It’s easy to witness the skill of a highly trained athlete -- particularly in performance-type sports such as gymnastics and figure skating -- and believe that the athlete’s grace and agility are natural gifts. No matter how natural these athletes’ performances appear, however, it’s much more likely that they worked for countless hours to achieve their physical abilities. You may not be able to develop the dexterity of a top athlete, but you can improve your physical skills by doing the right activities.
In a physical sense, dexterity generally refers to a person’s overall grace and ability to perform special tasks. The hand-eye coordination necessary to hit a baseball, for example, is one type of dexterity. Overall agility, like that of a football running back or a gymnast, is another type of dexterity. Manual dexterity in particular refers to a person’s skills in using his hands for activities such as dribbling a basketball or shuffling cards.
In a 2012 study published in the “Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation,” patients who suffered from arm tremors improved their manual dexterity with a resistance-training program. The six-week program featured dumbbell biceps curls plus wrist flexor and wrist extensor exercises. Perform biceps curls by standing straight with your palms facing your body, your arms hanging at your sides and a dumbbell in each hand. Keep your upper arms still as you lift the dumbbells toward your shoulders while turning your palms in to face your body and then lower the weights slowly. To do wrist curls, rest your right forearm on your right thigh with your wrist on your knee, and hold a dumbbell with your palm up. Move the dumbbell up and down by raising and lowering your hand only. Repeat the exercise with your palm facing down. Perform the wrist exercises with both arms. Do eight to 12 repetitions of all the dumbbell exercises.
Agility ladder drills can help develop your balance and coordination. The ladder is typically placed flat on the floor and then you run through it in a designated pattern. You can run straight through the ladder while placing one or both feet in each small square, or you can do so while running laterally. To perform a more advanced drill, begin with your right foot in the first square and your left foot even with your right but outside of the ladder. Hop and turn so your right foot stays in square No. 1 while your left lands in square No. 2. Hop again and move a quarter-turn so your left foot stays in square No. 2 while your right is outside the ladder. Repeat the drill in the opposite direction, hopping and placing your right foot in square No. 3 and then hopping and moving your left foot outside the ladder. Continue the pattern to the end of the ladder. Do two to four repetitions. If you don't have a ladder, use chalk to draw one on a sidewalk. Make it 10 yards long with 18-inch squares.
Improve your hand-eye coordination on your own by hitting tennis balls off of a backboard or going to a batting cage and hitting baseballs against a pitching machine. If you have a partner to help you, perform a baseball drill by kneeling and having a teammate lob some tennis balls to you. If you're right-handed, kneel on your right knee, hold the bat in your right hand and try to hit the balls with a level swing. After about two minutes, switch hands and hit the ball with your left hand for another two minutes. Finish the drill with a couple minutes of hitting with both hands.
Talk to your doctor before you begin a new exercise routine, particularly if you've been sedentary lately or have a specific health issue. Whichever dexterity exercises you choose, get your blood flowing before you start by doing five to 10 minutes of light aerobic activity. Never exercise with cold muscles. Warm-up exercises include brisk walking, jumping rope or hopping on a small rebounder.
- Photo Credit Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images