Do you have weak wrists? When you’re sweeping the floor, do you wince in pain? If you were to get into a street battle that required you to hold a plank on your hands, would you win? Does every clap seem as minuscule as a golf clap? Well fret no more! We’ve got the tips to give you a clean floor, 1st place street battle medal, and the most robust clap of all your friends!
Jokes aside,I want you to know, you are not alone. In fact, I’d wager that almost every person has experienced some sort of wrist pain in their training career.
Lack of attention to the flexibility of the joint (not to mention working at an office where you are required to use the computer all day) can quickly lead to poor wrist mobility, an inability to execute certain lifts and the risk of atrophy, creating further damage and injury.
The wrist sounds pretty important now doesn’t it? Let’s negate this crucial joint no longer and focus on how we can keep our wrists healthy so as not to affect our performance at the gym—not to mention our quality of life outside it.
The Wrist Joint
The wrists are a very complex joint full of several bones, ligaments, connective tissue, muscles and nerves. It also has multiple ranges of movement—flexion and extension (moving the palm backwards or forwards relative to the forearm), adduction and abduction (moving the hand from side to side). Compare this to the movement of, for example, the knee joint, which only has flexion and extension.
Another thing to consider is that if we lack motion at the wrist, we’ll try to make the motion up at the shoulder and elbow. If we lack shoulder mobility, we often try to make it up at the elbow and wrists. It is therefore just as important to focus on scapular and shoulder mobility as it is on the wrist, as the two are interconnected and focusing on one may not alleviate the problem for the other.
Wrist mobility/strength exercises
It should be noted that a major factor in keeping the wrists healthy and executing a lift properly is utilizing proper technique. This includes employing the right grip, aligning the body correctly and having a good bar path. Staying on top of your lifting form can go a long way in alleviating some of the work placed on the poor ol’ wrists. Of course, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t spend a good amount of time working on the mobility of your wrists every day. We use these suckers more than we realize, and it’s really no wonder that people can develop arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome (a condition in which there is excessive pressure on the median nerve, which allows feeling and movement to parts of the hand) if they don’t take care of them. Here are a few exercises/stretches to get you started:
1) Wrist Rotations. This is very basic. Wrap your fingers together and move your wrists around in every possible direction. Hold any position that feels a little tender/limited for a few seconds. Repeat often throughout the day.
2) Planche Push Up Position. Get into a plank position (elbows fully extended at the top of the push up). Turn your hands inward so your fingertips are pointing toward your toes. Keeping a rigid torso, shift your body forward so you have an angle from your shoulders to wrists. Hold this position for 20-30 seconds (or as long as you can bear) and repeat. If this is too intense, drop down to your knees and complete.
3) Front Squat Rack Position. If this position is bothering you as you front squat, chances are you need to get your wrists working through the range of motion required for a front squat. It is not your wrists holding the bar in place, it is your shoulders but . . . you need good wrist mobility to get that heavy bar sitting correctly on top of your shoulders. Load a bar on a desired rack setting. Set up in a rack position, with your elbows pointing as far forward as possible and weight sitting on your shoulders. Pick up the bar and rotate your elbows forward, then re rack the bar. Repeat this process until you see a change in your rack position.
4) Static Holds. Pull your wrist back into extension and/or flexion and hold for at least 20-30 seconds.
5) Wrist Walks. I just discovered this drill and love it. Place your palms on a wall, with your arms straight and fingers pointing to the ceiling. Keeping contact with the wall, walk your hands down the wall. Go as far down as possible without letting your palms come off the wall. Once you reach the point where you can’t walk your hands down any farther, turn your hands around so your fingers are now pointing to the floor. Walk your wrists back up the wall as far upward as possible. Repeat as desired.
6) Check Your Keyboard. Get your wrists in a neutral position when typing!