This week’s Physically Cultured Challenge is going to test how strong those opposable thumbs of yours really are.
There are two primary ways to train the strength of the thumb, which is often the limiting factor in overall hand strength.
You can either grip something very wide so that the fingers can’t wrap all the way around it – this is called support grip.
Or, you can train the pinch motion of the hand.
Pinch is when the fingers are extended and pressed flat on the object, and the thumb is used to press the object against the fingers.
One of the simplest ways to train the pinch is to squeeze a pair of plates and hold it for time, which is this week’s challenge.
Pinch is an incredibly important movement for overall strength of the hand, but even more so as a counter-balance or opposition movement to the flexion-of-the-fingers-heavy movements most lifters do a lot of. While it’s tempting to think that extending the fingers against resistance such as rubber bands is the opposition movement to finger flexion, and it may be technically correct from a strictly bio-mechanical perspective, it’s not correct physiologically.
This is something I learned from grip legend Adam T. Glass. Adam has always contended that the flexion-opposition movement of the fingers is not extension against resistance, but resistance IN extension of the fingers, such as in the pinch motion, because this is how the hand actually functions. The analogy he offers is that like an alligator’s jaw, the hand is very weak in creating force opening up but extremely strong in staying closed – even when the fingers are extended. This is the kind of thing you can only understand when you truly understand how the body functions in practice, rather than how a textbook suggests it should.
And the experience of grip athletes and rock climbers for whom band finger-extension work has never worked but pinch training has paid huge dividends confirms this theory.
Enough about that – let’s get to pinching.
See the video for details. If you can’t quite lift two 45 pound plates pinched together feel free to modify as appropriate. One thick rubber bumper plate may be a good option for some people.
I look forward to hearing what you can do!