By David Horne
It’s the time of year when pickled onion jars and their over-tight lids will be thwarting women up and down the country; this year, instead of passing the jar over to a convenient man (who fervently hopes he will manage it), how about taking a leaf from the book of our strongwomen and getting a grip on it yourself?
Having powerful hands is something that is typically seen to be a masculine trait. Hand strength contests in the UK have been running since 1991 and although the occasional woman competitor crops up on the score sheets, the participants have been almost exclusively male. In the past few years more and more women have seen the benefits of having strong hands and have begun to train specifically for the improvement of this area – some even going so far as to beat the men at their own game!
At last, in 2010, the World’s Strongest Hands contest featured a women’s class. The female competitors were also ranked in the overall class with the men; most faring a lot better than you might imagine. The contest spanned four months, was hosted at nine venues across the world and attracted an unprecedented number of participants: ninety-one in total, and of those, ten were women.
Top scorer of the women was Elizabeth Horne (pictured left), placing first in the category and twenty-second overall. Elizabeth has tried her hand at numerous power sports but always comes back to those that best demonstrate her hand and wrist strength. She is a veteran grip athlete at 26 years of age, having competed since the age of 12 and she sets the bar for all other female hand strength competitors.
Mary Ann McKeague of the USA (32) came to the sport of grip as an accidental passenger; her husband cajoled her into competing after she had been officiating at an event he was involved in. Now Mary Ann is ranked as having the second strongest female hands in the world. Mary Ann is primarily a runner (competing in trail running, 50k races and marathons) and took up strength training to improve her focal sport. She trains 3 days a week in a powerlifting gym and squeezes in one or two grip-specific sessions each week.
Yvonne Häkkinen (Finland, 31) has a history of boxing and strength training and became involved with the World’s Strongest Hands contest through her partner after they saw Finnish strongwoman Kati Luoto holding two 75kg farmers briefcases at a Finland Sport Fitness Expo in 2007. Yvonne (pictured left) started training her grip very soon after this and competed at the Iron Hand competition in Finland the same year, and ranked second in the Finnish Grip Championships the following year. 2010’s World’s Strongest Hands saw her ranked third internationally, and Yvonne is sure to come back in 2011 looking for silver.
Next year we want more women than ever to get involved in the World’s Strongest Hands. It’s highly competitive, fun and designed to appeal to women of all abilities. Having strong hands is incredibly useful; whatever your sport, hobby or occupation. Who wouldn’t want them?
World's Strongest Hands - Women's Top 10
1 Elizabeth Horne (GB)
2 Mary Ann McKeague (USA)
3 Yvonne Häkkinen (Finland)
4 Sherrie Wheeler (USA)
5 Kathi Burger (USA)
5 Jerri Larkin (USA)
7 Jenny LaCoss (USA)
7 Cheri Walker (USA)
9 Kate Wells (USA)
10 Jennifer Higgins (USA)