Hand and Finger Strength

Hand strength is arguably the most functional type of strength out there. From carrying grocery bags to opening jars and packages, we use our hands in day-to-day activities more than any other part of the body. The hands are also a crucial component of most upper body exercises, so having strong hands will help your training all around.

Fingertip Push-ups
The fingertip push-up is a classic exercise that can take your hand strength to new heights. If you don’t have the ability to do fingertip push-ups yet, I recommend practicing the isometric plank position on your fingertips. Start with a few seconds at a time – eventually you should be able to build to a ten-second fingertip plank. Once you’ve achieved that, you’ll be ready to start practicing fingertip push-ups. Begin with just a few reps and slowly add more over time. Eventually you might be strong enough to try holding a fingertip plank on just one hand. A few select individuals can even perform a one arm push-up in this fashion.

If you aren’t able to hold the plank on your fingertips, try placing one hand flat on a slightly elevated object while the opposite hand is supported on the fingertips. Hold for several seconds, then switch hands.

It’s important to note that the term “fingertip push-up” is a bit of a misnomer. You don’t actually want to be all the way on the tips of your fingers, but rather on the pads of your fingers with the tips slightly bent back. Just don’t allow any part of your palm to touch the ground if you want it to be legit.

Pull-ups and Bar Hangs
Fingertip push-ups and hanging from the bar go together like peanut butter and bananas. Pull-ups can do a lot for your grip on their own, but if you want to give your hands some extra attention, try doing additional dead hangs after your pull-ups. When you’re strong enough, you can practice single-arm hangs as well. With any type of dead hang exercise, make sure to stay engaged through your shoulder blades. Don’t allow your chin to collapse into your chest.

Hold Everything
Once you can hold a fingertip plank for thirty seconds or more, I recommend experimenting with more difficult isometric fingertip holds. L-sits, elbow levers and even handstands are all fair game for the fingertips once you get strong enough.

Remember to tread slowly with fingertip exercises and don’t expect too much too soon. It’s a fine line between making your hands stronger and injuring yourself. Fingertip holds and bar hangs will be challenging, but they should not be painful.

Progressing from a basic fingertip plank to a fingertip L-sit or fingertip handstand can take years of practice. Always listen to your body and take things slowly.


Watch the video below for more:

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  • Pingback: Hand and Finger Strength | Mark's Daily Apple Health and Fitness Forum page

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robby-Taylor/44409147 Robby Taylor

    As always, nice article, Al. Doing exercises on fingertips is awesome. The most advanced things I’ve been able to do successfully with this modification are: one arm handstand on fingertips (at a wall), and one arm handstand push up on 2 fingers (index and thumb). I do L sits on my fingertips usually several times a night 5 nights a week. However, I would like to note that I received my only serious injury from exercising in trying a maneuver on fingertips. A couple of months after I tackled the one arm handstand on fingertips, I tried to do the one arm elbow lever on fingertips. The problem here is that the one arm handstand requires little balance when done at a wall, as you know. However, the one arm elbow lever does require a degree of balance, which I have yet to master. I had my feet off of the ground, and as I was shifting my weight from my free hand to the working hand, the weight shifted in the wrong direction; it didn’t transfer straight down the thumb into the ground. Instead, it went between the thumb and the index finger, and I rolled off of the thumb and my weight pressed it down sideways into the concrete…ouch…Luckily, I was able to catch myself with the other hand before all of my weight had shifted on to the thumb. I heard several pops in rapid succession from my thumb when this happened, however it didn’t hurt a lot like it was broken. I didn’t know if this was just shock though. I tended to the wound, and I haven’t bothered to get it checked out as I have maintained full functionality in the hand. This was a good couple of months ago. Now, the joint at the base of the thumb is still slightly swollen and the thumb bends back a little more than it used to at the other joint; I think I dislocated the ligament or something…I should probably get it looked at…although I don’t expect there’s much that could be done for it now, and like I said it doesn’t particularly hurt and I am not particularly inhibited by it, either in daily life or working out (I stopped doing L sits for about a week or two but now even that is fine).

    Anyway, just a cautionary tale to the wise: with advanced maneuvers on fingertips, your hands may have the strength for the skill, but balance should be considered even more than usual. This was also something that I observed in the 2 finger one arm push up (as with just 2 fingers you have to balance your hand in the third plane; with 3 fingers the fingers work like a tripod), however I was able to control that move. I no longer attempt advanced moves on fingertips, as I feel I get enough work in that department with L sits.

  • http://www.facebook.com/akwesi.asante Akwesi Munir Asante

    Aside from your articles and video love your attitude young man, keep on keeping on!

  • Fi0na

    Agreed – I can’t help but smile when I see your videos :)

  • timshel01

    Al so cool , great vid !
    Don’t expect me to shake your hand should I get the chance to meet you. ;-) your hand strength must be like a vise.
    Recently, I’ve had a little problem with tennis elbow. Have you ever had it? Could you recommend something to try ?

  • http://twitter.com/TheFitRebel Matt Schifferle

    Not only is hand and finger strength functional, but few things convey strength and power looked strong and muscular forearms. They’re better than six pack abs!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alexander-Good/1741251405 Alexander Good

    A six pack just means planks and starvation. Development in any other body part is more impressive.

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Thanks for the cautionary tale, Robby. I’m a long ways off from a fingertip one arm handstand or one arm fingertip elbow lever myself. And you mean two-arm index and thumb HSPU right?

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Thanks very much! That’s the plan!

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Comments like this one make me smile! I guess we’re even. :)

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Thanks, Tim! I have had tendinitis a few times. Rest is the best thing. Light stretching can be helpful as well. You should see a PT if you need to.

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Right on, Matt! Nothing wrong with abs though. Some of us are lucky enough to have both!

  • Etienne

    Awesome video, I was super stoked to find out a few months ago that I could do the fingertip OAPushup.

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    You got it on your first try? Impressive!

  • marcelo

    Haha, humble Al! You know that’s why you’re so inspiring to many people (me included): Because you didn’t do one arm chin-ups at the age of 10 or front levers without any preparation, but your skills are the result of hard work…
    The path is gradual & accessible for everyone who’s got some dedication!
    Thanks Al! Live long & prosper.

  • http://www.facebook.com/daniel.earl2 Daniel Earl

    This is totally unrelated to the post Al (which is great as always), but I had a T-shirt idea if you were interested. Black or green colored shirt, with a white arrow with text inside of it saying ONE WAY. The arrow and text would be vertical so that when a person did a human flag (your signature move), they would look like a one way sign. :)

  • Thomas_Nassif

    “There has never been a strong man with weak hands” Great post as always Al. I still need to come up to New York sometime. Let me know if you’re ever in the Chicago area. Keep it up man :)

  • Dat

    Hey Al, I noticed you left out the part about not hyperextending your fingers when doing the push ups and what not from CC2. What are your thoughts on that?

  • Rob White

    Hey Al,

    i loved the lens angle at the beginning of this vid. It made you look like you had massive hands, like those ‘big hands’ pads you can buy at football games :)

    And finally got to see your fingertip handstand pushup – yay!

    Similar to Robby, i have suffered my only significant bodyweight training injury with finger work (hey,maybe its a problem with everyone called Rob). Mine was from doing this build-up exercise for the one arm pullup: http://www.beastskills.com/wp-content/uploads/manual/image/fingerassist.jpg. Basically, i overloaded my finger that i was using for pulling assistance, felt a weird pop in the tendon in that finger, and it hasnt been right ever since (about 8 weeks ago). I think its really easy for people to think they can go quick with finger work, but its such a small area of the body it needs time to adapt otherwise you will hurt yourself.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robby-Taylor/44409147 Robby Taylor

    Oops, I meant 2 finger 1 arm push up, only not in a handstand; similar to what Bruce Lee did. I guess I just have a knack for fingertip strength; these feats did not take much in the way of specific training for me to achieve…it doesn’t hurt that I only weigh 130~140 though!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robby-Taylor/44409147 Robby Taylor

    Definitely! This specific type of training relies more on tendon and ligament strength than muscular strength, which is why progression is slower and extra care must be taken. For one arm pull up training, I would instead suggest the method where you hang a towel and grab lower on the towel with the supporting hand, or simply use both arms as you normally would only “lean” to the arm you want to work. Weighted pull ups, frenchies, and archer pull ups are also great variations that feel safer to me than the finger assist method you referenced. Then, of course, you could simply focus on an “easier” skill altogether and work on building reps of slow, clean bar muscle ups ;) , or levers! There are quite a few avenues with advanced pulling exercises!

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Ha – that’s pretty good! And when you were standing the arrow would point to your crotch, which is pretty funny on it’s own.

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Thanks, Thomas! Good quote!

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    It depends on the individual, but a little hyper-extending isn’t always the end of the world.

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    You’ve definitely got some seriously strong fingers! I’m down to just three fingers for a one arm push-up, but have a ways to go before I’m doing them on just two!

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Thanks, Marcelo! I’m glad you appreciate how much work goes into what I do.

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Thanks, Rob! Expect more vids with the wide-angle lens. In fact, a lot of my forthcoming DVD was shot with the wide-angle.

    Bummer to hear about your injury, but as I always reiterate, sometimes people have to learn these things the hard way. At least you probably won’t make that mistake again.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robby-Taylor/44409147 Robby Taylor

    Thanks, Al! I may make a video of the fingertip one arm handstand or 2 finger one arm push up someday, but for now, after my injury (which was my left hand), I just don’t feel comfortable/safe with finger exercises of such high stresses on either hand. For me, it feels like the 3 finger one arm push up is about the cut off between difficult and dangerous. I think fingertip L sits provide enough functional strength in this department, and it seems that, after a point, the more advanced the progression of this type of strength, the risk level seems almost exponentially higher, due to the high level of conditioning required on an entire series of joints and ligaments as fine and relatively delicate as the ones in your hands. Besides that, the potential for secondary injury is high since your hand, which is supporting you and gives you the ability to catch yourself, would be damaged so suddenly if your hand were to give. Imagine doing a one arm fingertip handstand, and your finger(s) give out. Not only is the fine joint structure of your hand caving in under your bodyweight, but since you are resting on it, you have very little time to react and protect yourself from the ensuing fall (which you must do without any use from the hand that just that very instant was injured).

  • Etienne

    Well I had been doing finger work/push ups for quite awhile, as well as oapush ups. Then one day I tried it and was pumped I could, my body could definitely be straighter though. Your oapushup video with your feet together is BEAST.

  • Etienne

    I disagree, I can tell you that I have a six pack, I eat like a beast and do tons of pullups/pushups. I havent done a plank or crunch in years….I know alot of other people with impressive abdominals (Al being one of them) that are in the same situation, eating healthy for sure, but not starving.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robby-Taylor/44409147 Robby Taylor

    Yes; having a visible six pack is firstly about genetics, then diet, then exercise. I have had a six pack since I was a kid, even if I hadn’t worked out in over a year and had eaten as much of pretty much whatever I wanted. Nowadays, my diet and exercise have improved, my diet, in particular, could still stand to further improve.

    On the other side of the spectrum, there are people that naturally have well developed arms, chest, back, shoulders, or legs, even without much training, and would have a hell of a time getting a six pack.

  • http://www.exerciseequipmentfanatic.com/ mike hardens

    impressive feats, sir. especially the fingertip handstand! respect. fingertip pushups are tough (i think superman pushups way worse imo). but these definitely can give your hands that ‘man’ strength.

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Thanks, Mike!

  • Igor Washetko

    Been wanting to give you a shout out for a long time. I truly appreciate the time you’ve taken to provide this info. For a while I was doing the basics, squats, pullups and pushups but after stumbling upon your site I’ve really branched out and have fun with the whole thing now. Being able to do this stuff really becomes a sense of accomplishment and pride. You are such a force of positivity and inspiration. It’s contagious too because my kids get inspired from seeing me workout all the time. My 9yo daughter can do 2 dead hang pullups and you wouldn’t believe it but my 3yo daughter does the whole “I’m Al Kavadlo and were working out” thing including the hand gestures and all. Peace brutha!

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Thanks, Igor! I love that I have inspired your kids as well! Your 3 year old sounds pretty cool!

  • william

    Hey! love the e-book! I have a question about the fingertip push ups… I’m only doing wall fingertip push ups and I’m getting pain in my pinky finger… should i transfer the weight onto my other fingers or would that be worse?

  • RobbyTaylor

    The majority of the load should be felt between the structure made by the thumb, middle, and index fingers. The ring finger sort of spreads this out (think of extending the boundary set by the middle finger), and the pinky takes this a tad further, but since it’s so small it’s just sort of there. If you try doing fingertip push ups but lift your pinkies off of the ground, it shouldn’t be that big of a difference. Stabilize your hand by rounding the structure your palm and keeping it rigid. Think of your 5 fingers as pillars to support this structure.

  • Anthony

    Hey Al. Love your outlook. You remind us that working out is meant to be fun! The other day, I tried to do a one arm hang and discovered that I do not have the strength in my hands to do it. I do a lot of pull ups using various grips so I was a little surprised. I will start doing the finger planks, etc and two arm hangs but have a question about the hangs. Is there a ‘best practice’ for gripping the bar to improve strength? Eg – fingers only vs the entire hand. Sincerely, Anthony

  • RobbyTaylor

    There are a couple of good ways to train for one arm bar hangs. Firstly, use fewer fingers when you do pull ups. Try using just your middle and index fingers, and also try just your ring and pinky fingers. Don’t jump right in; do one hand at a time (while gripping the bar normally with the other hand; alternate each set). You can also do towel hangs/pull ups to help this. Drape a towel over the bar and grab it with one hand, grabbing the bar normally with the other hand. If you can, use a towel for each hand.

  • Anthony

    Thanks Robby. I will try that.

    Anthony

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Thanks, Anthony! I second Robby’s recommendation to try one hand on the bar with the other holding a towel slung over the bar.