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Episode 9: Unravelling Napier's 8 Grips - The Foundation of Hand Dexterity

BBTA Tutor: Clare Fraser

In the intricate world of hand manipulation and dexterity, Napier's 8 Grips stand as a foundational framework, highlighting the various ways the human hand adapts its shape to interact with objects. Each grip serves a distinct purpose, forming the bedrock of our manipulation skills. 

Napier described the various grips of the human hand as the ‘Dance floor upon which the dance of manipulation takes place’.

Let's delve into the details of each grip and explore how they collectively contribute to the development of hand dexterity.

  1. Hook Grip: The hook grip involves flexing the fingers to form a hook-like shape. This grip is commonly used when handling objects with handles or loops, such as carrying a bag or holding a briefcase. The strength and stability of the hook grip make it a reliable choice for tasks requiring sustained force.

  2. Scissor Grip: The scissor grip allows an object to be held inbetween the sides of the fingers, such as moving objects across the hand to get into the correct position, such as a knife and fork, or a pen, where the fingers come together laterally. Another example of this is holding a cigarette.

  3. 5 Jaw Chuck Grip: Named after its five points of contact, the 5-jaw chuck grip engages all fingers and the thumb, forming a robust hold. This grip is advantageous when dealing with irregularly shaped objects, providing a secure grasp and stability during manipulation.

  4. Pad-to-Pad Grip: In the pad-to-pad grip, the pads of the fingers make contact with the object, and the thumb applies pressure opposite to the fingers. This grip is commonly used for tasks requiring fine motor skills, like picking up small objects or turning the pages of a book.

  5. Pad to Side Grip: Unlike the pad-to-pad grip, the pad to side grip involves the contact between the pads of the fingers and the side of the thumb. This grip is employed when a more substantial and secure hold is needed, enhancing stability during tasks like carrying a plate, using a key or gripping a thicker object.

  6. Baton Grip: The baton grip, resembling the way one holds a baton or stick, involves gripping an object with the fingers wrapped around it while the thumb provides support. This grip is essential for manipulating elongated objects, like tools, racquets or utensils, offering precision and control.

  7. Disk Grip: The disk grip involves holding an object between the thumb and fingers in a manner similar to holding a flat disk. This grip is employed in tasks that require control and precision, such as opening a jar or adjusting a dial.

  8. Spherical Grip: As the name suggests, the spherical grip is used when handling round objects. The hand forms a cup-like shape, encompassing the object, providing a stable and versatile hold. This grip is particularly useful in activities involving balls or similarly shaped objects, such as gripping a piece of fruit.

These eight grips collectively form the foundation of shapes that the hand needs to be able to adopt, in order to move between these grip shapes and form the crux of manipulation skills and therefore hand dexterity. Mastering these variations allows the hand to adapt to a wide array of objects and tasks. The diversity in grips enables humans to perform intricate and varied movements, showcasing the remarkable versatility of the human hand.

Being able to interact skilfully with the world around us requires us to have the ability to assume these varied shapes and grips with our hands, and also to be able to generate enough force production both within the hand and at the individual digit.  

As a therapist, having knowledge of the 8 grips, and understanding the role of the individual fingers and thumb in each grip, leads to improved hand shaping and strength for our patients in their rehabilitation programmes.  This is something that we need to facilitate with our patients so that they develop these skills successfully, to return to levels of function as possible. 

If you would like to develop your skills in managing the rehabilitation of your neurological patients upper limb and hand, why not sign up for one of our courses focussing on this exciting topic?  

Have a look at what is coming up next on;  and come and join us!



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