If you have been lifting for awhile you know that immediately increasing strength and adding three pull-ups to your next set is about as far fetched as it gets, even in the bro-science gym world. Adding three simple pull-ups usually takes weeks of hard work. We’re not saying you can skip this hard work and still increase your strength, on the contrary, what this article will show you is that you already have the strength to perform more reps or increase the weight on many of your lifts, but you are missing out on an important muscle group.
Check it out: Take a look at your hands, if you’ve been hitting the gym regularly for at least three months you may notice some calluses in the palm of your hands at the base of your fingers. Look carefully and you will see that those calluses are more prominent on your pinky and ring fingers and almost non-existent at the base of your index finger.
Test it out: Here’s another test for you to take this point one step further, you will need a partner. Holding your hand out in front of you with your elbow bent, find a flexed position that you feel powerful in, stand with your feet square underneath your hips, and clench only your top two fingers and thumb into your fist on the flexed arm, leaving the ring and pinky fingers loose/straightened. Have your buddy push on those two clenched fingers for a couple seconds and try not to let him/her push your elbow back. You should notice that your buddy is able to move your elbow back and possibly push you off balance.
Now reverse the hand and clench your pinky and ring fingers tight, leaving your thumb, index, and middle fingers loose. Have your buddy push on the two new clenched fingers, again trying to make sure your elbow doesn’t get pushed backwards. You should notice a huge difference here, your buddy should not be able to push your elbow back even an inch.
This test, if performed properly, may leave you confused. Why are your smaller, less dexterous fingers seemingly stronger than your index and middle fingers, the two you use for almost everything?
The Science: As mentioned in the first paragraph, you already have the strength to improve your lifts today, it’s a matter of understanding your body just a little bit better. The callus locations and the finger-clench test are two insights into the extremely complex neural and anatomical structures of your body. Without going into all the science there is a basic piece of information you should know. The pinky and ring fingers are connected to the rear side of your body through your triceps, whereas the thumb, index, and middle fingers are attached the the front of your body through your biceps. This means that by engaging your pinky and ring fingers you are now drawing from the large muscles on the back side of your body, namely your triceps, lats, and the opposing glute muscle- left side lat means right side butt. When using your thumb, index, and middle fingers you are engaging the smaller bicep and pectoral muscles
(Notice how the uppermost portion of the lat connects to the triceps muscle)
Conclusion: Suffice it to say that when you focus on gripping any object with your pinky you will notice that you are immediately stronger because you are drawing your power from more muscles that are both larger and stronger.
So next time you step up to any bar do two things: 1) try to wrap your knuckles far around to the opposite side of the bar as your wrist- this will help to engage a greater portion of the pinky side of the palm and forearm muscles- and 2) actively try to push your pinky callus deeper into the bar or you can think about trying to bend the metal bar by rotating with the pinky side.
You’ve never seen a strongman try to bend a steel bar by turning his pinky fingers away from the bar. The only way to bend steel is to use all the greatest amount of power you can draw from your body. Focusing more on the pinky side allows you to do just that!