Strength Athletes: Don’t Overlook Your Wrists

It’s time to devote time to your wrists the way you do your squat.

If you suffer from poor range of motion in your wrists, you likely long for the day that you can get into a better front rack position, pain-free.

Or if you’ve ever had an acute wrist injury, you know just how important your wrists are, not just for the gym, but for day-to-day activities. 

I experienced the latter: A wrist injury that would take two steps forward and one step back, but ultimately didn’t go away for nearly 18 months.

Editor’s Note: The content on BarBend is meant to be informative in nature, but it should not be taken as medical advice. When starting a new training regimen and/or diet, it is always a good idea to consult with a trusted medical professional. We are not a medical resource. The opinions and articles on this site are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems or injuries. They are not substitutes for consulting a qualified medical professional.

Here are 7 exercises to include in your warm-up or cool down to improve wrist strength and mobility:

1. Pulsing Wrist Stretches

These are dynamic stretches that will stretch your wrist in various angles.

Step 1: On all fours, place your hand flat on the ground with your fingers facing away from you. Lean into your wrists as much as you can without experiencing pain, and rock back and forth a few times, each time pushing the range of motion a bit further.

Step 2: Rotate your hands until your fingers are facing your body and repeat that pulsing action.

Step 3: Internally rotate your hands 180 degrees in the other direction until your fingers are once again facing your body (this one is a big tricker). Once again, pulse back and forth. If it’s too difficult to get into this position and keep your palms on the ground, try one arm at a time. Ensure you keep your elbows straight on all of these.

Step 4: Flip your hands so the back of your hands are on the ground and your fingers facing your body. Again, keep your elbows straight as you rock back and forth into a wrist flexion stretch. This one is also challenging for many people. If you can’t keep your elbows straight with the back of your hands flat on the ground, then stretch one wrist at a time.

Include 2 minutes of these various dynamic wrist stretches in your warm-up.

2. Wrist Flexion and Extension Stretch

Hold onto a light weight—max 2.5 lb. If you have wrist weights, those work well, too.

Anchor your elbow, and then raise and lower your wrist putting it through maximum extension and flexion.

Do the same laterally: Move your wrist back and forth from side to side holding onto a light weight. Again, the idea here is to gain as much range of motion as you can, as you move slowly back and forth.

If you don’t have a light enough weight, you could also do these by anchoring a resistance band.

Complete two sets of 10 of both of the above.

3. Bent-Knee Plank Elbow Extensions

Bent-Knee Plank Elbow Extensions
Bent-Knee Plank Elbow Extensions

Get into a bent-knee plank position on your hands. Spread your fingers as wide as you can. Then straighten your elbows out completely and push your elbows forward as much as possible, essentially slightly rotating your elbow forward in the process. Hold for two seconds. Relax. Repeat.

Complete two sets of 15 elbow rotations.

4. Tricep Smash

If poor range of motion in your wrist is the problem, sometimes this might be because your triceps are tight, which can prevent your wrists from getting close to the deltoids during, for example, a front squat or clean. So the idea with this tricep smash is to loosen up the triceps to free up the wrist a bit.

In a kneeling position, place your triceps on a barbell placed low on a rack. Bend your arms until your fingers are touching your shoulders or until you feel a stretch. Apply pressure into the barbell and slowly straighten out your arm. Keep your palms to the sky as you do. Go back and forth a few times, and then shift where your tricep is on the barbell.

Spend one to two minutes smashing your triceps.

5. Wrist CARS (controlled articular rotations)

Controlled articular rotations are great for accessing more usable range of motion in various joints. The wrists are no exception.

Make a fist with your right hand and hold on to your right wrist with your left hand. Rotate your wrist as slowly, making as large of circles as you can, getting into all four corners, as if you’re scraping a bowl with a spatula. As you do these, ensure you’re moving only through the wrist, as opposed to the elbow, as the idea here is to work to gain more usable range of motion in your wrists without compensating with the elbow. Anchoring the elbow ensures you’re isolating your wrist.

Complete 10 slow circles on each wrist in each direction.

6. Palm Pulses

On all fours, put your hands flat on the ground and keep your fingers as wide as possible. Then pull your palms off the ground, but keep the top part of your hand and fingers on the ground. Pulse up and down.
Spend one minute pulsing.

7. Reverse Wrist Curls

Sit on a bench or a box and hold a light barbell with your palms facing down. Ensure you’re sitting with good posture and that your feet are flat on the ground. Place your forearms between your thighs.

Then pull the barbell toward you as much as possible and hold for one second in wrist extension. Now, move in the opposite direction: Drive your knuckles toward the ground, so as to achieve a wrist flexion stretch. Hold for one second.

Complete two sets of 10 reps.