Take Care of the Little Guys

Let’s talk about two areas of your body that:

  • Are often neglected
  • Can cause havoc throughout your body
  • Can supercharge your strength, flexibility, and health if trained properly

These two areas are your hands and feet. And unfortunately, they are getting weaker and weaker across the board.

Our hands are pathetically weak compared to the hardware we are given at birth. Look no further than a 5 year old girl easily traversing the monkey bars at a local park. The feet are sadly relegated to the mobile prisons we call shoes. Only a small percentage of feet have found salvation in barefoot training, and strengthened their feet as they were meant to be.

With so much potential, and so much of our brains dedicated to these areas, it is a crying shame that they have fallen so far behind our evolutionary path. No time to mourn, let’s talk about how you can fix this problem.

The hands are capable of a great many things, so I’m going to lay out how they move, and how you can strengthen them.

Crushing Grip:
Grab a pull-up bar and squeeze as hard as you can, hold for time. If you can, hang from just one arm. When that gets easy, you can add some weight in your free hand.

Fingertip Strength:
Fingertip Pushups may be a tough place to start, but you can do them on the wall. Don’t hyperextend any of the joints in your fingers when you do this. You can also press your fingers together isometrically in front of you, which gives you more control of the amount of pressure.

Pinching Strength:
The thumb is a key player in your hand (we’re might just be nude monkeys, but this gives us the competitive edge). With one hand, grab a pair of 10 pound plates and squeeze them together with the smooth sides facing out. Hold them down by your side and see how long you can hold on. Add a plate when it’s easy, and eventually try some bigger plates.

Wrist Strength (Wrist Levering):
This is where the exercises may get a little more complex, as we approach a series of movements that very few people ever engage in. To perform these movements you’re going to need an empty dumbbell handle, a long piece of PVC pipe, or a mini sledgehammer.

  • Pronation/Supination – can be done with both a bent arm, and a straight arm. They will train the muscles slightly differently so it would behoove you to do both variations.
  • Ulnar/Radial Deviation
  • Flexion/Extension

First things first, you are likely going to be ridden with trigger points and other sticky spots on the soft tissue on the bottom of the feet. This will restrict the toes, feet, and ankles in a negative way. Address that first by massaging with a golf or lacrosse ball. 1-2 minutes per side is a good sweet spot. Put one under your desk as a reminder. Walking on river (smooth) rocks is also a good way to slowly start building up.

Calf Raises:
The calf raise is something typically done in a machine and historically reserved for bodybuilders–however, being able to do a calf raise and maintain balance without the ankles kicking out to the side (this is a common compensation).

Squat w/ Heels Up:
While not the ideal way to load up squats very heavy, should be done with control through a full range of motion.

Toe Bridges:
A much neglected movement engaging the entire posterior chain while focusing on the toe flexors. On your back with knees bent, push through the toes and squeeze the glutes to lift your hips.

Kneel to Calf Stretch:
The toes need to have movement in order for your ankles to have movement, so a couple transitions from kneeling to a calf stretch is a good way to get that linear foot/ankle mobility going (toe extension, ankle dorsiflexion).

Toe Pulls:
Increasing your ROM in plantarflexion (toe point) can be done with some toe pulls in a variety of positions. Try to hit the outside, middle, and inside areas of the top front ankle bones.

Eyes Closed Balance:
Working on single leg balance with eyes closed is another great way to work the feet and ankles. The constant adjusting will leave a deconditioned foot thoroughly worked and training it to help you balance in this way is extremely effective.

I could go on and on about the wonderful potential for strength and movement in the feet and hands, but this is a great place to start. Do this, and see everything you do become easier and better.

Better Every Day,

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