Fitness tracking doesn’t have to mean wearing a fitness watch. In fact, you can track your fitness in a number of different ways and there are sorts of metrics you can collect if you know how.
One is grip strength, which also has another use in helping you to identify your recovery level following a workout. And all you need to do this is a relatively inexpensive device for around $30 called a ‘hand dynamometer’.
What Is a Hand Dynamometer?
A hand dynamometer is essentially a device that allows you to measure your grip strength. The device has a grip for your fingers and a display and when you apply force and attempt to squeeze the grip shut, the amount of force being applied will register and show on the screen.
A relatively cheap dynamometer will normally be good for up to 100KG of force, which is more than enough for most people.
Why Use a Hand Dynamometer?
So what is so useful about this?
For starters, your grip strength is an important aspect of your strength generally. Increasing grip strength is a great way to improve your performance in every lift and this is something that the old-time strongmen reportedly took very seriously. With more grip strength, you can more easily hold onto the bar/cable and therefore you can put more energy into actually moving the weight and performing with your best technique. It also allows you to perform more pull ups/chin ups before slipping off the bar.
Grip strength is also useful in all kinds of situations in real life. Whether you’re opening up a jam jar, wrestling, or catching a ball. In fact, grip strength is often more useful than any other kind of strength!
For all these reasons, you might conceivably want to improve your grip and using a hand dynamometer you’ll have a tool to help you do that. This way, you can use techniques to try and improve and then use the dynamometer to measure precisely what is working and what isn’t (and thus what you should do more of!).
Interestingly, grip strength also appears to correlate with your recovery rate. According to some bloggers, your grip strength is indicative of your cortisol-testosterone ratio, which in turn can be used to imply recovery. This is also correlated with your heart rate variability.
I couldn’t find many studies on this but it is mentioned in a couple of research papers (1). Theoretically then, you could measure your grip strength first thing in the morning (before anything has had a chance to interfere with it) and this could then give you an indication of how recovered your central nervous system is. That in turn would be a useful indicator on which to base your workouts – should you train again or should you wait another day?
Remember though, correlation is causality and there are likely other factors influencing variation in your grip strength. Nevertheless, it makes sense at least that your grip strength would be depleted from a heavy session of weightlifting and as it is a good indicator of general strength, it could be used to tell you whether you’ve recovered your full strength and therefore are ready to go hard in the gym again!