There are no muscles in your fingers, according to the American Society for Surgery on the Hand. When performing agility exercises for your fingers, you’re actually working the muscles in your palms and forearms. The bones in your fingers are connected only by tendons. Think of yourself as a puppet master. By pulling on those tendons as if they’re the strings of a marionette, you can make your fingers flex and move. The muscles that control your fingers are powerful, enabling rock climbers to lift their entire body weight up a cliff by their fingertips.
Cues from Musicians
For many musicians, such as violinists, pianists and guitarists, the agility of their fingers can make or break their careers. They do exercises to warm up and strengthen their fingers. For example, press your forefinger and thumb together, forming an O shape. Hold the position for about three seconds and then release. Repeat the exercises eight to 10 times for each finger. To work on agility, perform the exercise again, but only touch the tips of your fingers, progressively one finger at a time, with your thumb. In the second version, work on speed without sliding your thumb across your fingertips.
Tricks from Magicians
Magicians also use exercises to enable their fingers to reach further and move faster. If their fingers are clumsy, they can fumble a trick and reveal the secrets behind their trickery. Try a coin roll to make your fingers more nimble. First balance a coin on your thumb, keeping your hand parallel to the floor. Slide the coin over to your forefinger between the knuckle and the first joint. Lift your middle finger so it pinches the edge of the coin. Next, flip the coin over from your forefinger to the middle finger. Repeat this slide-lift-flip action until the coin reaches your little finger. Put your pinkie on top of the coin and slide it under your hand, transferring it back to your thumb. Practice the roll until the coin ripples smoothly across your fingers.
To isolate your fingers for a workout, being by placing your palm face down on a flat surface. Lift only your thumb as high as it will go. Lower it and repeat the exercise with the four fingers. Switch sides to exercise the fingers of your other hand. Perform another exercise to focus on the individual joints in a single finger. Press the eraser end of a pencil below the joint at the tip of your forefinger. Bend and straighten your fingertip like a lever, suggests the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center. Keep the middle joint locked. Repeat the exercise but place the end of the pencil below the middle joint of your forefinger. Flex and straighten the upper half of your forefinger. Repeat the entire exercise for the remaining three fingers. You won’t need to use the pencil to flex and bend the middle joint in your thumb.
Squeezing and Spreading
You can use any number of objects, such as a tennis ball, lump of clay or wad of paper, to practice squeezing an object with your fingers. Focus on using all five fingers to compress the object in the palm of your hand. Perform two or three reps with each hand. As your hands and fingers grow stronger, accelerate the curling motion of your fingers. To practice spreading your fingers, put some powder on a table. Place your hand on the table and spread your fingers as widely as you can. Then draw your fingers back together as if you’re closing a Japanese fan.
Kay Tang is a journalist who has been writing since 1990. She previously covered developments in theater for the "Dramatists Guild Quarterly." Tang graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in economics and political science from Yale University and completed a Master of Professional Studies in interactive telecommunications at New York University.