I figured since last week I wrote about the importance of lower extremity strength I would head to the opposite part of the body and write about forearm and grip strength this week. Much like how important strong feet and ankles are to athletes, forearm and grip strength is similarly crucial. I discussed how the feet are an athletes only connection with the ground and significantly effect performance, well the same is true for grip strength in many athletic activities. There are numerous sports which require specific movements in which the hands are the final connection or link within that movement.
As the adage says, "You are only as strong as your weakest link," and if that weak link is located somewhere as important as the hands then performance can suffer. Hitting a baseball is one of the greatest examples of forearm/grip strength dictating performance as the bat is ultimately controlled by the forearm and hands. The most obvious example of how weak forearms can effect hitting a baseball is by watching young, muscularly undeveloped hitters. Because of the lack of strength in their arms they often have trouble controlling the barrel causing it to drop and drag through the zone. It sometimes appears as though the bat bounces back when it makes contact with the ball, which is all due to their lack of strength at contact. Improving grip, wrist, and forearm strength is a quick way to increase power and bat control at the plate.
In addition to hitting a baseball there are numerous other aspects of sports which necessitate strong forearms and grip strength. Pitchers benefit from strong forearms and hand strength since the last link of hurling a pitch is the flick of the wrist. Golfers need to have strong hands and forearms as they make contact with the golf ball and even in football, where muscle is normally thought to be needed through the arms and legs, grip strength is needed when blocking and catching the football. Perhaps some of the strongest forearm and grip strength athletes which I have ever been around are hockey players. They need great strength in their arms to control the hockey stick as it does just about everything for them during competition.
Grip and forearm strength is crucial yet it is often overlooked because it is in the realm of the functional strength and not nearly as glamorous or desirable to work on as having a large chest, arms, or back. However, if you look at most elite athletes, be it baseball, hockey, football, or golf they have tremendous forearm strength. This is because these top athletes realize that strength throughout the upper body is useless if they are weak where they connect to their bat, ball, stick, club, racket, etc. A weakness at the start/end of the chain will not allow the maximum power and/or speed to be generated. Another reason forearm and grip strength is so important in that it will help to reduce your chance of a wrist or elbow injury as the muscle can help absorb some of the stress that many activities put on your extremities.
Check back in the next few days as I post some ways in which I have gone about strengthening my forearms and grip. Until then, take some time to address those little but important areas of the body which play such a critical role in your performance, such as the feet/ankles and forearms/grip strength.
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