Wrists. A weak point for a lot of people. Most people have a strong dislike of the four-point kneeling position because it hurts the wrists, but we also put our weight through our hands in other exercises and I know it causes issues for a lot of you.
Outside of Pilates, many of us spend a lot of our day typing, but even for things like carrying groceries, opening jars (or gin bottles) and tipping a saucepan to empty its contents, we rely on our wrist strength and flexibility. So it’s really important to strengthen our wrists, not just for Pilates but for every day movements as well, particularly as we get older.
Did you know that wrist movement involves 35 muscles (don’t ask me to name them!); so to strengthen the wrists, we need to think about the hands and forearms as well.
Let’s look at hand flexibility and strength first with a really simple exercise. All of these exercises can be done sitting or standing. Whichever you prefer. If you’re happy to do them standing it means you can easily sneak them into your daily routine. Try doing them whilst the kettle boils for example!
I call this Ta-dah! Start with both hands in a fist. Then you open the hand out and stretch the fingers as wide as they will go, like a jazz hand or ta-da! And repeat. Fist, ta-da. Fist, ta-da. Do it 10 times. If you suffer from any kind of arthritis or join issues being careful with this. Don’t work into a place of pain. Adjust as is appropriate for you.
Sticking with the hands you're going to do fist squeezes. If you have a small squishy ball or one of those stress reliever toys you can use that, otherwise you can use a towel or anything squeezable! Same here if you have any joint issues in the hands, start small and build up as it feels ok. You don’t want to feel any pain in the joints. Make one hand into a fist and turn it palm up. Squeeze the ball and release. You're working on your grip but also the muscles in the forearm. Do this 10 times each side.
The next exercise is also for the hands. This one is going to challenge the dexterity in the fingers. For this one you're going to do one hand at a time so you can concentrate on the movement properly. Again, any joint issues, start small and build up. I’m going to call this one, Phalanges (yes like Phoebe in friends). Did you know, the phalanges are the bones that make up the fingers of the hand and the toes of the foot. There are 56 phalanges in the human body, with fourteen on each hand and foot. Anyway…
Starting with the right hand open and flat, fingers to the ceiling. It will to help if you either rest the elbow on a table, like you’re about to arm wrestle someone, or just hold the arm up so you have the fist near your line of vision. Bend the joint in the middle of the fingers which is your proximal interphalangeal joint (I had to look that up!); then bend at the joint at the base of the fingers, the metacarpophalangeal joint, and squeeze the fingertips into the palm on the hand. Then open your hand out flat again, and repeat. Bend the fingers, then the fist knuckles and squeeze the finger tips to the palm and open your hand out again. Do it 10 times on each hand.
Now we're going to focus more on the wrist. You can do this next exercise with or without weights. If you have any kind of wrist issues, start without a weight and build up. You only want to do this with a small weight, 0.5 or 1kg. Again, you don’t want to feel any pain doing these exercises. If you do feel pain, then stop! Adjust your position and try again. If its still painful, then stop. It might not be the right exercise for you.
I call this one T-Rex wrists. Officially it is a pronated wrist curl, but that’s just boring! You can do both arms together or one, then the other, its up to you. Start with the upper arms down by the side, elbows bent, forearms parallel to the floor. You can always rest your elbow on something (your knee, a table, a kitchen counter whilst the kettle boils!). Hands are in fists, or you have a small weight in each hand. Palms or weights facing downwards. Curl your wrists up and then release. Curl up and release. See, T-Rex? You can also do this with a resistance band. Secure it under the feet first, adjust as needed to get a light resistance and then take the same movement. Curling the wrists up and down. Start with 10 reps each side and build up from there.
Now very similar, this is still T-Rex Wrists or a wrist curl, but you start with palms or weight facing upwards. This one feels a bit more natural than the last one. Curl your wrists up and release. Curl and release. 10 reps on each side.
Final exercise. This is the one that helps when you’re holding a heavy pan and trying to pour the contents out. Like the gravy from the roasting tray into the serving jug! This is The Twist. Again, you can do this with no weights, small weights or the resistance band. Sit or stand with your arms bent, forearms parallel to the floor, palms down. Hold the resistance band, weights or nothing at all and just pretend your holding onto something. Slowly rotate the hands so your palms are facing up. Then twist them back to palms down, and then back to palms up again. 10 reps.
Let’s finish with a gentle stretch. Bend the elbow and bring the forearm up so the hand is in front of you palm facing inwards. Hold onto the arm below the wrist with the other hand. Then think good toes and naughty toes with your hands! Point the hand, and then flex. Slow and gentle, don’t fling it. 5 point and flex each side, and you’re done!