Weekend Challenge: Targeted Wrist Strengthener
Wherever you are while reading this, stop for a moment and consider your wrists. What position are they in? Are they in a state of extension (palms out, fingers up) or flexion (palms in, fingers pointed down)? Are they at rest? Whatever your wrists are doing, chances are they are not bearing weight.
Like all bones, your wrists need to bear weight to stay strong. Today’s challenge gives your wrists the chance to do just that, which lowers your risk of sustaining a fracture. And according to research, a specific type of wrist fracture actually indicates vulnerability to breaking a hip.
So let’s get those wrists strong!
Despite how little thought you give them on a daily basis, your wrists carry a lot of influence. No part of the body works in isolation, and your wrists are no exception.
The finely articulated wrist joint can move in flexion, extension, adduction, and abduction; it can move in circles and can roll from side to side. It’s a very intricate joint with a significant range of motion and mobility potential, but many people’s wrists have limited mobility due to injury, lack of use, misuse, or other factors.
And like other highly mobile joints (such as the ankle), the wrist is vulnerable to fracture. Its vulnerability is increased because in the event of a fall, people tend to put their arms out to catch themselves. So the wrists are likely to take the first and highest impact from a fall.
For most people, wrist mobility becomes limited because we unknowingly limit the wrists’ range of motion. Daily activities at a desk or computer or common exercises that typically put the wrist in extension (Yoga poses, planks, push-ups, etc.) mean the flexion muscles grow weak and imbalance results.
Just what are these flexion and extension muscles?
When your wrist is in extension, such as holding your hand out in a “stop” position, you’re using the extensor muscles in your forearm: the carpi radialis, palmaris longus (you can see this muscle’s tendon bulge in the center of your wrist near the pulse point), the carpi ulnaris, and the digitorum superficialis.
For wrist flexion, the following flexor muscles are engaged: carpi ulnaris, carpi radialis longus (which runs all the way from your elbow to the base of your index finger) and the digitorum.
Flexors and extensors are intended to work with and against each other in balance, providing optimal range of motion and mobility, and protecting your wrist from a fracture.
Wrist fractures are more than just a painful inconvenience. According to research, a broken wrist – specifically, a Colles’ fracture – may indicate fracture vulnerability in the pelvis.
A Colles’ fracture occurs at the end of the radius, the lower arm bone on the thumb side of your forearm, at the wrist. Unfortunately, “Colles’ fracture has been shown to be associated with an increased risk of hip fracture,”1 a UK study begins. The scientists conducting the study analyzed the bone density and fracture incidence of 149 participants. Interestingly, those with Colles’ fracture who were age 65 or under were found to have the greatest incidence of low bone density in the hip.1
This is more evidence that the wrists’ influence is far-reaching. So let’s get started on today’s wrist-strengthening move.
An exercise mat or carpeted floor is a good idea for this exercise. If you’re wearing rings, you’ll be more comfortable if you take them off.
- Get down on your knees and make your hands into fists, thumbs on the outside of your fingers.
- Place your knuckles down on the floor (this is why removing rings is suggested!), so you’re in a hands-and-knees position, arms straight. Do not lock out your elbows.
- Note the angle of your arms. They should be straight down from your shoulders to your fists, not angled out in front. Your thighs should also be straight down from your hips to your knees.
- Straighten your back and level out your shoulder blades – in other words, don’t let your back sag downward or arch upward, which collapses or spreads the shoulder blades, respectively.
- Now activate your shoulder stabilizers – let your shoulders slide slightly downward along your sides, engaging your lats (latissimus dorsi) at the upper part of your ribs, and your traps (trapezius) in your upper back between your shoulder blades.
- Your neck should be in a straight line from your shoulders; gently lengthen your neck in this position without looking up or down.
- Hold this position for about one minute, or for as long as you feel comfortable.
If you would like more of a challenge, then after step #6, step your feet straight back, one at a time, so you’re on the balls of your feet rather than your knees. Keep your knees straight but not locked, as in a plank position. Hold this position for one minute (or as long as you comfortably can).
Feel free to include these additional weekend challenges along with the Targeted Wrist Strengthener:
You can do this Weekend Challenge periodically throughout the day if you like, or simply include it when you do your regular bone-strengthening exercises. It’s an excellent way to give your wrists the opportunity to bear weight and grow strong.
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I’d love to get feedback from you on this Weekend Challenge, so feel free to leave a comment below.
Have a great weekend!
1Earnshaw, S.A., et al. “Colles’ fracture of the wrist as an indicator of underlying osteoporosis in postmenopausal women: a prospective study of bone mineral density and bone turnover rate.” Osteoporosis International. 8. 1. (1998): 53-60. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9692078