Be honest now. When it comes to your training, how much time do you spend working on your wrists?
There’s a good chance the answer is, “Not at all.”
Most of us don’t think much about warming up or strengthening our wrists, which is weird considering how many of us have immobile or weak wrists or even experience chronic pain in them.
If you have ever sprained a wrist, you know what I’m talking about—they seem to take months to heal. This is partially because day-to-day life—from brushing your teeth to typing at a computer, to doing dishes—never really gives us a break from using our wrists. Alas, an injury that started out as a minor sprain ends up lingering for months.
I developed tendonitis in my wrists preparing for the 2015 CrossFit West Regional, a competition that had a handstand push-up and a handstand walking event. It literally took two years until the pain had completely subsided. And it only did when I started taking the time to pay attention to my wrists.
Here are five exercises I included in my wrist routine, ones that are useful for those looking to increase their range of motion in their wrists, strengthen the joint itself, or heal a lingering wrist injury that just never seems to go away.
This involves building a simple contraption, but it’s well worth it.
- Cut a wooden dowel or PVC pipe to about one foot in length.
- Securely attach a piece of thin rope about 4 feet in length around the dowel so that the dowel doesn’t spin when you rotate it. Make sure when you rotate the dowel, the rope catches and wraps around the dowel.
- Attach a carabiner to the end of the rope and hang a 2.5 or 5 lb plate from the rope via the carabiner.
- Hold the dowel with both hands out in front of you and straight arms, and use your wrists to slowly roll the rope and the plate all the way up to the dowel and then back down again. The idea here is to isolate your wrists, move slowly, and go through your entire wrist range of motion as you’re rolling the rope up and down the dowel.
Though this won’t necessarily help you improve your wrist flexibility, it’s a great way to build tension on your wrists through your full range of motion, helping you access your current range of motion with more control.
- Add five wristies (up and down) to your warm-up or cooldown, or even between sets of a lift.
2. Slow Wrist Rotations
The key to these slow wrist rotations is to make sure you rotate only through the wrist, as opposed to the elbow (a very common mistake).
To do this, take a seat and anchor your forearm (forearm faces the sky) with your other hand. I like to rest my arm on my thigh and let my wrist and hand hang over. Then slowly rotate your wrist in one direction, trying to recruit as much range of motion as you can, almost like you’re trying to scrape the corners of a box.
- Add 10 slow wrist rotations in one direction and 10 in the other to your warm-up or cooldown.
3. Dynamic Wrist Stretch
On all fours, flip your hand upside down so the back of your hand is on the ground and press your elbow straight into a deep wrist flexion. Bounce back and forth a couple of times in this wrist flexion position.
Then flip your hand and place it flat on the ground with your fingers toward you in a traditional wrist extension stretch. Bounce back and forth a couple of times into full wrist extension.
Then internally rotate your hand 180 degrees until your fingers face toward your body and place your palm flat on the ground. Again, push your elbow straight and bounce back a forth in that position a few times.
Tip: If you have a hard time keeping your elbow straight or you find yourself in pain, then simply bring your hand closer to your body into a position where you can challenge your range of motion without pain and with a straight elbow.
- Spend one minute per wrist in your warm-up or cooldown, continuously shifting between the three positions.
4. Wrist Flexion Stretch
On all fours, place one hand flat on the ground and the other hand in a wrist flexion stretch with the back of your hand on the ground and your fingers facing your other hand.
Press your elbow straight (think about pushing your inside elbow bone as far forward as you can without rotation your arm). If you can do this without pain and get the back of your hand completely flat on the ground, then try this with both hands at the same time.
- Spend one minute on this stretch per hand in warm-up or as a cooldown.
5. Lateral Wrist Rocks
We rarely work our wrists laterally, yet when we sprain them this tends to be where we experience the most pain.
On all fours, make a fist with one hand and place your knuckles on the ground. Keep the other hand flat. Then rock back and forth moving your wrist laterally, trying to gain as much range of motion as you can.
- Add 10 to 20 lateral wrist rocks to your warm-up.
While you might not have the time to give your wrists enough love every single training session if you can find 10 minutes twice a week, your wrists will return the love through greater mobility, increased strength, and best of all, less wrist pain.