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Effect Of Gender And Exercise Type On Relative Hand Grip Strength

Peterson, Erin; Murray, Will; Hiebert, Jean M

The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: January 2010 - Volume 24 - Issue - p 1
doi: 10.1097/01.JSC.0000367192.78257.72

Previous studies indicate hand grip strength in males is greater than females. As these values are typically reported as absolute hand grip strength, they do not take into account the smaller stature of females. Hand strength as reflected relative to anthropometrics such as hand length have not been thoroughly investigated. To investigate this question hand grip strength and body anthropometrics of two groups of physically active females and males was measured. To assess grip strength of males and females relative to body stature as reflected by hand length, BMI, and percent body fat in two different groups (rock climbers and runners). 20 subjects volunteered for this study. Eleven (8 males, 3 females) were recreational rock climbers and nine (4 males, 5 females) were recreational runners. Inclusion criteria for runners required a minimum one year history of running 20 miles/week at 6-8 minutes/mile; climbers required an ability to climb a minimum of Class 5.1 on the Yosemite Decimal System. Grip strength and sustained grip strength of subject's dominant hand were measured using a computerized, electronic hand grip dynamometer. Strength in five different grip size settings and sustained grip were assessed per manufacturer's directions. Height and hand length from the distal palmar crease to tip of middle finger was assessed using a tape measure. The relative hand grip strength was calculated as the relationship between absolute hand grip strength (lbs.) and the subject's hand length (in.), body weight, body composition using sum of skin folds (SSF), and body mass index (BMI) were also assessed. Data were analyzed using SPSS 13.0. Independent sample T-tests revealed no difference in sustained hand grip, hand length, BMI, and percent body fat with regards to rock climbers and runners. Gender differences were found in hand length (males > females), and percent body fat (females > males), though no difference was noted in BMI. Analysis of variance tests compared the effect of gender and exercise on relative hand grip strength. Relative hand strength was not different between climbers and runners. However, relative strength was different based on gender (p = .000), males stronger than females, and hand grip setting (p = .000), position 2 > 3 > 4 > 5 > 1. The only interaction was between grip setting and gender (p = .009). Males were stronger in grip setting three, whereas females were stronger in the smaller grip position two. Our findings indicated relative strength was not different based upon physical activity. However, relative strength was greater in males than females and is in agreement with studies assessing absolute hand grip strength. The decreased hand size of females in relation to males may explain the effect of grip position on maximum strength. Further studies utilizing subjects of different anthropometric characteristic would provide further insight as to the importance of reporting grip strength as a relative value. Our findings suggest different grip settings should be used when assessing strength of males and females regardless of typical mode of physical activity.

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