Whether you are a beginner or advanced CrossFitter, boxer, climber, or into calisthenics you will find all of these exercises useful in some way. You may be experiencing some mild pain in your wrists whilst doing press-ups, holding your barbell, or maybe you are finding difficulties holding handstands and doing pull-ups. Wrist pain is particularly common in women and can often hinder progress with press-ups and other athletic endeavours.
I remember when I first started to do straight arm planks and my first few press-ups – the pain was near enough excruciating at times! I was used to hearing things like “Women have weak wrists…” and I started to realise that, in a way, those people were right – it wasn’t because I was a woman that my wrists were weak it was because I hadn’t ever made an attempt to strengthen my wrists. I bought a pair of grip strengtheners (hand grips) and just walked around the house squeezing them until I couldn’t feel my forearms anymore. After some time my strength improved and so did my performance. I started to explore other avenues of strengthening these areas of my body and found some very useful exercises that I would like to share with you.
These 5 exercises will help you to increase your wrist, forearm, and grip strength in order to improve your sports performance and prevent injury.
Disclaimer: I am not a qualified personal trainer or health professional, always consult your doctor before beginning a new workout regime. This post is purely for informational purposes only!
1. Tennis Ball or Hand Grip Squeeze
One of the cheapest and easiest piece of workout kit that you will ever purchase!
- Start by squeezing your tennis ball or hand grip and hold for as long as you physically can. Repeat this 3-5 times.
- Next firmly, but slowly, squeeze and release your tennis ball or hand grip for as many times as you can for a minute. Repeat this 3-5 times.
2. Wet Towel Wrings
Wringing out a wet towel might seem a tad drastic but just think of those older washer women’s arms and get wringing!!! You’ll need a towel, a large bucket, and some water.
- Fill your bucket with ample water and submerge your towel until fully saturated. Remove the towel from the bucket and get wringing. The object is to twist out every last drop of water from your towel until it is as dry as you can get it. You will be surprised at how fast your forearms start to blow out! Do this once or twice a week and watch your grip improve!
3. Flexed Arm Hangs
The flexed arm hang is often used in the military in the US for female fitness tests rather than pull-ups. It requires you to hold the top of a pull-up position for as long as you can. If you’re wanting to get pull-ups for the first time or just improve your pull up performance than this exercise is for you. It works your biceps, forearms, shoulders, and back. You might have to jump up to your position or use a box to assist you and that’s fine but don’t rest your feet on the box during the actual exercise! The exercise is often performed with palms facing inward in a chin-up position but you can also change your grip and have your palms facing away from your body like in a pull-up position.
- Get into top position of a chin-up, with elbows bent, and chin over the bar. Hold yourself for 10-30 seconds and repeat 3-5 times.
- Get into top position of a chin-up, elbows bent, and chin over the bar. Hold yourself for as long as you physically can stay there and repeat 3 times.
4. Farmer’s Walks
We’ve all been there before – too much shopping to carry at once but we do it anyway so not to hurt our pride, and that’s exactly what you are going to do here but you’ll probably end up hurting your pride along the way.
Farmer’s walks are one of the most disgusting exercises ever and if you’ve been to a CrossFit box a few times then you may well have already done these. The idea is to carry to heavy weights in your hands flush to either side of your body and go for a walk. You can do this by distance or time, for example you might choose to walk a long distance with a light weight or a shorter distance with a heavier weight. To make things a little easier I have gone with time! I find using kettlebells easiest for this but you could use some dumbells too.
- Pick a weight that is comfortable to you – not too heavy and not too light. Deadlift your weight into position. Keep your hands central to your weights when gripping – if you have one hand further back or forward you will be fighting the weight in either direction. Keep yourself grounded!
- Once you feel nice and grounded squeeze your glutes, and contract your core (imagine pulling your belly button into your spine), push out your chest and pull back your shoulders – think of scapula activation when you begin a pull-up.
- Once you’re all set to go walk for 30 seconds to one minute carefully, keeping everything tight as you go along. Repeat 3 times.
- As you become familiar with the exercise you can start carrying heavier weights but really be careful to begin with.
If you want to watch a video of technique I found this one nice, quick, and straight to the point.
5. Seated Dumbell Wrist Curls and Reverse Wrist Curls
- Sit on a bench/seat, hold your dumbbell with your palm facing upward (underhand grip). Wrest your forearm on your thigh with your wrist positioned just a little below your knee.
- Uncurl the palm of your hand, rolling the weight downward toward the floor, curl the weight back up toward your body allowing your knuckles to curl up as far as is possible. Hold for a second. Repeat for 3 sets of 10-15 repetitions.
- For the reverse wrist curl you will do the same as you did in the seated wrist curls except that you will use an overhand grip (palm facing downward).
- Point your knuckles as high as you can with your dumbbell and then point them downward as far as you can. Simple! Repeat for 3 sets of 10-15 repetitions.
*Wrist curls/reverse wrist curls can also be performed with resistance bands!
If you’d like to up your game even more (ladies included) invest in a pair of ‘FatGripz‘! These wrap around your bar and make it a lot wider which will absolutely work your grip strength and forearms to their limits! (I haven’t purchased any of these yet but I am super keen to get my hands on some!)
If you’re more of a climber or calisthenics kind of person than a weight lifter opt for some ‘Power Putty‘. Power Putty is essentially a malleable putty that you can use to strengthen every muscle in your hands, fingers, and thumbs. It comes in different strengths for people of all abilities.
Care to share your own experiences or tips?! Don’t be shy and drop a comment using the comments box below!