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