Understanding Hand Exercise & Grip Strength – (Part 1) The 9 Muscles That Close The Hand

My name is Dr. Terry Zachary. I’ve been involved specifically in grip and hand muscle training for over 25 years. In applications ranging from sports, music, therapy, the workplace, hobby & modern electronics, I can’t say strongly enough how important I feel properly understood hand exercise is to your health, fitness, and performance.

Over these decades, my opinion of grip and hand strength training has changed substantially. Every year, through research, our group discovers more reasons why proper, complete hand muscle training is vital. The more we test, the more details we find. Learn the hand muscles and their vast reach and you will understand my passion.

In regard to the health & fitness culture, we tend to move onto training the biceps, triceps, shoulders, back, and chest – and so on – as our vital exercise focal points. Exercises in these historically popular areas have been demonstrated over and over for good reason. Yet not much consideration has been given to proper hand exercise and overall grip muscle training.

It serves anyone involved in grip related activities to study or reflect on the detailed and diverse attachment points and effects that the hand muscles have on the various joints and components of the upper extremity. If you are a healthcare or fitness professional, it is a good idea to review grip muscles regularly. If you are like I was, hand muscle anatomy can get away on you easily!

So what is it about the diverse hand muscles that have left them to be so carelessly dismissed from all upper extremity health and training concerns? They are a vital part of the fitness story, a vital part of the kinetic chain of grip and are depended on in the training room when addressing the entire upper body. The ‘hand grip’ is often the link of the user to the training weight or resistance in upper body training. Grip happens as a known kinetic chain.

9 Muscles Close the Hand

9 Muscles Close the Hand

The health effects and Imbalances of improper hand training (or of poorly delivered training) cannot be overstated. Hand muscles attach at (and therefore affect) the 1) fingers, 2) thumb, 3) hand, 4) wrist, 5) carpal tunnel, 6) forearm & 7) elbow.

If you depend on your hands in your daily routine, this is a subject you need to have a grasp on. Grip performance may seem adequate one day and be completely gone the next. Just ask any injured athlete in golf, tennis, hockey, baseball, and gymnastics to name a few. Or ask any musician, gamer or dental hygienist. These imbalances can be debilitating and life-altering.

In an effort to illustrate the diversity of the anatomical area that controls the hand, let us now very basically review ‘The 9 Muscles That Close the Hand’ and mention their general origin and insertion points to illustrate the diverse path of each muscle. This way the reader can see for him- or herself all the potential negative and positive ‘effects’ of hand exercise.

Hand Closing Muscles

1. Palmar interosseous – Originate at the metacarpals (hand), insert at the proximal phalanges (fingers).
2. Adductor pollicus– Originates at metacarpals (hand) and carpals (wrist), inserts at the proximal phalanx of the thumb.
3. Flexor digitorum superficialis – Originates at the medial epicondyle (elbow) of the humerus, and at the ulna and radius (forearm), inserts into middle phalanges of the 4 fingers.
4. Flexor digitorum profundus – Originates at the ulna and interosseous membrane between the ulna and radius (forearm), inserts into the distal phalanges of the 4 fingers.
5. Opponens digiti minimi – Originates on the transverse carpal ligament (the roof of the carpal tunnel), inserts at the metacarpal of the pinky finger.
6. Opponens pollicus – Originates on the transverse carpal ligament (carpal tunnel), inserts at the metacarpal of the thumb.
7. Flexor pollicus brevis – Originates at the transverse carpal ligament (carpal tunnel), trapezium, trapezoid & capitate bones (wrist), inserts at the proximal phalanx of the thumb.
8. Flexor digiti minimi – Originates at the transverse carpal ligament (carpal tunnel), inserts at the proximal phalanx of the pinky finger.
9. Flexor pollicis longus – Originates at the radius and interosseous membrane (forearm), inserts into the distal phalanx of the thumb.

Please note that many may add another muscle to the muscles that close the hand:
Palmaris brevis – Originates at the transverse carpal ligament (carpal tunnel) and palmar aponeurosis, inserts at the skin of the ulnar border of the hand.

As you can see in bold, the hand muscles as a whole have many diverse attachments throughout the upper extremity. They are far from simple. Thus, they will clearly have an effect on the health, stability, and performance of a diverse group of key joints and structures. Notice the diverse hand muscle attachment sites at the fingers, thumb, hand, wrist, carpal tunnel, forearm, and elbow. They have to affect the stability of all of these areas!

If you can picture these muscle paths, try to also imagine how many areas they cross as they ‘shorten’ when in use. More than anytime in history, we are a repetitive grip culture. We must be aware. These 9 muscles are regularly being shortened. Any structure that they connect to is currently becoming shortened and imbalanced …even though you likely don’t feel the problem… yet.

How will you respond?

Hand muscles clearly have diverse attachments and should be taken very seriously. They must be studied better. They must be understood better. And they must be included in all health and training protocols.

A review of the ‘9 Muscles That Open the Hand’ is next to follow in this blog post series. It’s about to get more interesting. And more complicated. And more important.

Thanks for reading!

Dr. Terry Zachary is an advocate for proper and complete hand exercise & grip strength training in sports, music, the workplace, modern computer, electronics/gaming/esports, therapy/rehab/wellness, and hobby. Dr. Zachary discovered that repetitive gripping imbalances have gone under the radar as a cause of muscle imbalance, weakness, poor blood flow, and poor lymph drainage for over 5 decades. He developed Handmaster Plus to provide the world with fast, easy and complete hand training to create maximum strength, balance, performance, and overall health. The result is healthy, stable fingers, thumbs, wrists, carpal tunnels, forearms, and elbows… and healthier lives.

Dr. Zachary can be reached at terry@doczac.com. For information on Handmaster Plus, visit www.handmasterplus.com

Hand Exercise for Grip Strength & Balance – Nature Always Knows

Nature Always Knows.

Grip strength is not super-complicated, but if you are like most (even most health & fitness professionals), grip strength and hand exercise training is not what you think. You see, grip strength and hand exercise training have traditionally been depicted as a grip ball-, coiled grip trainer- or spring loaded gripper-related exercise.

When I was a young aspiring Canadian golf professional, I was told by EVERYONE to strengthen my hands by squeezing a ball. Moe Norman did it, so how could it be inaccurate?

But hand exercise is not a ‘close-only’ exercise. In fact, far from it. Nothing could be further from what our Nature and anatomy (as humans) tells us – in relation to the strength & stability of the fingers, thumb, hand, wrist, carpal tunnel, forearm or elbow. In fact, there is evidence that ‘grip-only’ training of the hands could lead to repetitive grip injury. If we hope to begin to: a) maximize performance, and b) prevent the plethora of modern RSI injuries of the hand, wrist, carpal tunnel & lower arm, we must look seriously at our own Nature – and smarten up! Nature always knows…

Our hand muscles are a collection of approximately 18 muscles, 9 that close the hand (yes, only half) that are generally located on the FRONT of our hand, wrist & elbow… and 9 that open the hand that are generally located on the BACK of our hand, wrist & elbow. ’50/50′ for hand closing vs. hand opening muscles should tell us something… and be our first hint that hand opening muscles are important.

Then add in the study of natural grip mechanics of any grip activity…. and the evidence for grip training reform is overwhelming…

It is super easy study Nature’s mechanical grip design and to illustrate, via sEMG (surface electromyography), that both hand opening muscles and hand closing muscles fire aggressively when the fingers and thumb grab, close, flex or grip. Why do BOTH muscle groups contract at the same time?

Many people believe that ALL ‘opposing’ muscle groups perform in a reciprocal agreement… when one acts, the other relaxes.. and vice versa. But the Nature of hand muscles shows otherwise.

We now know that the so called ‘opposing’ muscles of the hand (the opening and closing muscles) work in a cooperative/supportive contraction. They are in fact A KEY CORE FACTOR of the ‘kinetic chain’ of grip. The finger extensor muscles CONTRACT to support the finger flexor muscles as they CONTRACT.  The problem is, the finger extensor muscles contract in a small static ROM (range of motion) all day, every day, all year round… and are never exercised properly by most.

In sports, music or workplace, when your hands tire/fatigue from duration activity, I can almost guarantee you, it is your hand ‘opening’ muscles that have fatigued first to cause grip fatigue/weakness. Nature’s design has been ignored. Hand opening muscles are key stabilizers for grip, but have been ignored for years.

These key muscles are the reason I developed Handmaster Plus. And it is my goal to change the way of thinking of the WORLD when it comes to hand exercise and grip strength. It is not a big change, but it is a change. Proper hand exercise addresses both hand closing muscles AND hand opening muscles. As Nature has designed it!

Needless injuries (and perform limitations) could be a thing of the past. We need to understand the hints and messages from our own Nature. Look at the anatomy. Study the sEMG patterns of grip activities. LEARN. And always question the status quo.

These weaknesses and imbalances are SUPER-EASY to prevent, but are SUPER-TRICKY to correct, especially when we don’t understand our own Nature, and the CAUSE of these imbalances. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Tennis Elbow, Golfer’s Elbow, Cubital Tunnel Syndrome, Dupuytren’s Contracture, DeQuervain’s Tenosynovitis, wrist tendonitis and much more, have a deep underlying hand muscle imbalance as their core cause.

Handmaster Plus brings strength, balance, endurance and circulation to the muscles of the fingers, thumb, hand, wrist, carpal tunnel, forearm and elbow, resulting in stability and maximum performance/productivity in sports, music, workplace and everyday activities.

Dr. Terry Zachary is the developer of Handmaster Plus. His goals are to: 1) change the way the world views hand exercise & grip strength training, and 2) provide a complete, convenient and cost-effective solution that ANYONE can and will actually use and understand.

For more information about Handmaster Plus or how to purchase as a partner or individual, visit www.handmasterplus.com or email us at info@doczac.com

Treatment For Dupuytren’s Contracture

DuPuytren's Contracture showing palmar adhesion

Treatment – DuPuytren’s Contracture

Although the standard causal default suspicion of Dupuytren’s Contracture (DC) is usually ‘genetic,’ I strongly feel this is a historical cop out, or at the very least, merely a thread in the fabric of the condition. The usual treatment for Dupuytren’s Contracture thus is seen as drugs and surgery.

In my opinion – and from my experience – the best treatment for Dupuytren’s Contracture is full ROM (range of motion) hand exercise – with controlled resistance, beginning at the first sign of palmar fascia tightness… or before (in prevention)! I suspect DC may be caused by prolonged unprepared tearing and micro-trama, and thus may be helped by blood flow. This statement is assuming the patient still has full or nearly full ROM at the hand. If any advanced DC or trigger finger situation is present, surgery indeed may be necessary.

Yes, I have personally seen Dupuytren’s Contracture cases do very well using Handmaster Plus. And I believe I know why.

Handmaster Plus provides resistance through FULL, NATURAL ROM’s (closing, opening, spreading), so maximizes BLOOD FLOW AND VENOUS/LYMPHATIC DRAINAGE to the entire hand. Thus, maximum nutrients & oxygen arrive to the palmar surface of the hand … and maximum ridding of toxins and by-products occurs away…. the same way all tissues repair and stay healthy…

Treatment Dupuytren's Contracture - Handmaster Plus, Closing

Treatment Dupuytren’s Contracture – Handmaster Plus, Closing

I have been very critical of repetitive grip environments and ‘grip-only’ exercise/training that overworks/brings imbalance to the palmar musculature and soft tissue (causing repair tissue change and adhesions) and minimizes blood flow & draining (due to ‘grip-only’ small ROM environment, where there is no attention to opening of the hand against resistance).. In summary, like any body

Treatment of Dupuytren's Contracture  using Handmaster Plus through full closing and opening of the hand, resulting in efficient blood flow and repair

Treatment Dupuytren’s Contracture – Handmaster Plus, opening

area, exercise & training must be through full ROM’s for the tissue to stay healthy.

My father-in-law is a auto-body mechanic, had Dupuytren’s Contracture when I met him (though mild), he has done very well… and now loves Handmaster Plus. Treatment of Dupuytren’s Contracture can stop, reverse, or slow the progression, a key advantage my father in law has witnessed. Many other cases exist with similar results. Blood flow, blood flow, blood flow. Full ROM exercise & training is VITAL. Standard hand exercise to this point in time, has been poor… using grip-only devices.

Of course, if the Dupuytren’s Contracture is simply too far along in progression, and especially if there are adhesions restricting tendon slide through a flexor pulley (i.e. trigger finger), surgery will be first, then Handmaster Plus rehab therapy will help re-establish  health, strength, balance & blood flow and minimize risk for a return of the condition.

The best use of Handmaster Plus as a treatment for Dupuytren’s Contracture is as a preventative tool… i.e. identify high force repetitive grip activities, hobbies and professions, then start to train the hand PROPERLY… through FULL ROM’s… both open and closed.

Try Handmaster Plus as part of your protocol with any patient as a rehabilitative exercise treatment for Dupuytren’s contracture that has not progressed chronicallly. Handmaster Plus is one continuous hand exercise that patients will understand and comply with. Simply ‘open and close the hand alternately’ until a comfortable fatigue is experienced. Each session should last between 30 seconds – 2 minutes. Repeat 1-3 times per day, depending upon your advice (i.e. the advice of a health care professional is essential in any treatment protocol requiring exercise).

For more information on Handmaster Plus and Dupuytren’s Contracture, please contact us at info@doczac.com

To try Handmaster Plus, please visit Handmaster Plus Store and use the coupon code TE10 for a 10% purchase discount. Your satisfaction is guaranteed. Our return policy is a ‘No Questions Asked’ full refund within 60 days.