Good grip is a good thing. In daily life, you need strong hands, wrists and forearms to hold grocery bags, staircase railings, steering wheels and plenty of other things we take for granted. In athletics, your grip is the last link between you and your sport -- whether it be gymnastics or tennis or rock climbing or ping-pong. New research even says your grip is an indicator of overall body strength -- and also maybe how long you'll live. Bottom line: It pays to keep your grip strong, especially if you play hard or are older than 50, when strength wanes. Below are four ways to do it conveniently, even as you sit in front of the TV.
Roy M. Wallack
Ivanko Super Gripper: Medieval-looking 1-foot-tall steel frame with two springs and a squeezable, hinged handle.
Likes: It's as effective as it was the day 45 years ago when machinist and body builder Tom Lincir invented it, blasting your forearms almost instantly. I liked that I could instantly tell which hand was weaker than the other. To change resistance, raise or lower the springs a notch, move your hand position or even add additional springs (sold for $3 each). It's very portable but too big to lose. The small clank of the handle upon release causes the springs to reverberate in a musical twang that gets you into a fun rhythm.
Dislikes: The lack of padding on the frame may be uncomfortable for some with sensitive palms, though it didn't bother me.
Price: $37.99; (800) 247-9044; www.ivanko.com.
Roll with the wrist
Altus Athletic Wrist and Forearm Developer: Low-tech padded handle with a 4-foot-long roll-up nylon rope attached to a bracket that can be stacked with weight plates.
Likes: It works great and it's dirt cheap, as long as you already have weight plates. Load standard plates on the bracket (it has a twist-off cap), attach it to the rope and simply roll the bar forward and backward. There is a primal satisfaction in lifting real weight that you can see. The handles are made of soft, comfortable foam.
Dislikes: It's a cumbersome throwback that does not travel well -- even to a different room, since you need to have your own weight plates. I had a problem with one of the foam handles slipping as I turned the bar.
Price: $19.95 to $24.95. (800) 654-9873; www.altusathletic.com.
Grapple Grip: Rubberized 11-inch-long handles that clip on to a variety of devices -- overhead pull-up bars, barbells, cable machines -- to provide a functional vertical grip.
Likes: Invented by jujitsu artist Michael Saffaie -- who was inspired by the way masters would roll up their shirts and hold both ends over a bar to pull themselves up -- Grapple Grips are brutally efficient because they require a handshake-style straight pull that relies entirely on squeeze power. If you have weak hands, you can't fake it. Doing pull-ups with these is a true challenge; my hands gave out long before my arm muscles did. They are quite convenient, as the built-in clips let you take them with you to the gym for a variety of exercises. Four different models with varying handle diameters are available.
Price: $59.95 to $89.95. (877) 711-0883; www.GrappleGrip.com.
The magic handle
Sidewinder: Two-handled, rubber-coated, 141/2-inch bar with an internal spring-resistance mechanism that lets you spin each side independently and an ingenious adjustment dial that allows you to change resistance almost instantly.
Likes: Designed by former tree climber Chris Mieman to be a compact version of the age-old "weight-on-a-rope" wrist-rollers, the Sidewinder allows a quick, effective workout for hands and forearms. There's good versatility, as you can alternate right- and left-hand twists, twist one side only, and try a variety of positions. The rubber-coated cylinders are quite comfortable in your palms, and the simple, well-designed resistance dial is marked with five lines to let you gauge your workouts accurately. Three models with different handle diameters, length and weight are available.
Price: $64, $84.95 and $119.95. (800) 535-6960; www.sportgrips.com.