While my wrists are fine in general, some of the more strenuous exercises I (try to) do are painful sometimes; for example, one-armed pushups. I used to have more problems, even when doing pull ups (at the bottom of the movement) and for all kinds of pushups.

To avoid this I started doing pushups on my knuckles and also did some simple wrist exercises (basically, holding my fist tight and moving the wrist around in various ways). In general, this helped, but I've obviously still got problems and I'd like to "fix" this permanently. I understand that wrists are mostly tendons and not muscle and I'll time to improve, which is why I want to start early.

  • Just to add, my grip strength is quite ok, it's the wrist themselves that are the problem.
    – VPeric
    Jul 9, 2011 at 20:46
  • Perhaps the problem is flexibility rather than strength?
    – michael
    Jul 10, 2011 at 2:07
  • @michael I don't know, I feel my flexibility is fine (better than my peers at least), but it could be. Is there a way I could test my wrist flexibility?
    – VPeric
    Jul 10, 2011 at 9:11

4 Answers 4


Begin by stabilizing your wrists in a neutral position with isometrics for the wrist flexors, extensors, medial and lateral deviators, pronators and supinators ( ie. resist the wrist moving 1) up, 2) down, 3) to the thumb side, 4) to the little finger side, and resist rotating the forearm by turning the palm 5) down and 6) up, without losing the neutral position of the wrist). Then do the same six exercises but allow movement through a comfortable range using a resistance band and/or dumbell. See this article for photos. You can use these exercises to warm up before trying bodyweight exercises.

As you mentioned, you need to take care with the tendons and small joints of the wrist. Here is a wrist stretching video that will help with your flexibility.

These exercises will make your wrist more stable in neutral, stronger throughout your range and more flexible which hopefully will help to eliminate your pain.

  • I've been doing the first four exercises in that link already (albeit without a resistance band). I guess the problem might be flexibility after all (or I should get a resistance band and load my wrist some more).
    – VPeric
    Jul 10, 2011 at 12:06
  • 1
    So it sounds like you have been doing range of motion so far, but not strengthening. I would start with the isometrics in neutral to stabilize before trying to strengthen thru the range of motion with the band or a weight. Your flexibility may be the limiting factor in your push-ups, ie. not having enough wrist extension. However, lacking range does not seem that it would be the cause of pain with pull ups. Before you try to do full weight bearing with regular or one-armed push ups, try partial weight bearing with wall push ups to see how much weight your wrists tolerate. Hope that helps. Jul 10, 2011 at 13:12

I think one of the most effective exercises is the wrist roller - you can make it for about $5 using a broom handle or round piece of wood, some thick string/rope and a weight plate. Here's a few items from Ross Training about making your own: http://rosstraining.com/blog/index.php?s=wrist+roller&sbutt=Go

  • This looks useful, unfortunately I don't have access to a lot of weights usually - do you think this is still good with eg. 1-2 kgs only (a bottle filled with water)?
    – VPeric
    Jul 11, 2011 at 12:54
  • 2
    A gallon container of water, rocks, etc. would work, it doesn't take much weight for you to feel it. Jul 11, 2011 at 13:49
  • @Meade, Thanks for providing the link to the wrist roller. I couldn't find one so I didn't incluled it in my answer. You are right that it works really well. Jul 12, 2011 at 7:35

Deadlifts have as one of their benefits the strengthening of your grip and wrists. It also strengthens your back, your core, and your leg muscles (quads, hams, glutes).

If you don't want to do deadlifts, then you might want to look into fingertip pushups (all five fingers). Essentially, the wrist gets stronger as the muscles around it get stronger which includes your forearms as well as the muscles in the hand. Fingertip pushups strengthen both.

Along with your wrist strengthening exercises, you will want to stretch your wrists as well. Here are some options for that:

  • Unfortunately, I don't have regular access to a gym and so anything that requires a lot of equipment is not a real option (I'm otherwise aware of the benefits of deadlifts, squats and other compound movements). Still, +1 for the stretching links!
    – VPeric
    Jul 11, 2011 at 12:52
  • 1
    Don't forget the fingertip pushups. No equipment needed there. Jul 11, 2011 at 12:58
  • Yup, I know. I'm somewhat afraid of my fingers but I'll try to work on it too.
    – VPeric
    Jul 11, 2011 at 12:59
  • 3
    If your fingertips can't handle your weight yet, start doing the pushups at your knee instead of your foot. Keep adding reps until you can do a set of 12, and then switch to your foot. The goal is 3 sets of 12. Jul 11, 2011 at 13:09

OK, I have a fantastic wrist exercise that is little known. Google "upside down kettle bell images" (or "bottoms up"). Look at how they are holding the kettlebell. You'll get the idea. With that basic hold, you can do a carry, or you can do a lunge, or a shoulder press. My preference is to do a lunge holding the upside down kettle bell with a straight arm raised directly up. I'm very excited about this addition to my workout. This upside down hold requires a high intensity of mental focus and control. If you try it, you quickly understand what I mean. It will do amazing things for your grip strength. One aspect of the upside down hold is that it requires a high intensity of mental focus, coordination, and control. You will find that when your wrist starts to become fatigued, you have to fight very hard to keep the kettle bell in the upside down position. I don't see anyone else at my gym doing this, so you will be one of the first.

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