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Wrist pain from exercise can be relieved — with the right moves

What do planks, push-ups, mountain climbers and downward-facing dog all have in common? When performed improperly, these popular positions place substantial pressure on delicate wrists.

A standing wrist exercise.
A standing wrist exercise.Read moreCourtesy of Ashley Greenblatt

What do planks, push-ups, mountain climbers, and downward-facing dog all have in common? When performed improperly, these popular positions place substantial pressure on delicate wrists.

When considering which parts of the body deserve maximum toning time, most would agree that the wrists and forearms fall low on the list. They aren’t features like the stomach and biceps that we willingly sweat for and want to show off. But when we take a deeper look at just how frequently we rely on the function of our wrists, it seems obvious that more time must be dedicated to fortifying this vital area.

Outside of the gym, our wrists and forearms are constantly at work. Since we live in a technology-driven society, most of your day may be spent screen scrolling, typing, and texting. Over time, hours of holding your hands at awkward angles can lead to common conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, and tendinitis. All this, plus faulty fitness form, can wreak havoc on your wrists.

Tend to tired, worn-out wrists with the following exercises that can be completed from the convenience of your home.

You will need a set of light free weights for this workout. For best results, repeat the entire circuit three times each week. If you suffer from carpal tunnel, arthritis, or tendinitis, or still experience pain after these exercises, consult your doctor.

Form Fixer. One of the best ways to strengthen your hands and forearms is a weight-bearing exercise like push-ups. The key is to do it with proper form. Here is a 101 on perfecting these positions:

  1. The placement of your hands will dictate how your wrists feel during exercise. If the alignment is slightly off, this is enough to cause discomfort. Hands should always be directly under your shoulders.

  2. Fan your fingers to help distribute your weight evenly. Your thumb should rest just below your armpit, with all your fingers forward-facing. With each repetition, push through your entire hand, not the back edges of your palms. You can also try a knuckle push-up, which helps keep your wrists straight while building bone density.

  3. Keep an eye on your elbows. It’s common to wing them to the sides, but this causes the joints to lose the support and structure necessary for a safe movement. Ward off wrist pain by tucking your elbows in toward your ribs, or keep them at about a 45-degree angle when performing a push-up.

Tilt It

  1. Stand tall with your shoulders back, neck relaxed, arms resting at your sides, and a free weight in one hand. Palms should be facing inward.

  2. Using your weighted arm, move from just your wrist to tilt the front of the weight up toward the ceiling, keeping your arm straight. Hold for a count, then shift the front of the weight down toward the ground. Move slowly through this sequence for a total of 10 repetitions, then switch hands. (This exercise can be completed by using both hands at once. But for beginners, it is ideal to practice with one hand at a time to help focus on the movement and muscles being worked.)

Curl It

  1. Sit on a sturdy chair with a free weight in your hand. Rest the top of your forearm on your thigh.

  2. Bend at your wrist to pull the weight toward your inner forearm while keeping your arm flushed against your thigh. Hold for a count and carefully release your wrist back to the starting stance. Continue for 10 repetitions, then swap sides.

Reverse It

  1. Remain in your seat holding a free weight in one hand. Place the underside of your forearm on your thigh. Keep your lower arm completely straight from your elbow through your hand.

  2. Without shifting your arm, flex your wrist as you pull the weight up and back. Stay within your range of motion, avoiding moving the weight out of your comfort zone. This should feel like a light, weighted stretch, not painful. Repeat 10 times, then practice on the opposite hand.

Pain during exercise is often an indicator of faulty form. Focus on fixing these flaws to reach your fitness goals.

Ashley Blake Greenblatt is a certified personal trainer and wellness coach. To learn more about her virtual training program, visit