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Get a grip: Building hand and forearm strength

One of the most overlooked areas of strength training for football players is the proper development of hand and forearm strength. Virtually every aspect of the game requires strong and powerful hand and forearm muscles. From catching a football, to blocking, to carrying a football, strengthening these muscles will have direct carryover to the field.


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There are three types of grip/hand strengths. The pinch grip, the crushing grip and the supporting grip. All three types of grip strengths must be developed equally.

The pinch grip is a grip in which an object is held between the thumb and the fingers without touching the palm of the hand.

The crushing grip is the grip that is normally used in a handshake. In this grip, the object sits firmly against the fingers and the palm of the hand.

The support grip is a type of grip that normally carries objects like a bucket handle or suitcase and utilizes hand and forearm muscles that are used in catching a football and/or grabbing another player's jersey to make a tackle.

Below are a few easy but effective exercises to strengthen the hands and forearms for football.

1. The "Pincher." Simply pinch the weight between the thumb and fingers. Select a weight in which the weight can be suspended off the ground for six to 15 seconds and to failure. If the weight can be held for more than 15 seconds, go to a heavier weight in order to build muscle power. Three to four sets is recommended.

2. The "Rice Bucket" drill is an awesome way to improve not only "crushing strength" but also develop finger/forearm extensor strength. Quickly, and forcefully, open and close the fingers while submerged in the rice. Perfrom this exercise for three sets of 15 seconds. Remember, the deeper into the rice, the more intense the exercise becomes.

3. The "Suitcase" exercise will strengthen the support grip. This activity can be performed by carrying heavy buckets filled with water, rice, etc., or a weight as shown. To build power in this grip, find a weight heavy enough so that it can only be carried for six to 15 seconds per set. Perform three to four sets. Be careful not to drop the weight on your foot.

4. The "Supination/Pronation" exercise is one of the best exercises to develop the rotational strength of the hand and forearm muscles. To perform this movement, place a weight on the end of a stick or bat. Then, with the elbow bent, rotate the stick/bat in a controlled semicircle fashion for three to four sets of six reps (which should be near failure). The further the hand is away from the weight, the harder the exercise becomes.

No matter how strong one's upper body becomes, it is imperative to have the last link in the chain just as strong. You are only as strong as your weakest link. So go get a competitive edge by strengthening your hand and forearms and get the upper hand.

- Brett Fischer is the owner/founder of the Fischer Institute in Phoenix, Ariz. He is a licensed physical therapist, certified athletic trainer, certified strength and conditioning specialist and a certified dry needling provider. He has worked with the University of Florida, New York Jets, PGA & Senior PGA TOUR and the Chicago Cubs.

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