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Ever found yourself with sore wrists during a workout? It’s something we often ignore, but it could be causing some damage. Here’s how to make sure you’re protecting your wrists while exercising.

Have you ever felt the need to shake your wrists off after working out? Well, that’s because they play a key role in many common exercises even though we don’t really think about them. And while there’s no need to schedule a ‘wrist day’ into your training programme alongside days dedicated to your legs and arms, there are some things you can do to improve your wrist health that will help you to avoid injury and pain.

According to a 2019 report in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, 10% of people who are active or play sports suffer with wrist pain, a high number considering how debilitating wrist injuries can be. Just think about all your daily tasks that would be affected if your wrists were immobilised. 

Not to worry, however – there are lots of exercises and stretches you can do to improve your wrist strength and mobility.

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How to protect your wrists during weightlifting

“A common wrist injury in weightlifters is called dorsal wrist impingement, where the wrist is bent backwards repeatedly and forcefully, and the back of the wrist joint capsule is pinched between the scaphoid bone and one of the forearm tendons,” explains physiotherapist Nell Mead. Dorsal wrist impingement is not only painful but can require surgery in serious cases.

Mead continues to explain that people’s wrists can be forced into excessive extension during weight lifting when their shoulders aren’t flexible enough to achieve the correct position. Working on shoulder flexibility can therefore be really beneficial to protect your wrists.

In the meantime, Mead recommends using wrist supports when lifting weights to prevent you from over-extending and to remind you to maintain a healthy wrist position. “Try not to rely on wrist supports, though,” Mead says as a caveat, explaining that if you become reliant on a support, you won’t develop the muscles and movement patterns to be able to support your wrists in the long term.

A good warm-up routine is also crucial for protecting your wrists when lifting weights. “Another common wrist injury, especially in novice weightlifters, is strained forearms on the palm side – simply because we aren’t used to extending our wrists so far, so the flexor muscles aren’t strong and flexible enough to cope,” Mead says. Flexibility exercises, stretches and massage before lifting will help to prevent this.

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How to protect your wrists during bodyweight exercises

You may have also experienced wrist pain during bodyweight exercises like press-ups, planks and even yoga movements. Mead explains that the reason for this is often because of the way we balance our body weight. “A common cause of wrist injuries during burpees and planks is when your weight only goes through the heel of your hand, with little or no activity of the hand muscles,” she says. “The extrinsic muscles of the hand and wrist are there to protect your wrist as well as to provide power and movement within the hand, so activating them is helpful.”

In order to activate your wrist and hand muscles, spread and curl your fingers slightly while your hands are on the ground, and press down with your fingertips. This will help to spread the load between your wrist and your fingers, reducing the load through your wrist.

If you continue to struggle with wrist pain during bodyweight exercises, Mead suggests using push-up bars, which can help to keep your wrists in a more neutral position while you train.

Exercises to improve your wrist health

These are the physio-style exercises Mead recommends you do outside of your workouts to help improve your wrist mobility and strength…

  • Wrist circles: circle your wrists regularly to help improve flexibility and blood flow
  • Prayer stretch: lace your palms together in a prayer position, then move your hands down your body as your elbows come up
  • Reverse prayer stretch: place the backs of your hands together in front of you, fingers pointing down, and then drop your elbows
  • Forearm twist stretch: sit comfortably in a chair with your arms straight out in front of you and your hands back to back.Bring your right hand over your left one, and interlace your fingers. Keeping your hands locked together, bring them down and under, towards you and then up through the space between your arms.Feel the stretch to your forearms and hold on – only go as far as you can!Hold for 30 seconds.Repeat several times on each arm.

For more expert health and fitness tips, head to the Strong Women Training Club.

Images: Getty

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