Think you’d beat your dad in an arm wrestling competition when he was your age? Bad news: he’d probably kick your ass.
Men today are weaker than they were 30 years ago, research in the Journal of Hand Therapy found.
In the study, men aged 20-34 have lower grip and pinch strength – which measures how strong your hand and upper extremities are – than the same aged guys did three decades ago.
In fact, the average grip strength for men ages 25-29 is nearly 12 kilograms lower today than it was before.
Your grip may not seem super important unless you’re a competitive arm wrestler, but it actually serves as a good proxy of your overall strength.
In fact, a 2011 study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that grip strength was predictive of strength in push-ups, leg extensions and leg press.
What’s more, research in previous generations has linked lower grip strength to a variety of serious health problems including arthritis, heart disease, stroke and neurological conditions, says Fain.
It’s not clear whether grip strength actually makes people healthier, or if healthier people are just stronger.
So why are men today so much weaker?
They are less likely to be employed in manual labor jobs, such as in the manufacturing and agricultural fields, than they used to be, says study author Dr Elizabeth Fain, an assistant professor of occupational therapy at Winston-Salem State University in the US.
Working on an assembly line, for instance, requires repetitive tasks handling weighted objects, which can strengthen your hands, she says.
That day-in, day-out grind likely plays more of a role increasing grip strength than weight training – which may only be a few times a week – would do.
It’s also more helpful than the repetitive hand motions we’re more likely to do today, like texting or typing, which tend to activate smaller muscle groups, she says.
Your move, then, is to work on your own grip.
If you’re not working with your hands, you need to make training grip more of a priority.