How to Increase Wrist Strength for Power and Peak Performance

Strong and flexible wrists are essential for your best performance, so it pays to invest in caring for them properly.

You are only as strong as your weakest link, and for many people, that weak area is their wrists. From lifting to throwing, and pushing and pulling, our wrists can take a lot of strain transferring or absorbing forces in all our physical endeavors.

Whether it's during training or your chosen sport itself, strong and flexible wrists are essential for your best performance, so it pays to invest in caring for them properly, and I don't mean wrist braces and taping!

I've worked with all types of clients over the years and got them started on my blend of modified gymnastic and calisthenic training which includes fundamental hand-balancing work. And from motivated recreational athletes to professionals, many of them have had one thing in common, and that's a lower tolerance for wrist pressure and strain. It's just the nature of it, unless you have done dedicated consistent work on your wrists, most people don't experience this during their regular daily activities.

This prevalence demonstrates how vulnerable our wrists can be when we subject them to the higher forces, and too many of us are right on the edge of a wrist injury, as I bet quite a few of you know for yourselves already, that can take us out of the games we love.

But it definitely doesn't need to be this way, I'll share with you how to work on your wrists either as a proactive approach to prevent issues or to condition them to get back to what you want to do.

How Your Wrists Work

Here's a bit on wrist anatomy to help you understand what's going on in your wrists and how these exercises can help.

There are 10 bones connected to the wrist joint. You've got two coming from your forearm (the radius on the thumb side and the ulna on the pinky side), and eight coming from the hand, which are called carpals.

The bones and ligaments are supportive structures of course. If they are not acclimated to the forces of vigorous, repetitive training, they will lack the resilience to withstand injury. As such, ligament sprain and bone stress fractures are common problems.

Improving the capacity of our wrist bones and ligaments takes consistent, progressive and patient work. And if you want to reduce your risk of injuries, patience is the key.

Our forearm and wrist muscles create the movements of flexion, extension and radial/ulnar deviation. Hand rotations (supination and pronation) actually come from the elbow joints. So wrist "circle" exercises are a combination of elbow and wrist movements.

Our forearm and hand muscles actually have a great potential for strength improvement, as again most of us tend not to use them to their full capability.

Steady incremental strength training for the wrists can lead to significant results.

What's Holding You Back

If putting pressure through your hands is painful or uncomfortable, these exercises will help.

There are quite a few wrist conditions (strains, sprains, tendinitis, bursitis, TFCC tears, stress fractures) that can be improved with proper wrist conditioning.

The beginning of wrist conditioning work is ensuring you have the adequate wrist flexibility to perform your training safely. You want to be able to flex and extend your wrists to at least 90-degree angles without a lot of force for most training that loads your wrists.

If your wrists can't flex and extend properly, loading them with your body weight (or more) through training is like finding a stuck hinge and, instead of loosening it properly, just pushing harder and harder until something gives.

There is also quite a bit of wrist strength endurance needed to perform bodyweight exercises, especially in exercises involving some level of hand balancing. While the common recommendation for building wrist conditioning is to spend as much time on your hands as possible, you have to work up to it, especially if your wrists already hurt.

Start With These Simple and Effective Exercises

Let's begin with two wrist flexibility exercises, one for flexion and one for extension. These can be done throughout the day and are the best place to start your wrist conditioning work.

Wrist Extension

Wrist Flexion

The key here is that it should feel better as you go on with the exercise; the 10th rep should feel better than the first. If it doesn't you've pushed too much. No pain, no gain does not apply here.

Perform 3 sets of 10 dynamic repetitions with a 30-second hold at the end of each set.

Full Wrist Flexibility and Strength Routine

After you've spent a few times getting started with the wrist exercises above, you can start on this routine which combines strength and flexibility work to address everything you need for flexible and powerful wrists.

1. Fingers facing toward your knees, with palms facing down.
Do 3 sets of 10 pulses followed by a 30-second hold.

2. Fingers facing toward your knees, with palms facing up.
Do 3 sets of 10 pulses followed by a 30-second hold.

3. Fingers facing forward, palms down, then perform closed chain finger extension. Then you'll emphasize particular fingers and your thumbs.
Do 3 sets of 10-12 reps.

4. Back of the hand wrist extension (fingers facing each other in the middle).
Do 3 sets of 10-12 reps.

5. Fingers facing backward on palm finger extension.
Do 3 sets of 10-12 reps.

6. The same 3 positions as above, but in the top of a push-up position.

Do 3 sets of 10-12 reps.

Adjustments and Modifications

If your wrists are so restricted that you can't perform the exercises as shown in the videos, don't worry about it. You just have to adjust to your own level.

A good option is to do the exercises on a table or other elevated surface to take some of the pressure off.

And if even that is too uncomfortable, feel free to do them on a wall.

The important thing is to move within the range you can, and not to move into pain. Stop just short of where you feel pain and spend time working on the range you've got.

Over time, that range will increase and you'll be doing more and feeling better.

Shore Up Your Weak Links to Be the Best You Can Be!

Being injured and restricted from activities you want to do is frustrating and stops your forward progress. You want to feel in control of your body, and to be confident that it can handle whatever you throw at it in your training and in your sport.

When your body is strong at every point, you can feel truly free to pursue any activities you want, and that freedom is available to you if you work at it.

Download our Body Maintenance Guide to free up restrictions throughout your body