Hi everyone, Coach Blake here to talk about wrist health.

In the gym (and out of the gym) our wrists are vitally important for many basic functions we often take for granted. Whether you’re doing a bench press, typing at your desk, or stirring a pot of soup, your wrists are under constant strain and in danger of overuse injury if not properly cared for.

According to a 2017 study by the Journal of Orthopaedics, strains and sprains make up nearly half of all weight-training injuries! So if you want to keep training, it’s important to keep this joint as healthy as possible.

Are you going to strain your wrist stirring a pot of soup? Probably not. But, you may strain your wrists doing an improper push-up, benching with a collapsed wrist, or doing a snatch without having warmed up your wrists properly. Fortunately, there are a myriad of helpful exercises and stretches that we can do to protect your wrists and keep them pain-free.

Hand and Wrist Injury Prevention Techniques

 1. Proper Form

While working with many clients over the past months, I have noticed a trend. Many of you are training with overly bent wrists, specifically on compound movements when doing bench, squat, and overhead presses.

Ideally, we want to utilize a straight wrist for these movements (and many other exercises that we do in the gym). I like to call a straight wrist a “powerline”. Your powerline is the line directly from the fingertip to the elbow and extends through the wrist. That is how we properly generate force and guarantee a straight bar path when doing some of our bigger lifts. What I have been seeing too frequently from many of you, are collapsed wrists with heavy loads.

In the photos below, the left photo represents what not to do and the right photo represents the proper technique I’d like you to try moving forward.

Using your wrists with the wrong technique may feel okay in the short term, you might not even notice your wrists bending in strange ways, but your wrists notice. Over time, you will start to feel pain, instability, and unevenness begin to develop. And that might easily turn into a sprain and strain.

The very first (and easiest thing) that we can do to prevent injury is to double-check our powerline before every lift and in between every rep.

When it comes to more advanced lifts (like snatches and cleans), there is a different technique that we use that may look similar to the photos on the left. However, if you do the proper mobility and flexibility warm-up alongside strengthening techniques, you can still properly protect your wrists. Keep reading to learn more.

2. Mobility and Flexibility

The wrist is a condyloid synovial joint, allowing for movement along two axes. This means that flexion, extension, adduction, and abduction can all occur at the wrist joint. All of the movements of the wrist are also performed by the muscles of the forearm and the wrist itself is held together by four ligaments. That’s a lot going on in that tiny spot at the end of your arm! And, just like any other joint (and any other muscle) your wrists, and the muscles of your forearms, need to be stretched for optimal mobility and joint health.

There are plenty of ways to achieve mobility and flexibility, and as long as we take our time, we can do these exercises without pain or discomfort.

Here is a list of stretches that you can do for wrist warm-up and recovery.

1. Prayer Stretch

1. Start with hands in the prayer position
2. Slowly move your hands toward the belly button
3. Hold for 30 seconds then release
4. Repeat 3-5 times
5. Inverse the stretch by flipping hands upside down and pulling up towards the chin

2.  Wrist Circles

1. Clasp hands together at chest level
2. Slowly rotate wrists in a clockwise direction for 30 seconds, then switch directions for 30 seconds
3. Repeat twice

3. Wrist Extension

1. On all fours, press your hands into the ground
2. Lean forward over the wrist
3. Hold for 10 seconds
4. Repeat 3-5 times by rocking back and forth

4. Wrist Flexion

1. On all fours, starting with your non-dominant hand, slowly flip your hand and press the back of your hand into the floor
2. Hold for 5-10 seconds and release, rotating the wrist to relieve any tension
3. Repeat on the other hand
4. Go back and forth 3-5 times per side

5. External Rotation Wrist Rock

1. On all fours, splaying palms out to the sides
2. Rock forward and backward, holding pressure in each position for 5-10 seconds

6. Internal Rotation Wrist Flexion

1. On all fours, using one or both hands, rotate fingers internally
2. Slowly put weight onto the back of the hands
3. Hold for 5-10 seconds

3. Strengthening

Now that your wrists are nice and mobile, we want to focus on strengthening those tendons and the musculature of the forearm. As mentioned previously, the movements of the wrist are controlled by the muscles in the forearm.

The objective here is to bulletproof the wrists and maintain proper form in our lifts (using the examples above) and avoid potential pain in your day-to-day activities.

Keeping that in mind, here is a short list of exercises you can do to help prevent wrist pain and strengthen your forearms.

1. Palm Pulses

1. On all fours, lay your palms on the ground with your fingers spread
2. Lift slightly
3. Press up onto your fingertips
4. Repeat 15 times

2. Banded Finger Extension

1. Using a rubber band, hair tie, or finger resistance bands wrap the band around your fingers in a closed position
2. Slowly open your hand as wide as the resistance allows
3. Return to a closed position
4. Repeat 15 times on each side

3. Wrist Curl

1. Using a lightweight dumbbell, rest your forearm on your leg or over the edge of a bench
2. Allow your wrist to bend and let the weight hang
3. Slowly curl up keeping the forearm in a locked position
4. Repeat 10-15 times each side

4. Pronated Wrist Curl

1. Using a lightweight dumbbell, rest your forearm on your leg or over the edge of a bench
2. Allow your wrist to bend and let the weight hang
3. Slowly curl up keeping the forearm in a locked position
4. Repeat 10-15 times on each side

5. Wrist Rotation (Internal/External)

1. Using a lightweight dumbbell, rest your forearm on your leg or over the edge of a bench
2. Hold the weight in a neutral position with your wrist straight
3. Slowly rotate the weight back and forth keeping the forearm in a locked position
4. Repeat 10-15 times each side

As with anything, these exercises will take time to master and to feel the benefits of your efforts. I hope that this information and guidance helps to support you on your fitness and injury prevention journey. Take things slow and do them with care and intention and your wrists will thank you!