Maybe you’re trying to palm a basketball or grip a football more securely. Perhaps you want to spread your fingers a little wider across a piano keyboard or guitar frets. Or maybe you’ve just always wished your hands were a little bigger.

But can you increase the size of your hands, or is that like hoping you can stretch enough to be a little taller?

The truth is, the actual size of your hands is limited by the size of your hand bones. No amount of stretching, squeezing, or strength training can make your bones any longer or wider.

That said, the hand is powered by about 30 muscles, and they can grow stronger and more flexible with a variety of exercises.

And increasing the strength and reach of your fingers and thumbs, even just a little, may help you no matter what sport or instrument you play.

To bolster your grip on a basketball, football, or a stubborn jar of salsa, you can do several simple exercises.

These exercises will not only increase the strength and thickness of certain hand muscles, but they may make your hands appear a bit bigger.

As with any exercise, a good warmup is helpful in preventing injury and discomfort. Before performing these strengthening exercises, soak your hands for a few minutes in warm water or wrap them in a heated towel.

These treatments can also help to relieve hand pain or stiffness caused by arthritis or other musculoskeletal conditions.

The following exercises can be done two or three times per week, but be sure to wait 2 days in between exercises to allow your hand muscles to recover.

Squeezing a soft ball

  1. Hold a soft stress ball in your palm.
  2. Squeeze it as hard as you can (without causing any pain).
  3. Hold the ball tightly for 3 to 5 seconds, and then release.
  4. Repeat, working your way up to 10 to 12 repetitions with each hand.

For a variation, hold a stress ball between the fingers and thumb of one hand and hold for 30 to 60 seconds.

You may also improve your grip strength by regularly using other exercise implements that require squeezing.

Making a fist and releasing

  1. Make a fist, wrapping your thumb across the outside of your fingers.
  2. Hold this position for 1 minute, and then open your hand.
  3. Spread your fingers as wide as you can for 10 seconds.
  4. Repeat 3 to 5 times with each hand.

Working with clay

Form a ball with some modeling clay and then role it out. Manipulating clay will strengthen your hands, while creating sculptures with detailed features will also improve your fine motor skills.

Practicing wrist curls and reverse wrist curls

  1. Sit straight up with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Hold a light dumbbell (2 to 5 pounds to start) in one hand.
  3. Rest that hand, palm up, on your leg so that it’s extending just off the edge of your knee.
  4. Flex your wrist up so that you bring the weight just above the knee.
  5. Slowly bend the wrist back down to the starting position.
  6. Do 10 repetitions, and then switch hands.
  7. Do 2 to 3 sets of 10 repetitions with each hand.

For reverse wrist curls, do the same thing only have your palms facing down.

Stretching your hand muscles can increase their flexibility and range of motion.

The following exercises can be done daily. Just be careful not to overextend your fingers so that you strain any of the muscles or tendons.

Thumb stretch

Hand span is measured across the back of the hand. It’s always a topic of conversation around the NFL draft, where having a longer hand span is seen as a plus for quarterbacks.

But the ability to grip and throw a football well has more to do with strength, flexibility, and technique.

To help widen your hand span — the maximum distance from your thumb to your little finger — follows these steps:

  1. Gently pull your thumb away from the other fingers with the thumb of your opposite hand. You should feel a slight stretch.
  2. Hold for 30 seconds, and then relax.
  3. Repeat with your other hand.

Flat stretch

  1. Rest one hand, palm down, on a table or other firm surface.
  2. Slowly straighten all your fingers so that your hand is as flat against the surface as possible.
  3. Hold for 30 seconds, and then switch hands.
  4. Repeat 3 to 4 times with each hand.

Finger lift

The finger lift takes a little more time, but it’s helpful in increasing range of motion.

  1. Start with your hand palm down and flat on a firm surface.
  2. Gently lift each finger, one at a time, off the table high enough so that you feel a stretch along the top of your finger.
  3. After you have stretched each finger, repeat the exercise 8 to 10 times.
  4. Then repeat with your other hand.

Like feet, ears, eyes, and every other part of your body, the shape and size of your hands are unique to you.

But you can check out the average measurements for adults and children, if you’re curious to see how your mitts measure up.

Hand size is usually measured in three different ways:

  • Length is measured from the tip of your longest finger down to the crease just below the palm.
  • Breadth is measured across the widest part of the hand, where the fingers meet the palm.
  • Circumference is measured around the palm of your dominant hand and below the knuckles, not including the thumb.

Here are the average adult hand sizes for men and women, according to a comprehensive study by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA):

male7.6 in (19.3 cm)3.5 in (8.9 cm)8.6 in (21.8 cm)
female6.8 in (17.3 cm)3.1 in (7.9 cm)7.0 in (17.8 cm)

Besides the more than two dozen muscles, a hand contains 26 bones.

The length and width of those bones are determined by genetics. A parent or grandparent with small or large hands can pass those traits down to you.

For women, bone growth usually stops by the mid-teens, and for men, it’s a few years later. Muscle size, however, can be increased much later.

Hand strengthening exercises can make the muscles larger or thicker, if not longer.

A broken hand or other trauma can also affect the shape and size of the hand.

While you can’t make your fingers any longer or your palm any larger, a few easy exercises can make your hands stronger and increase your fingers’ flexibility.

These exercises can give you a firmer grip and a slightly wider hand span. Just be sure to perform them carefully so as not to injure the hands that you rely on for so much, regardless of their size.