If you want to perform well in any sport or athletic endeavour, you need your joints to be strong, supple and mobile.
An injury or lack of mobility in any of them can be ruinous – it doesn’t matter how strong your chest, anterior delts, triceps and core are, if you’ve got a wrist problem, you simply won’t be able to bench press properly, to your full capacity. Likewise, get as good as you want at football, and bring your strength and stamina up to the highest level possible, but if you’ve got an ankle injury or an immobile hip, again, you won’t be able to perform.
This article is going to focus on the wrists – how to keep them strong and supple, how to warm them up before training, and how to maintain correct mobility over time. Luckily, this can all be done with one simple mobility routine, which we’ll go into below.
Your wrists take a lot of punishing throughout life, especially if you live an active life, especially if your sport depends on them – we’re thinking of weightlifters and bodybuilders, rowers, fighters, climbers and so on… anyone who uses their hands in their sports! They are put into a lot of awkward, often compromising positions, are often the last significant joint in a chain of power output, as you push, throw, pull and punch, and are actually quite a vulnerable joint.
Wrist warmups and mobility exercises are therefore vital if you want to perform at your best and keep yourself safe as you do so.
Mobility is your ability to use your muscles to actively take your joint through its full range of motion. If there are any parts of your body with either too little or too much mobility, your form and physicality will suffer. Other parts of your body are going to have to take over to compensate, you won’t be able to bring a joint or muscle group’s full ability to bear, and you will be opening yourself up to injury.
Mobility issues are often either the sole or a major reason behind training plateaus. It doesn’t matter how strong your quads are individually, if your hip mobility is lacking in either side, you won’t be able to progress with your squats, for instance.
Being able to move freely, without stiffness or pain, allows us to conduct all the movements we are meant to perform. It also allows us to grow old gracefully, with minimised discomfort and pain.
Wrist mobility tends to suffer from modern life as much as from athleticism. If you sit using a computer all day, sit driving all day, sit writing with pen or pencil all day, or basically use your hands for any other monotonous, physically repetitive tasks, you are asking for trouble. Your motor functions will be limited as you limit them, micro-traumas will accumulate from overuse, and tissue and joints will be impacted over time.
However, no matter your age, lifestyle, working or athletic background, there is a lot you can do. There are multiple wrist and forearm mobility drills you can perform, many hundreds of which can be found with a quick Google search. For this one, we’re going to gradually warm up the wrists, forearms and shoulders, ultimately using a broomstick (or PVC pipe or whatever else you have lying around) to run through a couple of challenging mobility exercises.
Our Wrist Mobility Broomstick Drill
Complete these in sequence. Perform the whole drill every day if you have wrist mobility issues, or pre-training if you’re looking to keep them safe and efficient during exercise.
1. Wrist rolls
We’re starting off with the basics, here. First, form a very loose fist with your arms out in front of your body. Roll your hands inwards 10 times, then outwards 10 times.
Then, interlace your fingers with your palms facing one another. Slowly rotate your wrists clockwise, then anti-clockwise, 10 times either way. Feel free to do more – keep going until they feel warm and mobile.
2. Prayer stretch
Now that your wrists are getting warm and mobile, let’s do our first stretch. With your hands out in front, bends your elbows and bring your palms together into a prayer position. From here, press your hands lightly together and slowly move your hands down towards the ground. Keep going until you feel a stretch, then return to the start. Repeat 10 times, trying to reach a little lower each time.
3. Wrist walking
Now we can bring the pressure up a little bit, really stretching the wrists and forearms. Stand facing a wall for this one. Stretch out your arms, bringing your palms against the wall. Begin with your fingers pointing upwards. Keep your hands flat against the wall, walk your wrists down slowly as far as you can. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds. Then repeat with your fingers pointed down, walking upwards, then with your fingers pointing inwards, towards one another, walking outwards.
With these stretches done, your wrists should be nicely warm and stretched out. Now you’re ready to pick up that broomstick and begin the real work.
1. Broomstick front squat
Using a broomstick to practice the front squat is a great way to open and warm up the wrists in the front rack position, whilst doing the same for your ankles and hips. It’s worth doing this whenever you’ve got a front rack position coming up in your training.
To perform the broomstick front squat:
- Hold the broomstick in the front rack position, with it laying horizontally across your flexed anterior delts. Keep your fingers loosely wrapped around the broomstick, or just have the fingers touching, whichever is most comfortable. Either way, they will be facing your chest.
- Rotate your elbows, bringing them parallel to the floor, or as close as you can manage. If you struggle with this, it’s a sure sign you need to work on shoulder mobility.
- Squat down as deep as possible, keeping your spine neutral, your chin up and your elbows as high as you can.
- Come back up to the beginning. This is one rep. Repeat for several reps and sets.
- Feel free to move onto a bar barbell as and when you think you’re ready.
2. Broomstick twists
Now that they’ve been bent and flexed, let’s finish the wrists off with some twisting motions. This will both open the wrists up to their full range of motion, build their range of motion, and strengthen them. For the broomstick twist:
- Grasp a broomstick as you would with a hammer.
- Either lock your elbow into your side and keep your arm parallel, or brace against a bench.
- Rotate the broomstick clockwise and anti-clockwise, with as wide a range of motion as possible.
- Perform 10-15 reps on each side.