By this time of the year, most fair weather shooters have built up their grip strengths through time-on-task competing, training or just spending time plinking. However, with the cost (and lack) of ammunition, many people are spending less time at the range. Aside from possible decreased shooting skills, hand strength may also suffer. I’m not implying that it’s the most important part of manipulating and shooting a pistol, but an increased hand strength does help. A proper and firm grip allows a shooter to control recoil, followed by getting the sights back on a target quickly. This action allows for quicker follow-up shots. A strong grip also makes it easier to manipulate the handgun, especially racking the slide and locking it to the rear. I reached out to a licensed and registered occupational therapist, Melanie DeVaughn, who graduated with her master’s in 2020, to see if she had any suggestions for increasing hand strength.
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The following information is just suggestions to get you started. As with any new strength training regime, consult with your physician first. Note: if you have arthritis, these exercises should NOT be done when you are in the inflammation stage.
1. Crush Grip: In this handshake-like grip, the object being gripped rests firmly against the palm and all fingers. This is the grip a support hand uses when holding a pistol.
2. Pinch Grip: In a pinch grip, the fingers are all on one side of an object with the thumb on the other. An object lifted or moved in this grip does not touch the palm of the hand. A pinch grip is used by the support hand when implementing the pinch-and-pull method of racking a slide.
3. Support Grip: Usually when holding an object for an extended amount of time, a support grip is used. Consider how you would carry a bucket of water and visualize what the muscles and tendons in your forearm look like. Don’t they look similar to when you’re shooting a pistol? Your overall grip strength comes from the muscles in your forearm, so increasing this grip is beneficial.
For the following exercises, all you need are a stress ball or tennis ball, a dumbbell or two, and a few rubber bands (you may need to try a some different lengths to find the right amount of tension).
Ball Exercise for Increasing Grip Strength
Hold the ball in your hand while slowly squeezing as hard as possible. Hold for three- to five-seconds, then relax. Repeat 10 times.
Dumbbell Exercise for Increasing Grip Strength
Hold a lightweight dumbbell in your hand and place your forearm on your thigh with your palm facing up and your hand hanging off your knee. While squeezing your hand, bend your wrist to raise your palm as close to your forearm as possible. Pause, then slowly lower dumbbell back to your fingers. Do two to three sets of 10 reps with each hand. If you have two dumbbells, you may exercise both hands at the same time.
Rubber Band Exercise for Increasing Grip Strength
Wrap two rubber bands around the fingers of your hand. Slowly open your hand while spreading your fingers as far as possible. Then, slowly close it. Repeat until your hand becomes tired, then rest for 60seconds. Repeat for two to three sets.
The amount of repetitions and sets above are only a guideline. You know what you can handle and what your starting point is. Don’t overdue it and injure yourself. Start slow. When the exercises get too easy, ramp it up by increasing the resistance, repetition or weight. You choose what works best for you.
Please consider the above information as only suggestions to help you begin your hand and grip journey. As with any exercise program, it takes time to see results. Stick with it! Next month I’ll share a few tools Melanie suggested that can be purchased to help increase grip strength. In addition, I will share some exercises you can do, using these tools, to help you accomplish your grip strength goals.
Read, “Increasing Grip Strength Part 2: Hand Strengthening Tools” here.
Michelle Cerino, aka Princess Gunslinger, entered the firearms industry in 2011 when Cerino Training Group was established. She immediately began competing in both 3-Gun and NRA Action Pistol, becoming a sponsored shooter. Michelle is currently a columnist and Managing Editor of Women’s Outdoor News, as well as Event-Staff for CZ-USA Field Sports. She also manages social media for Vera Koo and GTM Original. Michelle encourages others to step out of the comforts of home and explore. View all posts by Michelle Cerino
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