Often forgotten, your wrists can make or break a great lift with poor mobility.
We often over-look certain joints in our body and take them for granted. Our bodies are fairly resilient, right? While that may be true, for those of us bodybuilders looking to make big gains without feeling the pressure of unwanted pain and strain on our muscles, joints, and ligaments, then it is important to notice when things just don’t feel quite right. Our wrists and their mobility are crucial to our ability for big lifts and gains, and they should not be a limiting factor in our development.
Poor wrist mobility can lead to time away from the gym where those gains happen and unfortunate pain in a vital joint for simple everyday movements. In terms of lifting, if you are going to lift, your wrist will be involved and while wrist injuries are unfortunately unavoidable, they can be minimized with proper care and mobility work to ensure those big lifts don’t take a toll on your wrists.
With many athletes like CrossFitters and Olympic weightlifters, wrist straps are common as a source of support for their otherwise heavy movements. The amount of weight and pressure we ask our wrists to handle everyday can be exhausting and if we neglect the proper attention to flexibility and form, our risk of injury and damage really increases. But we can prevent this as much as possible through mobility exercises and proper form.
Quick Breakdown Of The Wrist
Your wrist is actually a multi-joint muscle that spans several joints. They start in your forearm and cross between your radius and the bones in your wrists. They also span into your hands and fingers allowing for all of that movement we humans are fortunate enough to have. With multiple ranges of motion, we can move our palms backwards and forwards (flexion and extension) and from side to side (adduction and abduction). Allowing for our grip strength, if our wrists lack mobility, we often rely on our shoulders and elbows for compensation (1).
Wrist mobility matters for our overall health, but for us bodybuilders, they allow us to execute lifts properly with great technique. Staying on top of form while also working on wrist mobility allow us to stay on top of our game and injury free. If your job requires you to sit at the computer or use a phone, the chances are high that your wrists become fairly stiff ruining our range of motion (2).
With weak or stiff wrists, we rely on not only shoulders and elbows, but also our forearms which can add unwanted stress to that muscle as well. Often times you will see Olympic lifters bounce the bar off their shoulders in efforts to re-grip the bar so they take the stress off their joints and other muscles to properly correct form and lift heavy weights for competition.
Strong wrists will encourage the right grip, align your body for proper form, and make sure there is a good path for the bar to travel to ensure you get all the benefits of whatever lift you are doing (3). If you do find you have wrist pain when you lift, or even during everyday tasks, it is not too late to change this. Mobility and strengthening exercises will ensure your wrist health stays in peak shape as well as all of your workouts.
Let’s Fix It
These wrist strengthening and mobility exercises are great for a warm-up stretch, mid-workout check-in, or post-workout recovery and really help get rid of unwanted pain and work for your overall benefit.
Wrist rotations are a basic way to improve wrist mobility. These can be done anywhere and at any time to really work on getting those wrists to where they need to be. Wrap your fingers together and move your wrists around in different positions. If one spot feels tight or sore, pause on that spot and really work out the kinks.
A very simple way to stretch the wrist flexor muscles, these can also be down anywhere and whenever you feel like working on some mobility. Start with your palms together and raise your hands over your head. Keeping your palms together, move your hands down as far as they will go. Hold for around 10 seconds and repeat the exercise for your desired numbers of times.
Wrist walks are great for really working range of motion. Starting with your palms on a wall, extend your arms. While keeping contact on the wall, walk your hands down as far as they will go. Once you reach your limit, turns your hands so your fingers are pointed to the ground and walk your wrists back up the wall.
Desk Wrist Leans
It is important to not go too far past your limit to cause more pain and keeping contact with the desk is key. Lean against a desk or table with your arms extended and palms flat. Rock back and forth gently as you really feel that stretch. For side to side movement, turn your hands on the desk so your fingers face opposite each other. Rock gently from side to side working them from a different angle.
The Planche push-up position may be too much for some, so if you need to, drop to your knees for a modified version. In a plank position with your arms fully extended, turn your hands so your fingers face your toes. With a tight core, shift your body slightly forward so your shoulders are over your wrists. Hold for around 30 seconds, rest, and continue for your desired number of reps.
Our wrists take a beating every day. We use them for everyday tasks as well as those tough workouts and big lifts. Having solid wrist mobility not only aids in your overall health, but allows for those big gains to shine through, something we all strive for. From promoting proper form to allowing us to lift big, our wrists are crucial for our bodybuilding goals. Try these wrist mobility exercises to really aid in growth and get rid of unwanted pain to keep working hard in the gym without needing any days off.
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*Images courtesy of Envato
- Berger, Richard A. (1996). “The Anatomy and Basic Biomechanics of the Wrist joint”. (source)
- Ryu, Jaiyoung; Cooney, William P.; Askew, Linda J.; An, Kai Nan; Chao, Edmund Y. S. (1991). “Functional ranges of motion of the wrist joint”. (source)
- Lee, Julia-Ann; Sechachalam, Sreedharan (2016). “The Effect of Wrist Position on Grip Endurance and Grip Strength”. (source)