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Technique and Training

Get a Grip: Get Stronger to Stay Healthier

Grip strength and mortality

Chris Ritter | September 23, 2015

As a Masters swimmer you probably have goals that include living a high-quality, healthy life, as well as improving your performance in the pool. I’ve written previously about how strength gains can increase your performance and now there’s growing empirical evidence that says being strong might also have positive effects on your overall health. A recent study published in The Lancet looks at the relationship between strength and mortality.

In the Prospective Urban-Rural Epidemiology study, researchers followed 139,691 subjects aged 35 to 70 years for four years and measured grip strength through a dynamometer. Results showed that “grip strength was inversely associated with all-cause mortality, cardiovascular mortality, noncardiovascular mortality, myocardial infarction, and stroke. Grip strength was a stronger predictor of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality than systolic blood pressure.”

So what practical applications can we take from the PURE study?

First, don’t rush out and buy every hand-gripper strengthening device you can find. Although the study highlights grip strength specifically, that’s intended to be an indicator of overall strength. So rather than focus on hand strength, you need to work on increasing overall strength.

The best way to develop overall strength is to train with compound strength movements such as squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, and push-ups. These compound movements are distinct because they utilize multiple joints and muscle groups during the movement instead of isolation exercises that just work one muscle group and a singular joint.

Another benefit to compound strength movements is that they all require full-body tension, which translates into faster speeds in the pool. If you have more total-body tension when you swim, you’ll slice through the water more efficiently.

It’s important to find the appropriate starting level for any exercise and to make sure you take a balanced approach to your strength training. If you’re new to strength training, consult with a qualified trainer or strength and conditioning coach before starting a strength-training regimen.

Bottom line: If you want to not only perform better but also live longer and with more vitality, you should be including consistent and programmed strength training into your routine. 

USMS Wave Seperator

About the Author—Chris Ritter

Chris Ritter is the founder of RITTER Sports Performance online training programs and the author of the e-book, SURGE STRENGTH, which details how to strength train specifically for swimming performance. Ritter, a swimmer himself, has a degree in kinesiology and exercise science and he specializes in training athletes of diverse abilities, ranging from beginners to Olympians. Follow him on Twitter @RITTERSP or like his Facebook page for updates and training tips.

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