Your wrists are involved in almost every physical movement that you do: typing at a keyboard, texting on a phone, brushing your hair. It’s true inside the gym as well. Despite the importance of wrist health to movements in daily life, most people don’t spend enough time taking care of them. “Use it or lose it” is an adage that could be applied here. If you don’t move your wrists through a full range of motion on a regular basis, you will lose your ability to do those movements with ease. In fact, these movements could eventually become painful.
As noted, you depend on your wrists for standard training and skills progression. Why would you risk falling behind in either area simply because you neglect the health of your wrists?
There are two wrist characteristics you must work on to keep your wrists healthy: flexibility and strength.
Flexibility of the Wrist
When it comes to both gymnastics training and everyday living, the first step towards wrist health is to make sure that your forearms are flexible and mobile enough for what you are asking them to do. Elbow pain often stems from excessive forearms tightness that can be caused by use of devices like keyboards, cell phones, and remote controls. Failure to maintain wrist flexibility can limit your progress in your standard training and in working perfecting handstands, planches, and mannas.
There is a simple solution to a lack of flexibility. Stretching. Go through a full range of motion stretches for your wrists on a regular basis. Here are the steps for doing this:
- From a kneeling position, place your hands on the ground with palms down and fingers forward.
- Spread your fingers, lock your arms, and rotate the “pits” of your elbows forward.
- From this position, gradually lean and rock forwards to stretch the inside part of the forearm (the flexors).
A similar stretch requires that you place your palms up and fingers back, this time leaning back to stretch the outsides of the forearms (the extensors).
For both these drills, you must have completely straight and locked out elbows.
Strength of the Wrist
You must also build strong connective tissue, ligaments, and tendons that are capable of handling the forces you apply to your wrist in daily life and in your training. Lack of wrist strength can lead to injuries and – once again – limit your progress.
People often hurt their wrists when they fall or have an accident because their wrists are the weakest link. Doesn’t it make sense, then, that strengthening the wrists would take that injury potential away?
The sheer volume of training required in gymnastics to make progress begs that gymnasts keep such crucial body areas healthy. Imagine how behind you would fall if you suffered even a low level wrist injury. There would be little that you could do to maintain any type of training regimen. Think of one typical training day: handstands, planks, pushups, and L-sits. All these exercises require your wrists to be extended to at least 90 degrees, and if they are injured – or even the first to fatigue – then you will be limited in your progress.
Here are some examples of good exercises for wrist health:
Wrist pushup variations:
- Make two fists and assume a kneeling plank position. Slowly roll your wrists out, bending your elbows, so that you apply pressure on the back of your palm. Press back up firmly until you are onto your fists again with elbows locked.
- Keep your elbows locked the whole time and roll your fists forwards and backwards, stretching and strengthening the connective tissue on the thumb and pinky sides of your forearms.
Review the GymnasticBodies Handstand Series to see more good movement for keeping your wrists healthy and strong.
To summarize, maintaining wrist health requires that you focus on the two critical characteristics of flexibility and strength.
- To keep your wrists flexible and avoid pain, frequently stretch them through a full range of motion.
- To avoid injury and prevent stagnation in training, strengthen your wrists using wrist pushup variations.