How to stretch and strengthen your wrists (so you can do those push-ups!)


Wrist pain

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As if push ups, planks, and burpees were not challenging enough, wrist pain can make them unbearable. If you are experiencing pain in your wrist and your doctor has ruled out such conditions as carpal tunnel syndrome, wrist tendinitis, arthritis and sprains, it’s time to strengthen and stretch those suckers.

The cause of your wrist pain may be from dorsal wrist impingement — a common injury among gymnasts who are constantly putting pressure on their wrists — which occurs when the radius hits your wrist bones.

Wrist impingment

Image via Hughston.com

“The bones contact when you reach your end range of motion, so if you improve your flexibility, they won’t have that contact,” Dr. Kevin Laudner, a kinesiologist at Illinois State University, told Outsideonline. “If you’re stronger, you won’t have that contact because your muscles are holding you in the position you want to be in.”

Work it out

Range of motion exercises and stretches help you get more flexibility and strength in your wrists:

  • Sit with your elbow supported, directly under the shoulder.
  • Using a weighted bar with the end of the bar held in one hand, turn the palm up and down with the weight positioned at the end range for either movement.
  • This should be held for at least 5 minutes.

Aadil Palkhivala, one of the world’s top yoga teachers, suggests the following exercise to strengthen your wrists in Yoga Journal:

Make a fist and clench it very tightly. Then rotate the wrist nine times clockwise, and nine times counterclockwise, keeping the fist tightly clenched throughout. Do this very slowly and consciously, focusing on the muscles around the wrist with your mind. This should be done three times each day. After each set of nine rotations, stretch the fingers and thumb apart, expanding the palm as much as possible.

Try this easy wrist stretch that increases flexibility:

  • Stand or sit with your arm at your side with the elbow bent to 90 degrees, palm facing down.
  • Rotate your forearm, so that your palm faces up and then down.

Watch your form

Are your hands positioned correctly when you do a push-up, plank or handstand? Make sure you are on a hard, flat surface and your fingers are pressing down (don’t let them lift off floor!). Your shoulders and hands should be in alignment.

If fixing your form isn’t enough, you may need to change your hand position. Kevin C. Moore, Pilates instructor and founder of Reembody, says that simply rotating the radius to the left a few degrees can help fix your push-up problem.

“With that rotation comes the freedom to dorsiflex the wrist as far as you please. Without it, the radius — with its hooked, sharpened end — is left to grind the surrounding soft tissues into pulp, which is roughly as pleasant as it sounds,” he explains.

Watch this video for a better understanding.

Alternative and modified exercises

While you’re working on fixing that wrist pain, consider doing alternative upper body exercises that give your wrists a break (not literally) such as planks on your elbows; wall push-ups or push-ups using a push-up bar; and chest presses with resistance bands or TRX straps.