Lent Challenge day 7 It’s all in the wrist

Is it Day 7 already? A whole week of Lent gone. You would think from the piteous noises my children have been making that it had been 40 days and 40 nights already but time becomes elastic when you are denied electronica and holding your legs aloft while your quads and abs scream at you to just bloody stop already.
Speaking of which, I hope you all had fun with the leg and knee raises yesterday. They will become old friends by Easter.
Today we are going somewhat off piste. No strength work today. No toning (Gods how I hate that term). No Cardio (Hell no! no Cardio for another 9 days)
Today we are going to be concentrating on our wrists, because, well, because I am concentrating on my wrists, and I’m the captain of this ship. I think we tend to overlook the importance of strengthening our wrists and I think that we do so at our peril. Pretty much all upper body exercises involve us holding on to something, be it a barbell, a pullup bar or just the floor, and no matter how much be build the strength in our arms, shoulders and backs, these move still all hinge on the wrists, literally and figuratively.
There is a lot going on in the wrist – a lot of bones coming together, a lot of tendons and ligaments and gristly stuff  keeping it all moving around, and the wrist is a pretty complex joint. If you think how much we all worry and moan about our knees and how much exercise and work we do to strengthen the knee, and the knee basically just hinges in one direction, whereas the wrist has a lot more ranges of motion – side to side and up and down and round and round in relation to the forearm. Crucially as the point of  connection between the arm and the hand, the strength of the wrist is going to have an enormous impact on your grip strength.
Most people, however, have weak wrists. Hours spent typing in a poor position at a computer does nothing to help, of course, but even at the gym or in Crossfit boxes I see people shaking theior wrists out after pushups or using wrist wraps when lifting weight.
I tweaked something in my right wrist a few weeks ago – not while doing any kind of exercising, I was taking measurements off a set of building drawings in fact, and suddenly felt something go pop in my wrist – and whilst it has improved a bit, it is taking a really long time to get better. In the meanwhile it is nearly impinging on my ability to do certain exercises and just daily tasks. It is not bothered at all by weight: I can push and press and pull just as heavy as ever, and bending it doesn’t hurt at all: I can still perform pain-free pushups, but any twisting motion with resistance is agonising: bicep curls for example or simply turning the steering wheel while driving or turning a key in a lock.
I have never had particularly good wrist mobility. In fact, truth be told my joint mobility is pretty poor all round. Shoulders, ankles etc. I suspect this is one of the big drawbacks in coming to exercise later in life. When I started doing Crossfit and learning the positions to hold the barbell for the Olympic lifts, it was my joint mobility that really held me back. If you are trying to clean a bar off the floor and you lack mobility in the wrist you try to make up for it at the shoulder. If you lack mobility there too then all the work is transferred to the elbow. If you are weak throughout the chain then your movement is fairly compromised from the outset.
Quite apart from wanting to rehab my current wrist injury, I have become increasingly aware how my lack of wrist mobility is holding back my progress with some of the things I am trying to do at the moment. I can’t bend my wrists back to much more than a 45 degree angle and that is seriously getting in the way of me getting better at doing handstands. When I rack the bar for a front squat, I rely on the weight on the bar to push my wrists down into place.
Doing the little mobility drills to strengthen joints isn’t exactly sexy or anywhere near as much fun as throwing the big weights around or actually doing big movements. But if we ignore them our ability to do those big fun moves will be diminished and our risk of injury increased. Also as we get older, ignoring our wrists can lead to developing arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome and other undesirable unpleasantnesses.

So today we are going to do wrists.

I have found this rather good set of wrist exercises at GMB. There is a short video demonstrating each and a run-through of the routine below the videos. Work through them all. Note that there are suggestions for doing scaled versions against a wall if your range of motion does not allow you to do them on the floor, and note also the advice about stopping before the point of pain. This is one of the key points in working on mobility, I have found: being able to gauge how far to push: if you feel fully comfortable throughout then you are probably not gaining any benefit. You need to be pushing your body to force it to adapt to be able to do more then it can at present, which is not comfortable, but you also need to stop just short of the point where discomfort becomes pain. This is obviously a personal thing and unique to each individual. You cannot be taught where that point is, you need to learn to judge it yourself.

GMB Wrist routine

Anyway, once you have done the wrist routine, do a set of squats followed by a set of pushups. Us ethe number you established as your baseline last time you did it, and add 2 more reps. Then repeat the squats and pushup sets 3 times.

After that, pat yourself on the back, shake out your wrists and put the kettle on. You have richly earned a nice cup of tea,


  1. roseabi

    This is great, I have a lot of trouble with my wrists, but it never occurred to me to try actual wrist exercises. Thank you! I feel a bit silly now 🙂

  2. HC

    I am really glad you have posted this – I had also noticed that they are generally overlooked.

    I never had any problems with mine until recently but not infrequently I notice my right wrist getting sore and often tingly. This is clearly linked to using a mouse. I have a writing job and can’t avoid spending hours each day bashing on a keyboard. I have the feeling that while my wrists have a reasonable level of mobility, they (and my grip) are probably quite weak.

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