Two hands, one gripping the other around a red area to indicate pain.

Get a Grip: 4 Essential Pieces of Equipment for Resistance Training with Grip Pain & Weakness

It’s estimated that over 1 in 4 adults in the United States experiences some degree of difficulty gripping objects due to pain or weakness in the hands. While gripping difficulties can be due to a number of conditions including fibromyalgia, stroke, paralysis, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and Parkinson’s disease, arthritis is by far the most common cause of gripping difficulties, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that it affects more than 54.4 million adults in the USA. In fact, arthritis is currently the leading cause of adult disability in the US.

Luckily, there are ways for those affected to alleviate pain in the fingers, hands, and wrists, as well as increase grip strength. One of the best ways to reap these benefits is by following a regular resistance training program. 

Though a resistance training program might seem counterintuitive, it can be incredibly effective and only requires a few versatile pieces of equipment. Best of all, this method doesn’t require a lot of money spent on equipment or gym memberships, and can even be completed in the comfort of your own home!

What is Resistance Training?

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, resistance training (also known as strength training or weight lifting) is “a form of exercise designed to improve muscular fitness by exercising a muscle or a muscle group against external resistance.”

Applying external resistance to a muscle will cause it to contract, leading to increases in muscular size, strength, endurance and tone. External resistance can come in a variety of forms, including dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, resistance bands, or even your own body weight.

What are the Benefits of Resistance Training?

Over and over, research has shown that resistance training has numerous positive effects on both physical and mental health for participants of all ages and ability levels.  

According to the Mayo Clinic and a recent study in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, some of the general benefits of resistance training include:

  • Retention of lean muscle mass with age
  • Improved balance
  • Decreased risk of heart disease
  • Reduced resting blood pressure
  • Increased bone mineral density
  • Alleviation of the symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • Increased functional independence and enhanced quality of life

As if the benefits listed above weren’t enough, studies also suggest that resistance training provides even more benefits for individuals with arthritis, fibromyalgia and other conditions causing grip pain and weakness.

The Mayo Clinic and an article by Wayne Westcott in the Current Sports Medicine Reports state that those additional benefits of resistance training include:

  • Increased range of motion
  • Decreased joint pain
  • Reduced lower back pain

How do I Resistance Train When I Can’t Hold a Weight?

To fully reap the rewards of resistance training, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends performing resistance training a minimum of two days per week. The ACSM also states that “exercise sessions should be performed on non-consecutive days and each session should target each of the major muscle groups.”

This all sounds great in theory, but, in reality it can be difficult to perform strength training exercises when you experience grip pain and weakness. Typical resistance training equipment such as barbells and dumbbells requires significant gripping strength!

Fortunately, there are plenty of other equipment options available that will allow you to strength train with grip pain and weakness. Below, we’ll examine 4 essential pieces of resistance training equipment that will allow you to safely adapt and perform resistance training workouts.

Looking for exercises?  Want tips on selecting and using equipment?  Visit our website at inclufit.com to view our exercise videos, equipment, and training tips.

Essential Pieces of Equipment for Resistance Training

Let’s explore 4 essential pieces of resistance training equipment that you can use to get a safe and effective resistance training workout– all from within the comfort of your own home!

1. Medicine Balls

A medicine ball is simply a weighted ball. They are a great tool for developing upper body strength, as well as performing a variety of functional movements for the upper body and core.

Medicine balls are versatile and are available in a variety of sizes (from the size of a softball to the size of a beach ball) and weights (from 1 pound to 50 pounds).

Traditional medicine balls are firm and covered with a nylon, leather, polyurethane, or rubber exterior.  Frequently, the ball’s exterior is tacky or textured to make it easier to grip. However, even traditional medicine balls with these features can be impossible to use if you suffer from grip pain and weakness.

Luckily, there are several medicine ball options that give those with grip pain and weakness all of the benefits of a traditional medicine ball, without the need for a strong grip.

Let’s explore these options in more detail…

Medicine Balls with Handles or Straps

This style of medicine ball is similar to a traditional medicine ball, but it has either one or two handles or straps. Generally, these medicine balls have a hard, texturized shell.

The user’s hands slide into the straps or handles, making the ball easy to grip and cause less fatigue in the arms and hands, which allows you to exercise longer. These medicine balls provide the option of gripping with one or two hands to allow for both one arm and two arm exercises (if the ball is small).

An image of a medicine ball with handles.
Medicine Ball with Handles

Medicine balls with handles or straps are ideal for:

  • Upper body exercises
  • Abdominal training
  • Exercises involving rotational movement

Soft Grip Medicine Balls

Soft medicine balls have a soft, pliable exterior shell and are typically filled with sand, gel, or a similar flexible material. An added bonus – because soft medicine balls are squishy, they also develop grip strength!

An image of a soft medicine ball.
Soft Medicine Ball

Some soft grip medicine balls are filled with air. The firmness of air-filled balls can be adjusted by increasing or decreasing the air. The more air, the firmer the ball. The less air, the more pliable the ball, making it easier to grasp.

If the ball is small, soft medicine balls give you the flexibility of gripping with one or two hands, allowing for both one arm and two arm exercises.

Soft grip medicine balls are ideal for:

  • Upper body exercises
  • Developing grip strength

Ergonomic Medicine Balls

An ergonomic medicine ball has all of the advantages of both a medicine ball with straps and a soft grip medicine ball. Double bonus!

The ergonomic design fits the natural shape of the hand, leading to less fatigue and easier grip, but this style of medicine ball also has a soft, pliable surface like a soft medicine ball. This allows you to use it like a dumbbell but is much easier to hold onto.

The user’s hand slides into the strap, making the ball easy to grip. The strap can be adjusted to fit securely around the hand, which requires minimal gripping strength from the user.

Red, soft ergonomic medicine ball with adjustable strap.
Ergonomic Medicine Ball with Strap

Ergonomic medicine balls are ideal for:

    • Upper body exercises
    • Any exercise that you would use a dumbbell to perform
    • Individuals with severe hand pain and weakness since minimal gripping is required
    • Training one arm at a time
      • Note: If you want to work both arms at the same time, you simply need a second weight and use them just like you would use a pair of dumbbells

2. Soft Hand Weights

Soft hand weights are used much like a dumbbell but are much easier and more comfortable to hold onto. They consist of a soft, pliable shell that’s filled with sand or similar material, and are particularly great for individuals with larger hands that find light dumbbells too small to grip.

Man's hand holding a blue, soft hand weight.
Soft Hand Weight

Soft hand weights are ideal for:

    • Upper body exercises
    • Any exercise that you would use a dumbbell to perform
    • Training one arm at a time
      • Note: If you want to work both arms at the same time, you simply need a second weight and use them just like you would use a pair of dumbbells.

3. Cuff Weights

A cuff weight is typically a nylon sleeve that is wrapped around the wrist or ankle and secured with a Velcro strap. They are most often filled with sand or other similar materials and come in a range of weights (from 0.25 pounds to 25+ pounds).

Cuff weights can be used alone or in pairs and provide a great way to add resistance to almost any exercise without having to hold a weight. They are great for users with conditions such as tetraplegia and cerebral palsy who are unable to grasp because cuff weights don’t require any gripping!

Cuff weights are most often sized in a way that allows the wearer to place them on either the ankle or the wrist. This allows for use in both upper and lower body exercises. Larger sized cuffs are also available to use on the thigh, or with larger individuals, and pediatric sized cuffs are available for children and smaller adults.

Cuff weights are available in both fixed and variable (adjustable) weight versions. Here’s a little more information about each of these options…

Fixed Weight Cuff 

Fixed weight cuffs refer to cuffs that have a specific and unchanging weight.

Black and blue fixed weight cuff with adjustable strap.
Fixed Weight Cuff

The Pros & Cons of Fixed Weight Cuffs

Pros Cons
  • Often less expensive per cuff than variable weight
  • Many users find them more comfortable and conform better to the wrist or ankle than variable weights
  • If you want to increase or decrease weight, you must purchase other cuffs to expand your selection

Fixed weight cuffs are ideal for:

  • Upper and lower body exercises (wrist & ankle)

Variable Weight (Adjustable) Cuff

Variable weight cuffs (or adjustable weight cuffs) allow the user to adjust the weight of the cuff in small increments. The weight is adjusted by adding or removing weighted inserts.  

2 images of red, variable weight cuffs with adjustable straps and metal inserts.
Variable Weight Cuff

These inserts are typically small metal rods or small pouches filled with sand, and can range from 0.1 to 5 pounds each, depending upon the total weight of the cuff.

The Pros & Cons of Variable Weight Cuffs

Pros Cons
  • Variable weight cuffs have the benefit of providing a range of weight options without having to purchase several individual cuffs
  • Often more expensive per cuff than fixed weight
  • Many users find them less comfortable and do not conform as well to the wrist or ankle as fixed weight cuffs

Variable weight cuffs are ideal for:

  • Upper and lower body exercises (wrist & ankle)

4. Cuff Attachments & Handles

Resistance bands and resistance tubing are a terrific way to resistance train and are available in a variety of sizes, lengths, and strengths.

Resistance bands and resistance tubing offer the following advantages:

  • Lightweight and portable. You can use them anytime, anywhere. They are particularly great when you are travelling.
  • Cost-effective. Bands are relatively cheap compared to other fitness equipment. You can typically get a set of 4-6 foot bands or tubing for less than $20.
  • Good for any fitness level. Resistance bands come in a variety of resistances (from XX-Light to XXX-Heavy). There are options that are light enough for beginners or heavy enough for experienced exercisers.  
  • Easily adaptable. The level of resistance is easily adjustable, even in the middle of an exercise. Too much resistance? Just give the band or tube more slack. Too little resistance? Choke up on the band to make the exercise harder.  
  • Versatile. Resistance bands and tubes can be used for an effective full-body workout that challenges every part of the body – upper body, lower body, and core. The possibilities are endless!

With all of those benefits, working out with bands and tubing seems like a no-brainer. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to hold bands and tubes if you experience grip pain and weakness. Fortunately, there are several attachments that will allow you to safely and effectively use bands and tubing without discomfort or pain.  

Here are two great options…

Handles

A variety of handle attachments have been designed for use with resistance bands and tubing. Handles are typically covered with a foam padding, which makes the handles more comfortable and easier to grip. Using handles also reduces fatigue in the hands and forearms.

Pair of Handles
Pair of Handles

Handles are typically attached to the band or tube by one of two ways:

  1. Tying the band or tube to a metal D-ring on the handle. However, this method can be challenging to securely tie the tube or band if you have limited dexterity and/or finger, hand, or wrist pain.
  2. Threading the band or tube through a special “easy-load” mechanism. Handles with the “easy-load” mechanism allow the user to loop the band or tube through the handle and secure it without tying. This attachment method is best for anyone with limited dexterity and finger or hand pain.

Handles are ideal for:

  • Upper body exercises
  • Individuals with only slight grip pain or weakness

Cuffs

A cuff attachment is an adjustable, padded strap that is wrapped around the wrist or the ankle and secured with a Velcro strap. This attachment is a great way to use resistance bands and tubes without having to grip. Cuffs are particularly helpful to those that are unable to grasp and for those with conditions such as tetraplegia and cerebral palsy. The cuff is used just like a handle — but no gripping is required!

Cuff attachments come in a variety of sizes for use on the wrist, ankle or thigh. This versatility allows for use in both upper and lower body exercises. There are also larger sized cuffs available to use by larger individuals and pediatric sized cuffs are available for children and smaller adults. The variety of cuff sizes allows for use in upper and lower body exercises, giving you virtually unlimited exercise options. 

Adjustable cuff attachment on a green resistance band.
Band with Cuff Attachment

Just as with the handle attachments, cuff attachments are typically attached to the band or tube by one of two ways:

  1. Tying the band or tube to a metal D-ring on the cuff. However, this method can be challenging to securely tie the tube or band if you have limited dexterity and/or finger, hand, or wrist pain.
  2. Threading the band or tube through a special “easy-load” mechanism. Cuffs with the “easy-load” mechanism allow the user to loop the band or tube through the handle and secure it without tying.  This attachment method is best for anyone with limited dexterity and finger or hand pain.

Cuffs are ideal for:

  • Upper and lower body exercises (wrist, ankle, thigh)
  • Individuals with little or no grip strength
  • Individuals experiencing severe finger, hand, or wrist pain

Conclusion

The good news?

You can exercise with grip pain and weakness, you just need the right equipment!

With just a few key pieces of equipment, you can get an effective, full body workout at home without spending a lot of money or joining a gym. Best of all, developing a workout plan that includes resistance exercise will help you manage and alleviate symptoms of arthritis, fibromyalgia, and other conditions that cause grip pain and weakness.

So, what are you waiting for?  Don’t let grip pain and weakness stop you from being your best!

You can find more accessories, bands, and weights in our Strength Shop.

We also encourage you to take a look at our arthritis equipment packages. These packages are carefully selected and bundled to give you everything you need to enjoy a comfortable and effective full-body workout.

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