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Wrist Strengthening Exercises and Tips

written by: Donna Cosmato • edited by: Cheryl Gabbert • updated: 4/20/2011

Weak wrist muscles can lead to injuries like sprains or chronic pain. Learn how to avoid injury with these helpful wrist strengthening exercises.

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    Wrist Muscles

    To get the best results from wrist strengthening exercises and tips like these, it is important to know what muscles are in the wrist and what they do. There are six muscles in the wrist:

    1. Extensor carpi radialis brevis – extends and moves wrist so hand can rotate.
    2. Extensor carpi radialis longus – extends and moves hand side- to-side at wrist.
    3. Extensor carpi ulnaris – allows hand to move back and forth and sideways at wrist.
    4. Flexor carpi radialis – flexes and moves hand away from the body at wrist.
    5. Flexor carpi ulnaris – flexes and moves hand toward the body at wrist.
    6. Abductor pollicis longus – moves the wrist away from a median plane.

    Wrist strengthening exercises 

    These muscles aid the elbow, forearm, fingers, and thumb in moving. Simple activities like holding an object, picking things up, or throwing a ball require strong wrist muscles. Some common types of wrist injuries are fractures, sprains, or chronic wrist pain.

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    Wrist Facts

    Why is it important to use wrist strengthening exercises? The wrist enables the hand to move and is responsible for mobility and range of motion. Tying shoes or typing on a computer is difficult without the use of the wrist. Wrist exercises boost the effectiveness and flexibility of other areas of the body, like the rotator cuff muscles, and help curtail the risk of injuries, which can cause temporary or permanent disability.

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    Wrist Exercises

    Here are some tips for avoiding injury while performing strengthening exercises. A sports medicine professional or physical therapist should be consulted prior to beginning or changing any exercise program.

    • Use light weights.
    • All movements should be slow and controlled.
    • Work through a pain-free range of motion.
    • Keep wrists neutral, and avoid hyper-extending movements.

    Stretching exercises warm up muscles and help avoid injuries. Good stretching exercises are those which involve bending or rotating wrist muscles.

    Here are three simple hand and wrist exercises:

    Wrist flexion

    1. Grasp weight with working hand, palms facing upward.
    2. Bend wrist forward, then return to starting position.

    Wrist Extensions

    1. Sit or lie with arms comfortably supported.
    2. Grasp weight with working hand, palms facing downward.
    3. Bend hand and wrist backward, hold briefly, return to starting position.

    Hand Squeezes

    Grasp a soft ball and squeeze in a rhythmic motion. This is a fantastic yet simple exercise that can be performed anywhere. This easy exercise yields fast results, especially when wrists are fatigued from typing.

    Hand Wiggles

    Open hands wide, then gently shake hands and let them dangle loosely, with the weight of the hands supported by the wrist. Wiggle fingers back and forth, then gently flex hands upward from the wrist. Wiggle fingers in the upright position. Repeat as necessary to relax hands and wrist.

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    Exercise Disclaimer

    Start these exercises slowly with light weights – one to three pounds – and build up repetitions according to the recommendations of a sports medicine professional or physical therapist.

    While wrist strengthening exercises and tips are valuable for improving coordination and stimulating circulation, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional prior to starting any exercise program. Determining the exact cause of any wrist pain is the first step in planning an effective treatment plan.

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    American Society for Surgery of the Hand, “The Electronic Textbook of Hand Surgery”, accessed 02/26/2010:

    Get Body Smart, “Muscles that act on Hand”, accessed 02/26/2010:

    Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary

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