Grip strength is a long lost art in the modern age of touch screens, steering wheels and keyboards. While you don’t need to hang from trees anymore to get your food, that doesn’t mean that your body can get by with no upper body strength.
My workout this week involved lots of hanging, gripping, and pulling and 24 hours later, I can definitely feel the flexors in my forearms! While the heaviest thing you may carry in a day is your tablet, your body was still designed with the ability to hang, swing, and carry body weight. But we don’t. We have an increase of issues of the tissues of the upper body (neck pain, shoulder pain, elbow pain, ligament issues, and carpal tunnel to name a few). But where did they all come from?
The modern humans’ schlumpy posture is because of a myriad is reasons, one of which is that our tissues cannot support the weight of our body against GRAVITY! Seriously! Instead of being able to hold the bones of your shoulder in a biomechanically advantageous position, the desks, cars, and soft couches allow us to melt from gravitational pull. Oy vey.
Good alignment and better posture means that you first must be able to support the weight of your own body against gravity. We add insult to injury by taking our gravity melted bodies and hanging all sorts of things from them, like heavy purses, insane gym bags, or heavy children, and then wonder why we have neck, wrist, and elbow pain.
It wasn’t until I was driving home post-workout, barely able to hang on to my steering wheel because my gripping muscles were so fatigued, that I realized that we do not regularly hold on to things. Our fingers go through the same repetitive motions day after day, and typing on tablets, smart phones, and computers are not what your bodily machine was designed for.
We can make office spaces ergonomic and cell phones even lighter, but there is nothing “natural” about spending any amount of time slumped over in your seat, staring at a screen. And when our purses are too heavy to carry, where do we put them? On our elbow of course, so that the biceps and the shoulder can carry the brunt of the work. (on a side note, can you imagine if you kept any other joint of the body in the same position for any period of time? If you kept one arm overhead for 1-2hrs, people would think you’re weird. But no one questions hanging a purse off a bent elbow for hours at a time)
The first step to combat pain and gravitational melting is to be able to support the weight of your own body. Having upper body strength means that you will be able to stand up straight and have muscles that can support the joints, instead of relying on the integrity of your ligaments to do so. It will also help to improve circulation, as the fluids of your body also appreciate some support against gravity.
Now, don’t go all crazy monkey and think that after years of not hanging, you will be able to support the weight of your body. Katy Bowman has an excellent post on how to start developing upper body strength and hanging strength here: Hanging and Swinging 101. The structure is the same for learning any new skill – take it slow and develop the fundamentals first. Before you know it, you’ll be hanging from the trees like a monkey! And you may even find that your nagging upper body aches and pain have resolved themselves 😉
*Learn all about how to start your Upper Body Anti-Gravitational Melting program on Katy Bowman’s Blog here: Hanging and Swinging 101