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.
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.