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March 09, 2023 7 min read

Doing wrist exercises and stretches that target the surrounding muscles can help support the flexibility and strength of the wrists, as well as help prevent strain or injuries caused by repetitive motions.

Many people think that their wrist discomfort is permanent, and they just put up with the pain instead of looking for a solution. In reality, though, there are some easy exercises you can do to make your wrists stronger and reduce pain, stiffness, or weakness.

It is important to speak to a healthcare professional for medical advice before beginning any of the exercises listed here to properly treat your wrist injury. A correct diagnosis is key to achieving a full recovery. These stretches can not only be used to help with an existing injury but also as a way to stop wrist pain from arising in the first place.

How the Wrist Works

It is vital to protect your wrists as they are required for many essential daily activities. Additionally, it is challenging to maintain upper body strength without exercises that involve your arms and shoulders, which can be very uncomfortable if you are experiencing wrist pain.

Wrist Bones and Tendons – Image from Shutterstock

Let's briefly examine the inner workings of your wrist and why engaging in these exercises is essential.

The wrist joint is composed of ten bones – two from the forearm (the radius located near the thumb and the ulna near the pinky finger), and eight from the hand, known as the carpals.

The bones and ligaments provide support. However, if they are not used to the pressure that comes with repetitive physical activity, they will be less able to avoid injury. Consequently, ligament sprains and bone stress fractures are quite common.

Improving the strength and resilience of your wrist bones and ligaments requires persistent and gradual effort.

It is particularly important to do wrist-strengthening exercises if you want to lower your chances of getting hurt. Do not underestimate the force your wrists are exposed to during push-ups and other bodyweight exercises.

The activity of flexion, extension, and radial/ulnar deviation in our forearms and wrists is generated from the muscles in these areas. The elbow joints are what enable us to make hand rotations like supination and pronation.

Therefore, wrist “circle” exercises involve a combination of movements from the elbow and the wrist.

The muscles in our forearms and hands have a lot of untapped strength, as we typically don't use them to their fullest. Doing regular exercises to gradually increase strength and mobility in the wrists can lead to major changes. That is what you can achieve by doing the following wrist stretches and exercises.

Painful Wrist – Image from Shutterstock

Benefits of Doing Wrist Exercises

Doing strengthening exercises for the wrist will help build muscle strength, increase the flexibility of the wrist joints and tendons, and expand the range of motion.

1. Flexibility

The wrist can perform numerous motions such as rotation, turning outward and inward, and shifting to the side. Exercising the wrists can help to extend the ligaments in the wrist to improve its range of motion and enhance flexibility.

2. Prevent Wrist Pain and injury

Having strong wrist muscles can help to reduce stress on the median nerve, which can cause carpal tunnel syndrome, as well as decrease the risk of fractures and sprains occurring due to weak wrists. Regularly exercising the wrist can help to build strength and stability, providing protection from potential injury.

3. Build Grip Strength

Performing wrist exercises can help to develop grip strength by engaging the forearm muscles. Having a strong grip is important for activities like pull-ups and bench pressing with a barbell.

Strong Grip – Image from Shutterstock

10 Wrist Exercises and Stretches for Strength and Mobility

Stretching your wrists will increase the production of synovial fluid, which lubricates your wrist joints and helps improve their function.

1. Clenched Fist Wrist Curls

Starting Position:

Sit in a chair with your arms and hands resting on your thighs, palms up.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Gently clench your hands into fists without squeezing too hard.

  2. Keeping your forearms on your thighs, curl your fists in towards your midsection.

  3. Hold the position for 10 seconds.

  4. Gradually lower your fists and extend your fingers.

  5. Clench your fists again and repeat the motions.

  6. Do 10 reps.

2. Prayer Position Wrist Stretch

Prayer stretches work your wrist, forearm, and hand muscles.

Starting Position:

Stand up straight, put the palms of your hands together below your chin as if in prayer, and also bring your elbows together.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Slowly move your elbows apart while keeping your palms together.

  2. As your elbows separate, slowly move your hands down toward your waist while keeping your palms pressed together.

  3. If you can’t keep your pals together, open them but keep your fingers together.

  4. When you reach your belly button or feel a stretch in your wrists, hold the position for 10 to30 seconds.

  5. Do 10 repetitions.

Prayer Position Wrist Exercise – Image from Shutterstock

3. Upside-Down Prayer position Wrist Stretch

Starting Position:

Stand up straight with your arms hanging by your sides and your fingers outstretched. Put the backs of your hands together at waist height.

Here’s what to do:

  1. With your outstretched fingers facing downward, flex your elbows and slowly lift your hands up toward your face.

  2. Keep pressing the tops of your hands together.

  3. Maintain this stretch for 15 seconds before bringing your arms back down.

  4. Do this 10 times.

4. Wrist Extension

Starting Position:

Place a rolled-up towel on the edge of a table. Sit on a chair and place your forearm on the table, letting your wrist rest on the towel and your hand hang over the edge, palm down.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Without moving your forearm, lift your hand up, so your fingertips are pointing toward the roof.

  2. When you feel a bit of stretching in your hand and wrist, hold that position for 5 to 10 seconds.

  3. You can do this exercise with both hands or one at a time.

  4. Do 10 reps with each hand.

5. Squeeze Ball Exercise

For individuals who spend a lot of time typing on a computer, this exercise is very important. Damage to the carpal tunnel in your wrist can be debilitating.

Starting Position:

This is one of the few wrist exercises you can do in any position, sitting, standing, and even while lying in bed. All you need is a tennis ball, stress ball, or another squeezy object. (It should present a reasonable amount of resistance to be effective)

Here’s what to do:

  1. Put the ball in the middle of your hand.

  2. Clasp it tightly, and squeeze as hard as you can for at least five seconds.

  3. Then, release and repeat with each hand at least 10 times.

Squeeze Ball Wrist Exercise – Image from Shutterstock

6. Wrist Extensor Stretch

Starting Position:

Stand up straight and extend your right arm in front of you, with your elbow straight and your palm facing the ceiling.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Using your left hand, grab the fingers of your right hand from below.

  2. Gently pull them down toward the floor.

  3. You should feel a slight stretching sensation in your wrist and forearm.

  4. Hold this position for 10 to 15 seconds

  5. Do 3 reps with each arm.

Wrist Extensor Exercise – Image from Shutterstock

7. Wrist Flexor Stretch

Starting Position:

Similar to the wrist extensor stretch, stand up straight and extend one arm in front of you with your elbow straight. However, for the flexor stretch your palm must face down toward the floor.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Using your other hand, grab the fingers of your raised arm from above.

  2. Gently pull the fingers of your extended hand toward the ceiling.

  3. Pull slowly until you feel the stretch in your arm and wrist.

  4. Hold this position for 10 to 15 seconds

  5. Do 3 reps with each arm.

Wrist Flexor Exercise – Image from Shutterstock

8. Resistance Band Wrist Flexion

Starting Position:

Sit down in a chair and place one end of the resistance band beneath your foot. Grip the other end with your hand and lay your forearm flat on your thigh, with your palm facing up.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Curl your wrist towards your body, then slowly release it back to the original position.

  2. Do this 15 times before switching arms.

Resistance Band Wrist exercise – Image from Shutterstock

9. Resistance Band Wrist Extension

Starting Position:

Sit down in a chair and place one end of the resistance band beneath your foot. Grip the other end with your hand and lay your forearm flat on your thigh, this time with your palm facing down.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Gently bend your wrist towards your body, keeping your forearm pressed against your thigh.

  2. Repeat the exercise 15 times with both your right and left wrist.

10. Wrist Curls with or without Weights

This exercise can be done utilizing a clenched fist or incorporating 1 to 5-pound weights. It is up to you to decide if you would like to do both arms simultaneously or one arm at a time, depending on your physical strength. Another option is to use a small can of food or a water bottle to serve as a light weight.

Wrist Curls – Image from Shutterstock

Starting Position:

While seated, grip the dumbbells tightly and place your forearms on your legs, with your palms facing downward, with your wrists over the edge of your knees.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Without your forearms leaving your thighs, curl your wrists up as far as possible and then down as far as possible in a slow and controlled motion.

  2. Do a set of 10 reps with each arm.

  3. Repeat the same process with your palms facing upward.

Take Away

Wrist strength and flexibility are necessary for daily tasks. No matter if you're behind the wheel, playing golf or tennis, lifting weights, typing, cooking, or any other activity that requires the use of your hands, your wrists are involved. Before commencing any exercise program, make sure to warm up first.

If you are new to exercising, start with simple stretching and exercises that don't involve weights or light exercise bands. If you are training for weightlifting or another sport, use weights and bands that match your level of strength. If you have wrist pain, it is best to consult your physical therapist or doctor to determine the cause and if further treatment or physical therapy is needed.

To achieve steady development and build up muscle strength, it's important to incorporate a good warm-up, rest, and nutrition into your workout routine. The ultimate success of your efforts depends on your capacity to adequately recuperate after your workout.

Give yourself 24 to 48 hours of rest before training the same muscle group again to make sure you have enough time to recuperate.