Today, we are covering one type of grasp called a hook grasp. If you saw my earlier post on grasp patterns, you may have noticed a grip you are unfamiliar with. The grip pattern called the Hook Grasp, is a functional grasping pattern that is used daily in various fine motor skills. Today we will take a moment to further explore the hook grasp, talk about its’ functional uses, and get resources for exercises and activities to strengthen this grip.
what is a hook grasp?
A Hook Grasp is a type of motor pattern in which the fingers are bent at all the joints in a slightly flexed pattern with the thumb either assisting to grasp an object with the hook pattern, or in opposition with an open thumb webspace.
The hook grasp is characterized by a flat hand, curled fingers, and thumb used passively to stabilize the load. The biomechanics of the hand for a hook grip use a stable wrist, finger flexion at the IP joints, and extension at the MCP joints.
When you think of “hook grasp” you are might be picturing Captain Hook. The hooking motion used in this grip is similar to the way Captain Hook holds onto items. The objects hang in the curve of the Captain’s hook. Similar to this idea, in the hook grasp, the tips of the fingers are bent into a curve to grab onto things.
A hook grip is used to hold objects with a small diameter. For objects with a diameter of 2″ the hook grip strength can achieve the strength of a power grip. Very narrow handles decreases hook grip strength by pressing deeply into the hand and fingers.
examples of the hook grasp
Some examples of a hook grasp in functional task include:
- holding onto the handle of a bucket
- hanging from a bar
- weight lifting with a barbell
- lifting and carrying shopping bags
- grasping a steering wheel
- lifting a box that has cut out holes for handles
- carrying a briefcase, purse, or bag by the handle
- doing pull ups
- holding a garden hose
- using a hairbrush with a slim handle
- pulling a refrigerator door handle
- holding onto the overhead safety handle in the car
- grasping the skinny edge of a container to lift it
- carrying a jug
- Holding the handle of a suitcase
- Holding onto a ladder rung
In each of these tasks, the load, or the work of the grasp, is supported by fingers. This grip is most effective when the arms are down at the side of the body. For visual learners, here are some illustrations of the this grip in action.
Rigid handles can cause discomfort when carrying a heavy load for long periods of time. If you have ever tried to carry a grocery bag with skinny plastic handles for more than a couple of minutes, you know how quickly the pain sets in. Of course, someone invented a solution for carrying plastic bags. This gadget uses the hook grip, but distributes the weight of the bags better.
hook grip in weightlifting
The hook grip is a method of gripping a barbell used in many strength-related sports such as Olympic weightlifting, CrossFit, and powerlifting. Here is an informative article on the benefits of using a hook grasp in weightlifting.
In weightlifting, the hook grip is further strengthened by placing the thumb on the bar and wrapping the fingers on top of it.
This takes practice and pushing through the pain, but according to the resources, the hook grasp becomes quite the power grip during heavy lifting.
Hook Grasp Exercises
Try these specific activities:
- Squeeze things whenever you can. Use tools, putty, games, playdough, a rolled up towel, tennis or stress balls
- Use a (Amazon affiliate link) grip strength kit specifically designed to improve grasping. While this may be repetitive and boring to some, it is a measurable way to build grasping.
- Prohands grip master is a popular hand strengthening tool. It can be used to increase different grip patterns including the hook grip
- Play with a squirt bottle or squeeze container
- Classic ring toss game
- Milk a cow (or pretend using the hand motions)
- Carry a laundry basket that has side holes. Play a game of carrying the basket while gathering items
- Hang from a trapeze swing or ladder swing
- Climb a ladder practicing the hook grasp by not using the thumb
- Tape the thumb out of the way for an exercise of picking items up without using the thumb to support it
- Provide a small purse with a handle or a suitcase for your learner to carry around. This can be filled with treasures and collectibles. Kids love to carry things, and this will build their hand strength
- Play a game of carrying buckets while filling it with items along the way
- Easter egg hunt picking up eggs while carrying the basket
- Fill buckets with water to dump them. This is a great beach activity as children carry water back and forth across the sand
- Encourage heavy lifting, carrying, pushing and pulling to strengthen grip and improve function and independence.
final thoughts on the hook grasp
Next time you are using your hook grasp to carry grocery bags, or laundry basket, pay attention to the amount of work your fingertips are doing. There is a lot of force right on the ends of your digits. Imagine if you were missing a digit, or had an injury to one. Now the amount of force is only spread among three fingers instead of four. Finger injuries may seem small, but they effect the power of grasping, as well as fine motor precision.
Other types of grasps to consider when it comes to fine motor skills include:
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Victoria Wood, OTR/L is a contributor to The OT Toolbox and has been providing Occupational Therapy treatment in pediatrics for more than 25 years. She has practiced in hospital settings (inpatient, outpatient, NICU, PICU), school systems, and outpatient clinics in several states. She has treated hundreds of children with various sensory processing dysfunction in the areas of behavior, gross/fine motor skills, social skills and self-care. Ms. Wood has also been a featured speaker at seminars, webinars, and school staff development training. She is the author of Seeing your Home and Community with Sensory Eyes.