Regular upper-body strengthening exercises usually provide ample work for the wrists. But you may need extra wrist work if you lift extremely heavy weights, play racquet sports, play baseball or softball, or are a sport fisherman. Those who participate in contact sports, including mixed martial arts, boxing or football, may find strong wrists help with power and injury prevention. Strengthening your wrists takes just minutes and can be included at the end of any upper-body strength-training session.
Tennis Ball Squeeze
One of the most basic wrist-strengthening exercises entails a tennis ball. Simply hold the ball in your hand and squeeze it as hard as you can, holding the contraction for about five seconds. Beginners should start with a set of 10 repetitions and do them up to three times per day. Once 10 repetitions becomes easy, strive to increase the force of your squeeze and add more repetitions, as long as you don't feel strain in your wrists. You can also use specially designed hand-sized physio balls for this exercise. This exercise improves muscle endurance in your wrist, so it can be done daily.
Resistance Band Exercises
Pliable latex strips or tubing provide resistance to work the wrists in multiple directions, or planes. Stand on one end of the resistance band and loop the other end around your fingers, with your palm face up. Lock your elbow in at your side and brace the forearm with the hand you're not exercising. Bend your wrist to draw your fingers up towards your forearm, and release to the starting position.
For a flexion version of this exercise, assume the same position but with the palm and fingers facing down toward the floor. Bring the back of your palm up toward your forearm and release back to the starting position.
A final variation of this exercise strengthens the muscles that enable side-to-side wrist movement. Again, assume the same elbow and forearm position but hold the band in your hand so that your thumb faces up. Bend the wrist so that the thumb side of your hand moves toward the forearm, and then return to start.
Exercises with Hand Weights
Perform extension, flexion and radial-ulna deviation exercises with a light dumbbell. Place one of your forearms on a bench or padded table with the wrist at the edge and the hand hanging off. Hold a dumbbell in the hand and, with the hand facing toward the floor, bend the wrist upwards so that the dumbbell lifts toward the forearm. Reverse the exercise by performing it with the hand facing upward. A weighted bar can also be used to strengthen the wrist's ability to tilt side to side. Hold a short bar with a weight on only one end in your hand with the weight to the back of your body. Tilt the wrist so that the pinky finger lifts toward the ceiling. For radial deviation, switch the orientation of the weight so that it's in the front and tilt your wrist so the thumb rises up.
Part of a Routine
If you do need these specialized exercises, aim to perform either the resistance band or hand weight exercises for one to three sets of 10 repetitions. Perform them two to three times per week on non-consecutive days. Start with light weights and gradually go heavier as 10 repetitions becomes easy. If you experience pain in your wrists, don't try to exercise through it. Consult a doctor to ensure you aren't suffering from a condition that could be aggravated by resistance work.
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