An often overlooked area, strengthening the wrists is important to practice many postures in yoga. If the wrists are not strengthened, flexibility and mobility is low and there are higher chances of wrist pain or injuries. Along with strengthening the wrists, stronger forearms are also necessary to manage body weight in many postures, such as the crow pose, low plank and handstand, among others.
In postures such as the Downward-facing dog pose and planks, the wrists are bearing the weight while being in extension (with the fingers reaching backward). With repetitions the weight is coming on the wrist in the same way. Without strengthening and improving mobility, these positions can lead to an imbalance or weakness and cause wrist pain.
Furthermore, the wrists have multiple bones connecting to the wrist joint. This, along with the ligaments and connective tissue around the wrist do not adapt very quickly to strenuous or repetitive exercises. So when you practice an asana (like crow or handstand) without the wrists being ready for it, there are higher chances of injuries.
Moreover, maintaining the correct grip in each asanas helps strengthen the wrist and avoid injuries. For example, in the crow pose, the fingers should be spread apart and pointed slightly outwards, whereas in downward-facing dog pose the fingers should be pointed forward. Knowing the appropriate grip and position of the hands in the different poses is critical to having the right posture alignment too. It’s best to practice under the guidance of an experienced teacher when learning the correct grips.
Wrist pain is also common due to everyday activities such as typing on your computer or smartphone, driving, past injuries, excess weight-bearing exercise, and more. If you have any pain or injury you are recovering from, ensure you inform your yoga teacher before the class so you can practice asanas safely and with the right modifications. In this article we will look at some of the top poses and exercises to strengthen the wrists.
5 Wrist Strengthening Exercises
A few examples of yoga asanas to strengthen the wrists and forearms are the Downward-facing dog pose, plank pose, side plank pose and dolphin pose. The below exercises help improve mobility, flexibility, balance and strength, and help prevent injuries. Practice these exercises along with yoga asanas that strengthen the wrists and forearms.
The first exercise is basic wrist rotations. This helps to release any stiffness and tightness from the wrist region, reducing the risk of a strain.
How do wrist rolls: Sit comfortably, in Sukhasana or Vajrasana. Place your arms directly in front of you at a 90 degree angle with your torso and parallel to the floor. Bring your palms into light fists. Now start with rolling your wrists outwards 7-10 times and then inwards 7-10 times.
Upward bound-fingers pose
A simple yet effective yoga pose to stretch the forearms, wrists and fingers. This posture also releases tightness and stiffness, helping avoid any locks or strains due to movement.
How to do upward bound-fingers pose: Interlock your fingers and extend your arms out in front of you. Turn your palms such that the fingers are facing you. Breathing in, raise your arms towards the ceiling, stretching the hands up. Hold for a few breaths and slowly come back down.
Fist strengthening stretch
An exercise to strengthen the muscles of the wrists, fingers and forearms, this stretch helps build strength, alignment and balance for the stronger arm balances.
How to do first strengthening stretches: Sit comfortably and place the arms straight in front of you. Make a fist with both hands, squeeze the fists together for 10-15 seconds and release. Do this 10-20 times repeatedly.
360 degree wrist stretch
This exercise helps bend the wrists in different ways, providing all types of movement and stretching all the muscles in and around the wrists.
How to do 360 degrees wrist stretches: Come into a kneeling position. Place your hands on the floor, under the shoulders, like you would for the Cat-cow pose. However, turn your palms inward, with the fingertips facing your knees. Take deep breaths and hold the pose for 30-seconds. Now, you can also turn your hands such that the tops of your hands are on the floor and have the fingertips facing forward. Breathe in and once again hold for 30-seconds. Now for the third type, turn your hands so that the tops of your hands are on the floor and your fingertips are facing you. Once again, breathe deeply and hold for 30-seconds.
To take it a step higher, in each position, you can also gently move your body back and forth. You will feel a slightly added pressure on the wrist joint and muscles. Do this slowly and gently, without being too forceful.
Pull-ups and push-ups
Effective wrist, forearm and shoulder strengthening exercises you can do, pull-ups and push-ups are useful for building strength, learning to hold body weight and in engaging the core and arm muscles.
How to do pull-ups and push-ups: For pull-ups, use a pull-up bar. Hold onto the bar firmly and hang from the bar while engaging the core muscles. Start by trying to hold for 30-seconds and work your way towards longer holds.
For push-ups, practice regular push-ups on the mat - with the palms below the shoulders and toes on the mat. Move the shoulders ahead of the palms and with each round bring the chest close to the mat. Keep your awareness on the shoulders and not the hips. Practice 5-7 push-ups to start with. As you build strength, you can make it more challenging by turning the palms inward with the fingers pointing towards the legs. You can also do push-ups on the fingertips. However, this is advanced and should be done carefully.
There are other wrist strengthening exercises you can do with dumbbells or with a combination of yoga and weights. These will improve core strength and arm strength effectively.
If you already have wrist pain, it is advisable to do only basic wrist stretches. As the pain subsides, you can slowly start focusing on wrist strengthening exercises too. These exercises will go a long way in helping you achieve arm balances such as the crow pose, peacock pose and handstand, among others.