golf team. Our golf team had a trip through which I would need to miss an x-ray quiz. When I met spoke to Dr. Percuoco about having to miss the quiz, he instead excused me from the quiz in lieu of a report on golfer’s elbow. He had taken the meeting so well that I felt like I would really like to do a good job on the report… and that I did. I was very interested in how muscles and muscle balance affected joint stability, as it is a key topic in being able to reach certain positions in a golf swing. As I researched golfer’s and (and tennis elbow alike) I began to see for myself how important my choice of hand exercisers are to the balance of the elbow… The hand muscles attached at the medial AND lateral elbow. Later I would also see how important hand muscle balance is to finger, thumb, hand, wrist, carpal tunnel & forearm balance too… and to range of motion and performance. Yet it seemed like no one else noticed what seemed to me to be a very obvious anatomy pattern.

The next so-called hand exerciser that drew my attention was the traditional ‘rice-box’ exercise. Yes, a box with rice. Not very sexy. Not very shiny. Not very portable. But for me mechanically this was by far the leading hand exercise because it took into account muscle balance. The hand could nearly fully close (strengthening the flexor and adductor muscles) and more importantly the hand could also open fully (strengthening the key extensors and abductors).

Yet to most athletes, trainers, musicians and lay-people I would observe, the coiled, or spring loaded gripper or stress balls were ALL I saw being used. I knew there was a problem in hand exercise.

It was many years later that my interest in proper grip training re-emerged. I had graduated and been in practise for several years, and I had decided to time away from practise to pursue my dream to play professional golf. During that time a fellow player that I was travelling with had an excruciating case of tennis elbow. Upon taking his history it didn’t take long to find that he was a regular tennis ball squeezer, no opposing extension or abduction exercises. And this trend was standard for all of the mini tour players I talked to. They either did no hand exercise or ‘grip-only’ hand exercise. No one understood the mechanics it seemed.

That is why I designed Handmaster Plus. I rest assured I tried hard to mimic the proper mechanical exercise, yet with a portability factor. Now anyone can use one simple continuous exercise to strengthen and balance all 18 muscles of the hand. The result is strength, stability and performance of the finger, thumb, hand, wrist, carpal tunnel, forearm & elbow. The vectors of resistance are accurate and in 3 dimensions. I never mentioned before that coiled hand grippers and the spring loaded hand exercisers work only in 2-dimensions, as well as in grip-only.

When exercising the hand muscles, like any other part of your body, exercise in balance.

For more information, visit Handmaster Plus hand exerciser or contact us at info@doczac.com for more information or BUY NOW.