At one time or another you may have heard someone ask about wrist strengthening exercises. Typically they say something like “I can’t workout that hard because I have weak wrists”, or, “My wrists are weak because every time I put pressure on my wrists, they hurt”. And, so, they are looking for some way to “strengthen” their wrists.
I wrote a previous post on wrist exercises and described a little in general about the wrist anatomy (how it’s put together). For review, the wrist is made up of 8 bones that are attached to each other by ligaments and not muscles. These bones then attach to the hand and also the forearm by ligaments to give the wrist stability. Unless these ligaments are stretched or torn, the wrist itself is probably as “strong” as it can be.
A lot of times people mistake having pain in the wrists while working out as having weak wrists. In many cases (if not the majority) this isn’t the issue at all. Many times, this pain is caused by lifting too heavy on tight or weak forearm muscles. Translation: The forearms need to catch up with the rest of your upper body.
So, What Can I Do To Strengthen My Wrists?
In the previous post I emphasized stretching the muscles and tissues that cross the wrist joint into the hand. In this post I will suggest a couple of exercises that should be included in any “wrist strengthening” program. But, you should keep in mind, while they may be “lifting” exercises, their main purpose is to stretch the forearms and wrists.
Most of the muscles that cross this joint start either on the outside, or inside of the elbow joint. Others that have an impact on the wrist attach at the forearm. The majority of all of these go into the hand.
For a graphic illustration of this, que up “Terminator 2” and watch the scene where Arnold peels back the skin on his left forearm revealing his endoskeleton. If you remember him flexing his mechanical fingers, then, you have an idea of what these muscles do. (I wanted to embed the scene but youtube disabled the code).
There are basically 6 motions that take place at the wrist and move the wrist in different planes. Flexion and Extension. Ulnar and Radial Deviation. And Supination and Pronation. Working the forearm muscles in any of these motions will help strengthen the wrists and give you more control and less wrist and hand pain during your workouts.
We’ll take a look at the last two. The movements call for isolation of the elbow joint. So, supination and pronation is done with the elbow flexed at 90 degrees resting on your knee or a stable surface. The exercise can be done with something as simple as a length of pipe, a hammer, golf club, even a walking stick, etc.
When done properly, the movement mimicks “windshield wipers” on a automobile. The rate is steady and you want to maximize the total available range of motion on either end.
At the end ranges you will have significantly less strength than you do in the mid ranges. You have to keep this in mind because you could seriously strain these muscles if you lift too heavily. And, if you do that, your subsequent workouts will be limited to your lower body and abs for a long time. Don’t take a chance.
Wrist Strengthening – Supination
Supination has its origin from the Latin “sup-i-na-re” which means “to lay on the back”. To supinate your hand or wrist means to turn it on it’s back. Or, palm up toward the sky. While this may sound a little “egg headish”, it’s really a motion that you do throughout the day. For instance, turning the key to your car’s ignition, or, turning a door knob.
A good exercise to target the supinating muscles is shown in the picture to your right. While it shows the hand in the “palm down” position, the resistance is coming from the muscles that flip the hand over on it’s back. This can be done with any type of object where the resistance is on the “thumb side” of the hand. Start out with 1-2 lbs. and no more than 3-4 lbs. at the most is really necessary with this exercise.
Wrist Strengthening – Pronation
Pronation is the Latin brother of the above, coming from “pro-na-re” which means “to bend forward”. Turning your palm down will be pronation. You can figure out how you do this one throughout the day.
In this photo, we see another workout without a traditional weight. Its possible to do these two movements with just about anything you can get a grip on as you can see.
While the picture shows the palm up in the supinated position, the stress and resistance is one the pronating muscles which will concentrically pull the wrench back over into the pronated position. Or, conversely, eccentrically allow greater supination thereby stretching the pronator muscles.
Since these are more for stretching than for strengthening doing 5-10 slow reps is all you need in one session. And you probably don’t need more than 2 sessions per week.
Doing them for a warm up or cool down is probably going to be specific to the individual. I don’t think that there is one “right way”. Pay attention to how they affect your workout and plan accordingly. Over working these small muscles will lead to a tendinitis which may be a bear to treat so all the over achievers need to approach them with caution.
Working in this way will add another dimension to your wrist strengthening routine and help keep your forearms and wrists conditioned for days when you are lifting heavier.
Give them a try and let me know what you think.
Photo At Top
photo credit: Andrew Mason