Beyond the Pump: How a Hand Squeeze Exposes Hidden Overtraining

Hand Dynamometer


Whether you weight train, do intense cardio, or both, you’re pushing yourself to the limit, at least on some occasions. We get it – the thrill of pushing your body to new heights is addictive. But there’s something you must worry about when you do this too often – crossing the line and pushing your body too far. This is known as overreaching or overtraining.

When you overtrain, your performance starts to tank, and you lose your motivation. You may even have physical changes, like poor heart rate recovery and heart rate variability, excessive fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and mood disturbances. Some people use a fitness app to check changes in heart rate variability as a marker of overreaching or overtraining.

But there is another way to monitor your body’s response that you might not have thought about. It’s a simple yet powerful tool that can help you stay on the right side of the overtraining curve: a hand dynamometer.

What is a Hand Dynamometer?

A hand dynamometer is a device you squeeze with your hand. When you grasp and squeeze it, the device measures the force you generate. Why is this invaluable? Grip strength is a reliable measure of how fatigued your central nervous system is. It’s also a proxy for neuromuscular function. When you squeeze your hand and grip something, it recruits multiple muscle groups in your hand and arm, and you need coordination to generate sufficient force. When you overtrain, it fatigues your central nervous system, and you can’t grip with as much force.

What Science Shows

Research reveals that the strength of your grip is a good measure of muscle strength. It also shows that grip strength, as measured by gripping a hand dynamometer, is helpful for monitoring overtraining. A drop in hand grip strength below baseline levels is a reliable indicator that you need more recovery time. You can also use it as a method to track how effective other recovery strategies are, for example, your sleep quality.

How to Use a Hand Dynamometer

First, you’ll need to establish a baseline grip strength. To do this, measure your grip strength using the dynamometer at the same time each day. For example, measure it right after getting up in the morning before you work out. Record the results and keep an accurate record of your readings for 10 days.

Now that you have a baseline, measure your grip strength daily under the same conditions. Analyze the values. If you see a 5-10% drop in grip strength, it is a sign you’re overtraining and need to scale back your workouts or take a few days of recovery. You could also reduce the intensity of your training.

Here’s something to keep in mind. Your grip strength can vary for reasons other than overtraining. If you’re sleep-deprived, stressed out, or not consuming enough calories, your grip could weaken too. Some sources even say that grip strength is the newest vital sign. When your grip is weak, you’re at higher risk for frailty, falls, and sarcopenia. So, if you see a significant drop, review your dietary, sleep, and lifestyle habits too.

Using a Hand Dynamometer to Optimize Your Training

Use a hand dynamometer to fine-tune your workouts, so you can avoid pushing yourself too hard on a day your body needs recovery You can also use it to tweak your workouts and see how see how training variables, like workout volume, intensity, and frequency, affect your central nervous system and neuromuscular function. It’s a form of feedback. Studies show that the strength of your hand grip is a proxy for how strong other muscles in your body are.

Here’s an example:  You’re increasing the frequency, intensity, or volume of your workouts. You measure your grip strength and notice that the values are dropping. You haven’t changed anything else, like your diet or sleep habits and you’re not under great stress. So, you might conclude that the changes in workout are a factor. It may be time to reduce the intensity and volume of your workouts to allow your body to recover.

Another way to use a hand dynamometer to optimize your workouts is to use it to gauge your readiness to train. If you wake up, measure your grip strength and it’s down from your baseline, you may need more recovery time.

Choosing a Hand Dynamometer

How expensive are dynamometers? The price varies but can be quite affordable. You can buy inexpensive models for $20 to $30 at places like Walmart. These versions may lack the accuracy of higher-end hydraulic models that health professionals use. These will run you around $300. A more expensive model will give you more accurate measurements and last longer. Look for a dynamometer with a sturdy construction and a warranty from a reputable manufacturer.

Beyond price there are other factors to consider. Think about the ergonomics of the device. It should feel comfortable when you grip it. If the grip is oversized or too small, it’ll impact how much force your hand can generate. You should be able to grip it even when your hands are sweaty, so look for one that has a textured surface that helps keep your hand from slipping. Also, make sure the grip doesn’t have sharp edges.


A hand dynamometer is a handy tool to monitor for overtraining and to fine tune your workouts. It gives you a snapshot of the degree of neuromuscular and central nervous system you’re experiencing on a given day. Start by setting a baseline so you can decide how hard to push your training on a given day. The hand dynamometer will give you knowledge and a data point. So, think about getting a dynamometer if you’re committed to your training and want to stay away from the dangers of overtraining. Gains and your grip will thank you. Your grip (and your gains) will thank you.


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  • Roberts HC, Denison HJ, Martin HJ, et al. A review of the measurement of grip strength in clinical and epidemiological studies: towards a standardized approach. Age and aging. 2011;40(4):423-429. doi:https://doi.org/10.1093/ageing/afr051.
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