Saturday 5 January 2013

Hand and Finger Exercises

So this post, I thought, would be nice to show you some exercises that can be used for warming up, cooling down, or rehab of the fingers (with a little of the forearm and wrist thrown in).
See previous blog posts on finger injuries, symptoms and management, pulley injuries, and hand anatomy for more information.

Sorry to those reading on a mobile app - I'm afraid the formatting performed for this post doesn't carry over to the mobile format very well!!

Below is a sample arrangement of equipment that can be used for rehab or warm up (plus a Metolius GripSaver, but I seem to have misplaced mine, so I had to borrow some pictures from the Metolius website!).
I will discuss various exercises that can be performed with each piece of equipment.
Before performing any of these exercises, ensure you are warmed up (as in raised core body temperature) to prevent any injury.
No information has been given on repetitions or strength of items, as that is a very individual and tailored aspect to incorporate.


Now, I must confess, the Powerball is much more focussed on wrist/forearm rehab and warm up rather than the fingers, but I thought I'd include it anyway, and is useful for general warm up of the arms before performing specific exercises.

The Powerball is used for rotation about the wrist. If you have one, when using it, remember to vary the direction you spin it in, as it then uses your muscles in different ways.

I'm not going to dwell much more on the Powerball, but useful for warm up generally.

Hand Therapy Balls

These "stress ball" type items are brilliant for rehab and warm up. They come in various "strengths", but personally, the weaker the better, as then you can easily add more repetitions of the exercise to get more of a workout, and is therefore more versatile.
For a simple warm up exercise, the ball can be squeezed repetitively in a gross grip manner to get the muscles working. When relaxing the grip, make sure you spread the fingers back to a "flat palm" position to ensure the fingers are going throught their full range of movement.
Next, more specific exercises.  
Squeeze the ball between thumb and finger, alternating fingers.

Next, squeeze the ball using two finger grips such as middle and ring, or index and middle fingers.

Then you can try and mimic a crimp position using a two finger hold (or you can do it with all fingers)

A tricky one next, and is difficult to do anyway, but would be even more difficult with a higher strength ball.
Squeeze the ball between two fingers (I'd recommend doing this with the ball held by the other hand)
This works the hand interossei muscles (the muscles that adduct and abduct the fingers)

Remember to perform in all finger spaces!

And finally, to work the lumbricals, squeeze the ball by only flexing at the metacarpophalangeal joint.

 Elastic Bands

So, onto the cheapest form of rehab equipment - the majestic elastic band!
These are much better tool for working the interossei muscles, and you can vary the difficulty of strength by simply using a thicker elastic band, or by moving it up a joint. 

I've demonstrated using the elastic band at the distal phalangeal joint for illustration purposes, and would normally begin with this exercises as close to the metacarpophalangeal joint as possible (nearest the base of the finger).

The final exercise with the elastic band are pictured.
This exercise consists of extending the fingers against the elastic band, thereby working the forearm extensor muscles, to ensure muscle balance. 
This exercise can be done with or without extending the thumb, made easier or harder by moving the elastic band towards the more distal joints. 
You can move each finger individually(ish!) or all together, depending on what you want to work.
Have a play and feel what works for you!


Now, I know alot of climbers own these, and they are ok, but in no way as flexible as a therapy ball or elastic band.

These exercises have been inspired by those on the GripMaster website, though many are similar in nature to those that can be performed with the therapy ball.

Again, individual finger to thumb flexion can be performed.
This can be performed with the GripMaster sitting in the base of the thumb or thumb tip as pictured.

This, again, can be done with all fingers, and with the combination of two finger grips

Key pinch grip can be performed, however, is not very functional in a climbing aspect (well, not that I've found yet anyway!)

And again, similar to the hand therapy ball, gross grip warm up, or gross finger tip grip can be performed.

Metolius GripSaver

So, the Metolius GripSaver incoporates the elastic band extension exercises with the therapy ball flexion exercises, but isolates each finger better for the extension aspects of the exercises.
They are useful in their own right, but I suppose it's personal preference!
All the exercises have already been described above.

However, this can be recreated in a fashion, with the therapy ball and elastic band, as shown!

I hope these exercises provide you with some ideas and handy hints to warming up and rehab of injuries. Any comments, let me know!

P.S. The theraband was shown in the first picture as you can use it in a similar way to the elastic band extension exercises, but is less specific and more awkward to use, so I didn't include it!

See the below websites for some more and varied exercises:
Hand and wrist exercises by Total Orthopaedic Care 
Theraputty exercises by Northwestern Medical Hospital for an interesting DIY method of rehab 

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