Get a Grip! 5 Hand Exercises for Spinners

Spinning yarn shouldn’t be painful, and being sidelined by a handspinning injury takes precious time away from our favorite craft. Physical therapist and spinner Mary Egbert suggests a few hand exercises to help keep our time at the wheel ache-free.

Mary Egbert Feb 28, 2022 - 3 min read

Get a Grip! 5 Hand Exercises for Spinners Primary Image

Colorful silk fibers and red and yellow handspun silk yarn.

In honor of Repetitive Strain Injury Awareness day here are some exercises to keep your top tools-your hands-in prime condition!-The Spin Off editorial team

You might think that by performing a task such as pinching and drafting, you are strengthening the muscles, but muscle imbalances are some of the main causes of injuries such as tendonitis and joint pain. Conditioning a muscle against resistance of the entire hand, wrist, forearm, and shoulder provides a strong base and eliminates muscle imbalances. Strength training also allows for greater stamina; as you grow stronger, you won’t tire as easily, which means you will be able to spin, weave, knit, or card for longer periods of time.

Note: If you have pain while performing any of these hand exercises, stop and consult your doctor. You might benefit from seeing an occupational or physical therapist.

Exercises to Strengthen the Hand

Use exercise putty to strengthen the hand. Start out with a light resistance putty and progress to a firmer putty as you get stronger. Try the following exercises to strengthen the intrinsic hand muscles. Each exercise should be performed 10 to 20 times each, 3 times a week, for optimal results.

hand exercises

Illustrations by Ann Sabin Swanson.

1. Pinching the Putty Roll the putty in a snakelike shape 1 to 2 inches thick. Pinch the putty between the tip of your thumb and the tip of your index finger. Work along the length of the putty.

hand exercises

2. Thumb Pinch Grasp a small ball of putty and pinch it between the pad of your thumb and the outside edge of your index finger.

hand exercises

3. Grip Squeeze Squeeze all your fingers into the putty as though you are making a fist.

hand exercises

4. Flat Pinch Use your straightened fingers to pinch the putty down into your thumb.

hand exercises

5. Finger Spread Stretch out the putty and wrap it around your hand in a donut shape while keeping your fingers together. Then spread your fingers out to stretch the putty out.

Mary Egbert has been a physical therapist for nearly twenty-two years. She is an avid spinner and fiber artist and is the owner of Camaj Fiber Arts. Her knowledge of body mechanics and ergonomics has helped other fiber artists avoid injuries and continue to spin pain-free.

Excerpted from “Get a Grip: How Hand Strength Makes Spinning Painless” from the Summer 2017 issue of Spin Off.

Originally published May 7, 2018.