You know if he is a worthy adversary or a potentially great ally immediately. You can feel the weight, the strength, the energy in that first handshake. The confidence, posture and definite eye contact that follow only confirm what you already know.
The contrast of a hand shake that has the tensile properties of a spineless sea creature is stark and apparent. Judgements will be made, correct or otherwise, and a first impression sealed. A limp hand shake is apathy of the highest order.
It is of huge social significance, especially amongst Men.
Trust. My dominant hand is empty and holds no weapon.
Physical contact. Especially profound in an increasingly less tactile modern society.
Strength. Men will always use it to measure other Men. Consciously or subconsciously.
It paves the way for communication and it signifies reciprocity. It also reveals several social cues to the perceptive Man.
Does he try to crush your hand? Or turn you palm up in a socially disguised wrestling match.
I am going to try to dominate and control you.
Even more telling, does he place his second hand over yours, enclosing it in an envelope of metatarsals?
I am definitely going to try to dominate and control you.
Reaching a hand out, palm turned upwards in a courtly manner.
I am submissive towards you.
A Man of the countryside, up field and down dell? That shake is likely at arms length, his personal space is large and protected.
A Man of the city, you'll be probably be shaking more closely, crowded train stations and pavements mean his personal space is usually smaller and less sacred.
Respect my personal space
Maybe he really likes you. Or wants you to think he really likes you, and he places his free hand on your shoulder in an avuncular manner. Or you hold a special place in his affections and you get the ultimate hand shake, a high five and pull in for a hug.
Brother. Friend. Comrade.
I could go on. No matter. When the Man opposite you is sizing you up, he will know if you have spent a life tapping a keyboard, remote control, joy pad or if you have actually ever done a
Real Hard Day of Physical Graft
...once you have shaken hands.
Lets go back to the beginning.
The human hand evolved from a hand that looked very much like that of a modern apes. Opposable thumbs as we now have evolved are not actually a uniquely human trait ( the scientist who popularised this notion wrote his presentation last minute on a train! ). They do allow for optimal hand function. Rather than something that was best suited for an arboreal existence or walking on knuckles, we could now engage in tasks that needed huge manual dexterity. Perhaps even more significantly, the fingers could be balled up and the thumb tucked in tightly, to create a true fist. Your hands were the original weapon. Furthermore, they are perfectly adapted for moulding themselves around objects. A rock, an expertly sharpened flint hand axe, a spear. They were the evolutionary hardware that created the tools and weaponry the high powered human brain could conjure up.
A Mans hands are well designed for tough and rugged tasks!
Men have a greater grip strength than Women, even when lean body mass is corrected for. This makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. Fighting and hunting, using rudimentary tools or not, requires grip strength, and these were tasks more often undertaken by Men. Even elite female athletes rarely develop grip strength that matches an average males. This isn't a misogynistic statement, just a biological fact.
There is a study that has done the rounds on the internet recently. Although the sample size was only moderate, it clearly showed millennials, and Men specifically, now had significantly weaker grip strength than the data taken from 1985. In a single generation, our lifestyle had denigrated our grip strength.
I am confident if you could go back at least a generation further, the chasm in grip strength would be greater still.
A fond memory of my Grandfather was watching him eating walnuts when we were gathered at Christmas. He'd drop one of his huge iron paws into the bowl, take two walnuts, casually crush them against each other in his hand and then eat the contents. My other Grandfather, whilst not blessed with Walnut crushing, bear like hands, was a butcher. His hands told were tough, worn and gnarled by work. Even my own father, desk bound by his job, would do all of his own DIY and as a consequence could have crushed me in a handshake until quite recently.
It isn't just in social circles that your hand and its gripping prowess disclose their importance. Amazingly, Grip Strength is a good indicator of long term, all cause, mortality. Including cardiovascular disease and cancer. The mechanisms behind this are unclear.
What is clear, is that I would rather be on the safe side and develop some decent hand strength!
To put it simply, improving your grip strength improves your overall physical functionality.
Considering its benefits, athletes often neglect Grip Strength training. They will debate complex nutritional programs, training algorhythms and the like, but forget that they need to grip something to compete?
Almost all tasks involving the upper extremities require some form of grip strength. Very often, grip strength is the limiting factor. It is easy to see how a weak grip will limit something like a dead lift. But fewer people realise their golf swing, for example, would benefit from better grip strength and hand function. The huge forces generated by a swing, need to be efficiently transferred into the club with perfect timing. Let the last link in this biomechanical chain be weak at your peril.
I personally got short changed when it came to grip strength. Slim forearms and hands might help with running efficiency, but not with gripping. This is easily addressed and my grip strength has improved exponentially with some focused work. As with all things, it just takes some intelligent planning and some definitive action.
Where my old Granfather hails from, they call it, 'Graft'
Don't just take my word for it. The esteemed Mr Charles Poliquin states,
“...when your grip strength improves, less neural drive is needed for the forearm and hand muscles to perform other exercises. That is why many trainees report breaking training plateaus in a host of lifts, ranging from dead lifts to curls, after doing a grip specialization routine.”
The single most effective tool I have found in improving my grip strength are the Captains of Crush trainers. For very little money, these are huge investment in your physical functionality.
I keep some in my car and smash out a few sets whenever the need arises.
Other than these, every few months I will cycle some specific grip work into my routine.
Farmers walks. Pick up two heavy dumbbells and go for a walk
Bar Hangs. Hang tough on the chin up bar for as long as possible
Towel chins. Hang a thick towel over your chin up bar, grip it and pull up!
Wrist Extensions and curls. Superset the sets of these back to back
Lump Hammer circuit. (Yes, get yourself a heavy lump hammer) Holding the shaft as far down as you can manage, rotate your hand palm up, then slowly palm down, then push the head of hammer away from you using just your wrist movement, then pull it back...and repeat for reps.
Hammer Curls. Good old fashioned biceps curls in a hammer grip position. Great for the often neglected brachioradialis muscle.
A few months of this specific work will send your grip strength through the roof. Once you have it, it is a physical asset that will serve you admirably.
How you choose to use it, is up to you.
Leave a comment...and get Grafting!