Trainer, author, and fitness model Kirk Charles, NASM-CPT CES, knows that as you get older, life can get more complicated. But that shouldn’t prevent you from being on top of your game. He’ll help to answer the tough training questions that come with age so you too can be Fit Beyond 40.
Each time I think I’m making upper body gains in the gym, I always run into a real life situation that keeps me honest about how useful all the muscle actually can be in practice. Something as simple as opening a stuck jar, where grip strength is critical, is one of those moments.
But it's not only important for being able to access everything in my kitchen. Research has shown that grip strength is an indicator of health and longevity. That said, as we age, we should do our best to maintain that level of strength, both for specific situations like I have faced and for our overall health. One exercise that I use is the plate pinch, a really simple maneuver that will give you lots of bang for your buck, especially since it can apply to so may real life situations.
To start, grab a pair of weight plates. Stand up straight and tall. Squeeze your glutes, abs, and shoulder blades to form a stable posture and create full body tension. Grab each weight with your hands with your thumb on one side and your fingers on the other— essentially, pinching the plate. Hold the weights at your sides while maintaining full body tension and actively squeezing with your fingers for 20 to 30 seconds. You may feel yourself fatiguing much sooner than you think.
The beauty of the plate pinch is that you can’t wrap your fingers around the plate as if you’re grabbing an object with a handle, such as a dumbbell and many other objects and machines at the gym. Because you’re “pinching” instead of “grabbing,” you’ll challenge your forearm muscles as you fight against gravity, which can make holding a light weight more demanding.
You can make the plate grip even more difficult by increasing the width of the plate. If you don't have multiple widths available that you can grip, just fold a small towel over your fingers and layer it over the plate. The wider the width, the more challenging the exercise becomes. Of course, you can also grab a heavier plate for more of a challenge, but leveling up can be difficult.
I like doing the plate grip unilaterally while walking, just like a suitcase or farmer's carry. There aren't many real-life scenarios in which you'll grab equally heavy weights on both sides of your body while standing still—by holding a heavier plate on one side of the body and moving, it more simulates real situations I encounter in my lift. Your core muscles will become more engaged to fill their anti-rotation function to maintain balance and stability and keep you standing up straight.
The plate pinch can be much more valuable than you'd expect. Sometimes we tend to underestimate the effectiveness of the smaller exercises we do, but this one pays high dividends, from helping you to hold onto a barbell, open a pesky stuck jar, or even to help your overall health and longevity. Try four rounds of the plate pinch for 30 seconds at a time, or until you drop the plate. Start with light weights and work your way up.
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