When it comes to exercise, our personal limitations can affect our results – and weak wrists are the hardest to work out. When you start seeing how many moves involve your wrists, from push-ups and dumbbell curls to planks and burpees, it can feel daunting to try a new program.
Fortunately, there are ways to correct and strengthen weak wrists. The first step? Please check with your doc.
“It can be hard to tell on your own whether your wrist problems are musculoskeletal in nature or have more to do with the tendons, ligaments, or even nerves that run through your wrist joints,” says ACE-certified personal trainer Mary Beth Rockwell, CPT, adding that Accurate diagnosis is crucial to determine the root cause of any wrist discomfort.
This is especially true if your wrist hurts during your workout or your workday. Once your doctor has ruled out anything unrelated to weak muscles and cleared you, you can safely begin to modify moves and build your wrist strength.
Tips to protect weak wrists
These five strategies can help you protect your wrists through change and new approaches.
1. Be tactful and always warm
In most cases, you don’t have to eliminate all exercises that involve your wrists. You just have to be strategic, advises Rockwell. Start by doing some arm stretches for a warm-up, then experiment with how your wrists feel in different positions.
2. Improve your push-ups and planks
It’s a way to take some of the burden off weak wrists, Rockwell says. The bigger your arms, the less your body weighs. He recommends starting with your hands on a wall, then gradually working your way to a countertop or the edge of a couch. You’ll find your sweet spot where you can safely challenge yourself without tweaking your wrists.
3. Hold the dumbbells
Another option for on-the-floor moves like push-ups is to perform them while gripping a pair of hex dumbbells. By doing this, you will keep your wrists straight instead of bent, which will reduce the amount of stress on them. Note: It is important to use hex dumbbells, as the hexagon heads will help prevent rolling.
4. Play with your hand placement
Talk to your trainer or physical therapist about how small changes in your arm position can help. In Rockwell’s experience, sometimes a little tweak is all it takes.
“I have a history of tendinitis from overuse injuries,” says Rockwell. “After proper diagnosis and physical therapy, I now do push-ups and turn my hands slightly outwards with fingers wide and thumbs pointing forward. It’s a less acute angle for uncomfortable wrists.”
5. Focus on form with dumbbells
According to Rockwell, our bodies like to cheat during hard workouts, because they try to find the easiest, least effort way to work. This doesn’t always translate to a safer way. If you have weak wrists, you may sprain them during weight-bearing exercises. Resist the temptation.
Rockwell recommends keeping your wrists straight through the full range of motion. If this is difficult to do, consider wearing a brace until you are able to strengthen your wrist.
Ways to strengthen weak wrists
While it’s important to modify movements for more wrist comfort, ultimately you want to strengthen them so you can perform more activities. Rockwell offers these tips:
Tip 1. Take a rubber “stress ball” and give some gentle squeezes to work your arm and hand muscles.
Tip 2. Grab a light dumbbell or resistance band and perform wrist curls.
- Take a seat and place your hands on your thighs with your palms facing upwards.
- Raise the weight or band by simply bending your wrists to work the muscles on the underside of your wrists (ie, your wrist flexors).
- Pause, then lower the weight.
- Do 10 repetitions, rotate your hand (palm down) and repeat to work the upper muscles of your wrist (ie, your wrist extensors).
- Repeat with your other hand. That’s one set. do three