Personal trainers spend a lot of time with clients strengthening arms, legs, and core, working on flexibility, and building cardio stamina. It may be easy to overlook the hands since they are being used most of the time for all of those other things, right? When we take a closer look, however, we will see why is it important to actively improve hand, wrist, and finger dexterity.

Why Hand Dexterity is Vital

We all use our hands throughout the day in countless ways. Some get taken for granted. This constant use and repetitive actions make hands vulnerable to injuries and various maladies. With how dependent we are on our hands and their concomitant vulnerability, it’s vital to improve the way they work and reduce the chances of injury.

Clients who have contraindications in their hands, wrists, or fingers will find simple tasks difficult. This includes those suffering with arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, ganglion cysts, tendinitis, and trigger thumb, just to name a few. For these clients, opening a water bottle, using a hand-operated can opener or a knife, carrying small objects, holding onto handles, using scissors, and even turning doorknobs can be tough. While such difficulties are more common in aging clients, they can happen to clients of any age.

Improving dexterity in fitness clients who may not have an existing hand condition is important too, as stronger grip strength equates to greater success in exercise and activities of daily life. A stronger grip can make a difference in how long a client can hang from a bar, how much one can deadlift or handle kettlebells, and how many pull-ups/chin-ups they can do. Dexterity and grip strength are integral to various forms of weightlifting, flipping tires, and in arm balancing exercises.

Athletes benefit from a stronger grip and improved dexterity by better performance in action. This is especially important in sports like disc throwing, shot put, frisbee golf, golf, tennis, basketball, baseball, and pickleball.
Basically, all clients can benefit from hand, finger, and wrist dexterity, strength, and mobility.

Lend Me a Hand

The anatomy of the hand includes three sets of bones including phalanges in the fingers, metacarpals, and carpals in the hand and wrist. Numerous ligaments, tendons, cartilage, three types of nerves (radial, median, ulnar), and nearly 30 muscles pull together to perform many tasks required by the hand area.

The fine motor skills of the fingers allow us to write and sign our name, pick up small objects, type on a keyboard, text, and paint;  we shake hands, wring our hands, clap hands, hold hands, hold our drinks, our forks, button shirts, open cans, etc. The muscles work together with eye coordination for such intricate tasks like threading a needle, pulling out a splinter with tweezers, opening a bottle of wine with a corkscrew, and applying cosmetics.

Certain types of jobs require more use of the hands and fingers, including computer work, construction, housekeeping, delivering packages, and scanning items at checkout. Those who use their hands and/or fingers extensively on the job are more prone to repetitive use ailments. Exercises that help with flexibility, mobility, and strength can reduce this risk of injury.

In the gym, these appendages are key to gripping dumbbells, barbells, kettles, and battle ropes. These fine motor skills carry over into the gym too: placing pins in weights, placing collars on barbells, securing weight belts, and fastening suspension cable clasps accurately to name just a few.

Hand It Over

Various exercises can be incorporated into workouts to assist with strengthening the grip and improving dexterity long-term. These include:

  • Gripping a tennis ball, lacrosse ball, or a clay ball
  • Single arm shoulder press with medicine ball
  • Bottoms-up kettlebell exercises
  • Over the shoulder med ball toss and picking it back up
  • Wall balls
  • Bender ball floor taps
  • Hanging from a bar
  • Lifting one finger at a time standing with hands together or on all 4s on the floor
  • Practice finger taps individually reaching for the thumb with each finger and reversing the direction
  • Wrist curls with light weights
  • Reaching each arm forward while gently pulling the fingers back in each hand with the palm facing away, then turning the hand downward with a gentle hold
  • Wrist circles
  • Kettlebell swings and deadlifts
  • Make a fist, then spread fingers out wide (like jazz hands)

The options go on and on; get creative and focus on ways the hands fingers and writs can be challenged in diffierent ways. Ultimately, adequate training programs cover all the muscle groups to ensure our clients are in the best possible shape. We certainly shouldn’t neglect our hands and fingers for as much as they do for us all in and out of the gym.


Kim Becknell Williams

Kim Becknell Williams is a freelance writer with more than ten years of personal training experience. Certified through NFPT, she is a Functional Training Specialist and holds a Master Trainer level certificate for resistance, endurance and sports nutrition. Kim has written two books including Gym Etiquette 101. She enjoys writing a variety of lifestyle articles and fitness blogs.