Health & Wellness

Lift, Carry, & Hang for Longevity

Learn how Grip Strength can predict health outcomes and how you can improve it to live stronger and more capable.

The topic of longevity and health is likely at the forefront of your mind. Unless you have been living under a rock for the last 2 years I am sure you have thought about what health means to you and what are the ways you can take ownership of it.

Although we are living considerably longer with each generation that passes, we also appear to be less healthy with 6/10 American adults managing one chronic disease and 4/10 managing 2 or more.

However when it comes to longevity there are some simple measures that we can assess to check our risk for mortality and chances that we live longer. A study in 2014 pointed out the importance of getting on and off the floor with the least amount of hand or foot support - called the Sit Rising Test(SRT) . This test was a significant predictor of all cause mortality in 51-80 year olds.

Another indicator of longevity that I want to discuss today is grip strength. Grip strength has been linked to risk of adverse health outcomes from cardiovascular disease, cancer and as a risk of all-cause mortality in community dwelling populations. Why is grip strength such a strong indicator for healthy aging?

A research analysis in Clinical Interventions in Aging noted its correlations to upper limb function, bone mineral density, and fracture risk. Brain health, depression and nutritional status were also related to grip strength and the analysis noted that lower grip strength than normal is associated with physical limitations including less ability to walk for at least 6 minutes.

So if grip strength is so important to our longevity how do we improve it? Although it may seem intuitive to buy a grip strength trainer that you can squeeze periodically throughout the day this shouldn’t be your primary method. 

Better ways to improve your grip strength are to include functional and natural movements which will also aid in your capacity to lift, carry and hang from various objects. 

The deadlift is a compound movement which engages multiple body parts and muscles as we lift a heavy object from the ground towards our waist. It is also an excellent way to work on grip strength. You can use a barbell, kettlebell, sandbag or dumbbells. You should choose slightly heavier weights and emphasize your tempo by slowing down the motion to help learn the pattern and mechanics of the movement.

Barbell Deadlift

Farmer carries and plate pinches will also help you increase your grip strength through a very practical application. After all, we need to carry groceries, children, tools, furniture and large objects as a part of our daily activities. With carrying we want to emphasize tall posture and slow walking to feel areas of our core and trunk do what they were designed to do- stabilize our body.

Farmer Carry with Kettlebell
Plate Pinches will help strengthen different hand/finger muscles compared to farmer carry

Hanging is a slightly harder skill for some but has incredible benefits for grip and shoulder strength tying in a functional purpose for the entire use of your upper limb. If you cannot hang fully unsupported try bearing partial weight through a chair/step or use a band to help support some of your body weight. We want to grip our hand fully around the bar and pull our shoulder blades downward to engage our scapula in a stable position.

Dead hang

Give these exercises a go and see how they work for you by programming them into your workouts 2-3x a week and see how your grip strength improves. You just may live longer and with less difficulty later in life because of it! 

If you have access to a grip strength dynamometer and want to see where you stack up in relation to your age/gender use this chart to see if you are on par. 

Grip Strength Norms for Females in pounds:

  • Ages 20-24: Right 55.9-84.9; Left 47.9-74.1
  • Ages 25-29: Right 60.6-88.4; Left 51.3-75.7
  • Ages 30-34: Right 59.5-97.9; Left 50.3-85.7
  • Ages 35-39: Right 63.3-84.9; Left 54.6-78
  • Ages 40-44: Right 56.9-83.9; Left 48.5-76.1
  • Ages 45-49: Right 47.1-77.3; Left 43.3-68.7
  • Ages 50-54: Right 53.9-77.4; Left 46.6-68
  • Ages 55-59: Right 44.8-69.8; Left 35.4-59.2
  • Ages 60-64: Right 45-65.2; Left 35.6-55.8
  • Ages 65-69: Right 39.9-59.3; Left 32.8-49.2
  • Ages 70-74: Right 37.9-61.3; Left 31.3-51.7
  • Ages 75+: Right 31.6-53.6; Left 28.7-46.5

Grip Strength Norms for Males in pounds:

  • Ages 20-24: Right 100.4-141.6; Left 82.7-126.3
  • Ages 25-29: Right 97.8-143.8; Left 94.3-126.7
  • Ages 30-34: Right 99.4-144.2; Left 88.7-131.7
  • Ages 35-39: Right 95.7-143.7; Left 91.2-134.6
  • Ages 40-44: Right 96.1-137.5; Left 94.1-131.5
  • Ages 45-49: Right 86.9-132.9; Left 78-123.6
  • Ages 50-54: Right 95.5-131.7; Left 84.9-118.9
  • Ages 55-59: Right 74.4-127.8; Left 59.8-106.6
  • Ages 60-64: Right 69.3-110.1; Left 56.5-97.1
  • Ages 65-69: Right 70.5-111.7; Left 57-96.9
  • Ages 70-74: Right 53.8-96.8; Left 46.7-82.9
  • Ages 75+: Right 44.7-86.7; Left 38-72

References:

  1. Chronic Diseases in America. https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/infographic/chronic-diseases.htm
  2. Ability to sit and rise from the floor as a predictor of all-cause mortality. Eur J Prev Cardiol. 2014 Jul;21(7):892-8. doi: 10.1177/2047487312471759. Epub 2012 Dec 13.
  3. Bohannon RW. Grip strength: An indispensable biomarker for older adults. Clin Interv Aging. 2019;14:1681-1691. Published 2019 Oct 1. doi:10.2147/CIA.S194543
  4. Grip and Pinch Strength: Normative data for adults. March 1985. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 66(2):69-74

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