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How many times now did you have to stop a workout session mid-set, only to have to shake your hands to alleviate the growing discomfort in your wrists?

Do you have an old wrist injury that just never seems to get better?

Or perhaps you suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome due to hours spent in front of your computer?

A wrist is a complex and peculiar part of the body. Work it too much, and it starts malfunctioning and hurting. Work it too little, and the same thing happens—pain, though for different reasons.

Now, this would have been easier to ignore or downplay were it not for one major caveat: your wrists are essential for so many things.

From enabling vital, day-to-day motions to aiding (or even acting as centerpieces for) your exercising, your wrists need to be at the top of their game pretty much all the time. Their inability to work properly translates into your inability to both works and work out properly. And until the issue is fixed, you will find yourself almost completely incapable of properly training your upper body.

For this reason, we’ve compiled this list of facts, advice, and exercises, all geared to helping you get your wrists back to top working order.

It’s been written with prior injury in mind but will also prove useful to anyone wanting to work on that, often weak link.

 

What’s This About—or a Quick Anatomy of a Wrist

Before trying to fix or improve on something, it is always best to know how it works—in broad terms at least.

The wrist joint is connected to a total of ten bones. Two of these come from your forearm. The one on the thumb side is called the radius, and the one from the pinky side is called the ulna. All eight bones coming in from your hand share the same name; they are called carpals. The entire area is, of course, thick with ligaments.

Source: Wikimedia

Like all systems within your body, your wrists (and the maze of bones and ligaments around them) can only endure a certain amount of strain before getting damaged or even broken.

This is why ligament strain and bone fractures are such common problems. And once the injury happens, their future capacity to withstand injury decreases even further. But here’s the good news: not only can this be stopped, but it can also be reversed and even improved upon.

This is, of course, done via exercise, though said exercise has to be slow and careful, especially after a recent injury or issues such as chronic pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and the like. This may sound dangerous but is, in fact, perfectly safe when done correctly and patiently, and not only will it alleviate your current symptoms, but it will also lower the chance of you similarly injuring yourself ever again.

Our wrist and forearm muscles respond to training very well. Not working them up to their potential would be a great waste, considering the benefits.

 

Before You Start: Fixing That Flexibility Issue

In case it needs to be said, you should start here. If your joints are stiff or sore, you’ll want to alleviate some of that before moving on to strengthening and reinforcing them against further injury. These moves are a bit on the “lighter” side is not an excuse to go nuts from the get-go. Be careful, take things slow, and you will get better before long.

The Wrist Cross

Sitting comfortably, place your elbow on a stable surface such as a table, your knee, or the like. Make a fist with that hand, so your palm is turned toward your face. Now bend your hand at the wrist, first toward yourself, then away. Do this for a total of 10 times while keeping the motions slow and continuous. Once you are done, you are to bend the same wrist left and right, keeping the same deliberate manner as before. Again, move your hand only at the wrist. The arm itself should remain stationary and locked. Repeat the whole thing with your other hand, and you are done.

The Loosen-up Stretch

Sit comfortably, then bend one arm at a 90-degree angle.  Make a fist, clench it, then release slowly. Repeat five to six times before doing the same with your other hand.

The Prayer Stretch

With elbows bent and palms joined as if you were praying, your goal is to bring your hands lower and lower until you feel moderate (yet bearable) discomfort. That is your signal to hold the position for 30 seconds, then release. Repeat 2 to 4 times.

 

Wrist Exercises for Strength: Reinforcing That Weak Point

The Ball Squeeze

Sitting comfortably, place your elbow on a stable surface such as a table, your knee, or the like. Make a fist with that hand, so your palm is turned toward your face. Now bend your hand at the wrist, first toward yourself, then away. Do this for a total of 10 times while keeping the motions slow and continuous. Once you are done, you are to bend the same wrist left and right, keeping the same deliberate manner as before. Again, move your hand only at the wrist. The arm itself should remain stationary and locked. Repeat the whole thing with your other hand, and you are done.

The squeezing motion makes use of your wrist, forearm, and even the elbow. A tennis ball is fine, but you can invest in a more specialized product if you want to. Squeeze as hard as you can, and hold for 3 to 5 seconds. Don’t release your grip all at once, but do it slowly. Repeat this five to ten times, then do it all again with your other hand.

The Rubber Band Stretch

You can do this with a regular rubber band or buy a specialized product. What you want to do is stretch the rubber band around the tops of your fingers and thumb, then slowly open your hand to stretch the rubber band. The move should flow in a steady, controlled fashion. Repeat it 5 to 10 times, then do the same with your other hand.

The Wrist Curl

You can do this with no gear (I.e., your clenched fist) or with lighter (1 to 5 pound) dumbbells. Depending on your gear and preferences, you can either do both hands at once or one after another. You can even get creative and use some household items for resistance. As long as it works, go for it.

So, sit down with your arm (or arms) resting over your knee(s). Your palms should be facing down, and your wrist is hanging over your knee. If you’re using a sort of weight, you should be able to hold it firmly and steadily. Now move your hand up and down, both times as far as it’ll go, in a steady and controlled motion. Aim for a set of 10 reps, then rotate your hand/forearm so that your palms face up before doing another 10 reps. If you can perform 2-3 sets of up-and-downs, it’s likely that you need a heavier weight.

The Resistance Band Wrist Curl

As the name implies, this is essentially a wrist curl, except done with a resistance band instead of a dumbbell. Sit as you would when doing your regular wrist curl, step on a resistance band, and grab the other end with your hand. Now proceed to stretch the band as far up as it’ll go while carefully letting your wrist bend downward. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat. Perform 10 reps, then rotate your hand and do it again, palm side up. Don’t forget to do both hands.

The Resistance Band Rotation Stretch

Sit straight, with your elbows bent at 90-degree angles and touching your torso. Your forearms and hands should point forward as you hold a taut resistance band. Your palms should be facing down. Now what you want to do is slowly rotate your palms upward, so the band tightens even further, increasing resistance the more you go. Your elbows and shoulders should remain in place throughout the motion. Repeat 2-5 times.

A Grip Strengthener

Grip strengtheners work. But what few people know is that the strength of your grip neither begins nor ends with your hand. Instead, it is a culmination of everything that happens in your forearm, your wrist, as well as your hand, and a grip strengthener is a great way to engage all of it. It is by no means necessary, but if you decide to invest in a decent one, you’ll likely get your money’s worth.

For reference, you should be able to do 8 to 10 slow and controlled reps over 2 to 4 sets before it’s time to set it to greater resistance. Only your hand should be moving, never the arm or shoulder.

 

The Takeaway:

Take It Slow, but Don’t Stop

Plain old weakness is rough but can be worked on easily. Recovering from injury or illness, however, tends to be much less pleasant and more difficult. All of the workout methods listed above have been proven effective for both the development and re-development of your wrists, but that doesn’t mean that you should rush into it carelessly.

Know your limits, don’t quit, and you will not only improve but also thrive. 

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