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I got an interesting email from a long-time exerciser who was having some trouble with her strength training program. After more than 20 years of lifting weights, the arthritis in her hands caused so much pain and weakness that she could no longer grip dumbbells. Frustrated, she wanted to know how she could continue to lift weights. I came up with a few ideas in my article about arthritis of the hands including things like using cables or resistance bands (which, for some moves, will allow you to move the weight with your fingers extended), medicine balls, wrist weights or weights with handles on either side.

I'm sure she's not the only person facing this issue and I'd love to hear from my readers who've experienced this. How do you continue to lift if you can't grip the weights? Leave a comment and tell us your thoughts.

I also wanted to point out that, in my research for the article, I came across a number of studies about arthritis and strength training in general - namely, that strength training can actually reduce the pain and fatigue of osteoarthritis as well as rheumatoid arthritis. If this is a problem for you and you've avoided strength training because of it, talk to your doctor and check out our Arthritis Guide's amazing database of information about exercise and arthritis.

September 30, 2009 at 7:59 am
(1) Carol Kagan says:

I have arthritis in my shoulders and had to stopping using resistance bands because it bothered my wrists. Instead I began using ankle weights that wrap around my upper arms so my hands are free. So far I feel it has been effective and giving my wrists a break.

September 30, 2009 at 9:44 am
(2) Sheri says:

I have carpal tunnel on both sides and nerve damage. A trainer taught me how to use machines without gripping, weight balls and resistant bands. It works and does relieve pain.

September 30, 2009 at 10:56 am
(3) Henry says:

My orthopedist had me stop any exersize requiring gripping. I got trigger finger so bad i couldn’t open my hand after forcefully closing it or close it. after 9 months it is near normal.

September 30, 2009 at 11:05 am
(4) Mary says:

At times the weight is so heavy that my hands feel like they are going to drop the weights. My trainner has me using straps that wrap around the grip part of the dumb bells. I also use them on the pull up bars and row bars.
You can find them in any sporting store. At my gym they are pretty popular.

September 30, 2009 at 10:52 pm
(5) tb says:

i have plica syndrome in my elbows so i have had to stop lifting. i have been looking for alternatives and haven’t found much that helps. i do some stretching and exercises with a ball and that is about all i can do. any tips would be appreciated.

October 1, 2009 at 7:53 am
(6) Jim says:

I have moderate arthritis in my hands, & found “lifting hooks” that wrap around the wrist with velcro transfer the stress from the finger joints to the wrist. A hook extends to the palm to connect to barbell, dumbbell,or cable grip,
An example can be viewed at the following site.


October 1, 2009 at 10:26 am
(7) Cheryl says:

Just turned 47 and notice that I’m getting that deep ache that I decided must be arthritis. Knowing how beneficial exercise is, I will continue, but for a good deal of my lifting I used weights that are supported, this way if I am feeling week, I’m not risking injury to anyone if I do have to release.

I’ve been reading about supplements. There are quite a few that are supposed to help, sure most are aware of them. But 2 easy one to incorporate into the diet are D3 and Magnesium.

October 1, 2009 at 5:29 pm
(8) Carolee says:

Arthritis of my hands has in fact lessened since lifting barbells as well as weights! Go figure..

October 6, 2009 at 1:55 am
(9) Storm Ferguson says:

I’ve had success by putting arthritic clients onto drinking distilled water. I read a study about its the only source of pure water left to us and that the body needs clean water to wash various deposits from our joints. It amazed me when an orthodontist who’s mother couldn’t open her hands tried it and shortly thereafter started to open her hands again.
Personally I also use wrist bands attached to cable equipment to allow them to raise weights.

October 6, 2009 at 9:02 pm
(10) Gail says:

There are weight lifting gloves with padding on them to relieve some of the stress of grasping the dumbells. Also some exercises can be done without squeezing the bar but rather pushing with an open hand.

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