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Episode 160: Improve Wrist Mobility

Video Highlights

- Lack of wrist extension is a common issue.
- Combination drill to improve wrist extension.
- Be good to your wrists.

Today we’re going to look at some combined mobility and stretching exercises to improve your wrist extension.

One of the most common complaints that we get in a traditional fitness setting is a lack of wrist extension or people that have pain when they’re doing a push up or maybe they are catching a bar or doing a front squat, etc. One of the big issues is an inability to extend the wrist.

Basically wrist extension means if my palm is facing down, I point my fingers up at the ceiling and then my fingers come back toward my elbow. That’s wrist extension.

If I’m in a push up or if I’m in a handstand push up or if I’m doing anything with a bar where I’m having to catch it up here a lot of people with wrist stiffness complain of pain in those particular movements.

I hear it across the board from people that do Olympic weight lifting, power lifting, kettle bells, yoga, etc.

What I want to show you today is just a really simple progression of a combination of elbow mobility with some basic gentle stretching of the wrists to help improve this issue. I want to go carefully as we do these. The wrist whether you think so or not is kind of a delicate structure.

There’s a bunch of different bones in here called carpals, a lot of ligaments, a lot of things that can go badly wrong if you over do this. I want you to think safety first and gentle first. As we go through this, if you don’t feel anything super intense, that’s good.

I usually try to get people when they’re working on the wrist or nerves or anything else that tends to be a little more fragile, think about a 3 out of 10 intensity level as we go through the exercises.

To get us started I want to make sure that you know how to do a basic elbow circle. So I’m going to lift my left arm. I’m going to do a loose fist. I’m going to bring my hand toward my face.

I’m going to try to keep my humorous, this bone up here from going out. I’m going to pull my bicep in. As my hand goes out I’m going to lock my elbow. Then I’m going to roll my hand down again and I just repeat that.

It’s really important that you do a full lock of the elbow and as you come up try to get a full bend of the elbow, as well, to make sure that we’re maximizing the mobility here.

Now come back out here, palm down, turn your thumb to the outside and just reverse that. We want to make sure that we work the elbow in both directions. All right? The reason I’m showing you that is when we’re doing the wrist work, we’re going to be doing elbow circles and they’re going to look more like that rather than this, because our hand is going to be fixed on this bench.

Let’s go ahead and go down. I’m going to show you exactly what I want you to do to combine some elbow mobility with some basic stretching of the wrist.

Our basic setup is going to be pretty simple. I’m using a low bench here. It is very possible to do this kneeling on the floor in an all fours position. You can also do it against the wall.

The main goal here is make sure that you can be in a position that is comfortable with the amount of wrist extension that you have available. The better your wrist extension becomes, the more weight you can add to it, etc. Again, think safety first, level 3 out of a level 10 intensity.

What I’m going to do is come into a kneeling position so that you can see this more easily. The first thing that we’re going to focus on is we’re going to spread our fingers, get the palm of our hand completely in contact with the surface and we’re going to start to do some small elbow circles. All right?

I have very little stretch right now into extension because my shoulder is directly over my hand. For me, because I have pretty good wrist extension, if I wanted to increase the intensity of the stretch, I’m going to have to move my shoulder toward my fingers.

Right now to learn, I’m just going to be back here and I just want to work on these basic full elbow circles. I try to extend them a little bit, make them a little bit bigger.

Having done that, the next thing I’m going to do is take my opposite hand and put it on top of my other hand. In essence I’m going to push that into the table a little better into the bench and I’m going to extend a little.

I’m going to bring my shoulder toward my fingers and then from here I will start doing my elbow circles again.

What’s nice about having the second hand is that I can use it prevent this portion of my palm from coming up. Usually what happens is people start to work on their extension and start to do some additional work, this portion of the palm starts to lift up and it reduces the intensity of the exercise.

Again you’re just using the weight of this hand, weight of this arm to stabilize this hand on the bench or floor or wall and you’re just going to continue to do your basic elbow circles.

What I typically will do is I’ll do one, two, three, lean into it. Opposite direction, one, two, three, lean into it. Usually, again, because I’ve been working on these for quite some time, the more that I do that, I can do maybe 9-12 repetitions and have a pretty good level of extension that allows me to work doing whatever I want to in a gym setting.

If you have tight wrists, you may have to do somewhere around 20-30 repetitions of this, again, taking it very, very slow and making sure that you’re keeping the intensity at 3 out of 10, otherwise you put too much stress into the wrist and you start to give yourself problems.

The basics are start off nice and easy. Shoulder probably behind the hand or directly over the hand. You’re going to do some basic elbow circles in each direction. Three or four in each direction.

As you start to feel warmed up, move the shoulder forward a little bit to get a stretch in the hand and then cover the wrist and hand with the opposite hand and just keep repeating your three circles, a little stretch, three circles, now opposite direction and a little stretch.

That’s the basics. If you have any questions about this, let us know. Otherwise good luck and I hope it helps your push ups.

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