6 Tips to Improve Wrist Mobility

By Coach KB

Something that is for certain is that your coaches love us some good squatting. Front squats, back squats, overhead squats, one-legged squats, pistol squats, sumo squats, squat jumps, wallballs, squat thrusts... even burpees, box jumps, broad jumps, and frog jumps have elements of squatting in them. Each of these movements has its own unique and bio-mechanically sound way of positioning the body and each class we provide tips and cues to get you closer to that end. Most of these cues have to do with foot and knee placement, depth of movement, where to put your weight, the position of your back, shoulders, and neck... Be on the lookout for future blog posts that address some of these issues. But there is one cue that, for many of you, seems nearly impossible to perform and often elicits complaints of sharp or shooting pain. 

While we never want to hear that our athletes are in pain, we also don’t want to continue modifying movements instead of fixing the underlying limitation. We know most of you are in just for “a good workout” and don’t necessarily care if you have perfect form as long as you are safe, but the more you develop good (aka biomechanically sound) posture in the gym, the more that will carry over into your everyday life and have an astounding effect on your overall quality of life, especially as you age. That is why I’m here today to provide some tips for wrist mobility, particularly important in front squats and cleans, but also important in plank and pushups. (Greater life correlation - this also reduces the chance and effects of carpal tunnel or other wrist pain if you type or text a lot.) 

First I must add that oftentimes the inability for your wrists to perform a front squat or a clean correctly is connected to poor thoracic mobility and posture. That said, here are a few exercises you can do to improve your wrist mobility:

  1. The best place to start is just to do some wrist rotations. You can do this with both hands and simply rotate your wrists in circles right and left and back and forth and side to side or you can clasp your hands together and do the same thing. Hold any position where you feel resistance or tenderness for a few seconds. Do these often, like a few times throughout the day. 
  2. One step up from the rotations is to just use your other hand to pull your wrist into extension and flexion and hold it there 20-30 seconds. 
  3. Start in plank on your hands and then rotate your palms so your fingers face your toes. Keep your body tight and shift your weight forward so there is an angle from your shoulders to your wrists. Hold as long as you can (maybe 20-30 seconds is a good guide) and repeat. You can also do this on your knees. To get an idea of what this should look like you can google “planche pushup,” (minus the whole levitating part).
  4. I just learned about this one - place your palms on a wall, fingers facing up, with your arms straight. Walk your hands down the wall as far as they will go without your palm lifting up. When you reach your maximum distance, turn your hand around so your fingers point down and walk your hands back up the wall. As your wrist mobility improves you should notice you can get farther. 
  5. This is one for the gym that directly translates to the front squat position. As we always say, it is not your hands or your wrists holding the bar; it should be your shoulders. That said, you need good wrist mobility to get the bar to your shoulders, so… Set up a bar on the squat rack (or on your shoulders if you can - this is called the “rack position”). Your elbows should point as far forward as possible and the weight should be on your shoulders. Pick up the bar and rotate your elbows even farther forward and then return to the rack position, either on the squat rack or on your shoulders. Repeat a few times and often. 
  6. Finally, in your normal life, make sure you have good typing and texting habits. Keep a neutral position… Maybe even get a standing work station!

Such a small thing may seems trivial but I assure you that just this tiny improvement in your wrist mobility will allow you to see more progress in the gym and lead to a better quality of life.