Gear: How to get a grip
Devices can help you strengthen your hands, wrists and forearms.
Age-old wrist roller: Low-tech padded handle with a 4-foot-long roll-up nylon rope attached to a bracket that can be stacked with weight plates. (Altus Athletic)
FOR THE RECORD:
1960s squeeze machine
Ivanko Super Gripper: Medieval-looking 1-foot-tall steel frame with two springs and a squeezable, hinged handle.
Likes: It's as effective as it was the day 45 years ago when machinist and body builder Tom Lincir invented it, blasting your forearms almost instantly. I liked that I could instantly tell which hand was weaker than the other. To change resistance, raise or lower the springs a notch, move your hand position or even add additional springs (sold for $3 each). It's very portable but too big to lose. The small clank of the handle upon release causes the springs to reverberate in a musical twang that gets you into a fun rhythm.
Dislikes: The lack of padding on the frame may be uncomfortable for some with sensitive palms, though it didn't bother me.
Price: $37.99; (800) 247-9044; http://www.ivanko.com.
Age-old wrist roller
Altus Athletic Wrist and Forearm Developer: Low-tech padded handle with a 4-foot-long roll-up nylon rope attached to a bracket that can be stacked with weight plates.
Likes: It works great and it's dirt cheap, as long as you already have weight plates. Load standard plates on the bracket (it has a twist-off cap), attach it to the rope and simply roll the bar forward and backward. There is a primal satisfaction in lifting real weight that you can see. The handles are made of soft, comfortable foam.
Dislikes: It's a cumbersome throwback that does not travel well — even to a different room, since you need to have your own weight plates. I had a problem with one of the foam handles slipping as I turned the bar.
Price: $19.95 to $24.95. (800) 654-9873; http://www.altusathletic.com.
The magic handle
Sidewinder: Two-handled, rubber-coated, 141/2-inch bar with an internal spring-resistance mechanism that lets you spin each side independently and an ingenious adjustment dial that allows you to change resistance almost instantly.
Likes: Designed by former tree climber Chris Mieman to be a compact version of the age-old "weight-on-a-rope" wrist-rollers, the Sidewinder allows a quick, effective workout for hands and forearms. There's good versatility, as you can alternate right- and left-hand twists, twist one side only, and try a variety of positions. The rubber-coated cylinders are quite comfortable in your palms, and the simple, well-designed resistance dial is marked with five lines to let you gauge your workouts accurately. Three models with different handle diameters, length and weight are available.
Price: $64, $84.95 and $119.95. (800) 535-6960; http://www.sportgrips.com.
Hang on for dear life
Grapple Grip: Rubberized 11-inch-long handles that clip on to a variety of devices — overhead pull-up bars, barbells, cable machines — to provide a functional vertical grip.
Likes: Invented by jujitsu artist Michael Saffaie — who was inspired by the way masters would roll up their shirts and hold both ends over a bar to pull themselves up — Grapple Grips are brutally efficient because they require a handshake-style straight pull that relies entirely on squeeze power. If you have weak hands, you can't fake it. Doing pull-ups with these is a true challenge; my hands gave out long before my arm muscles did. They are quite convenient, as the built-in clips let you take them with you to the gym for a variety of exercises. Four different models with varying handle diameters are available.
Price: $59.95 to $89.95. (877) 711-0883; http://www.GrappleGrip.com.
Wallack is the author of "Run for Life" and "Bike for Life."