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How to Improve Hand and Wrist Strength, No Spinach Required

By Sara Butler

Hand and Wrist Strength

Remember the old Popeye cartoons when he would pop open a can of spinach to keep Olive Oyl out of Bluto’s clutches? Well, you may not have your own personal Olive Oyl to rescue, but you should take a page from Popeye’s book and begin thinking about how to improve your wrist and hand strength and flexibility.

Many people understand the importance of stretching to help maintain flexibility and reduce injury. You can find a million articles and videos online about stretching the back, legs, and shoulders, but what about the hands and wrists?

The truth is that more people should think about stretching and strengthening their arms, wrists, and hands daily to help avoid troubles down the road. Here’s what you need to know about stretching and strengthening these body parts and a few strategies to work into your daily routine.

Your Hands Work Hard

Think about the activities you can only do because you use your hands. Your wrists and hands perform a variety of activities for you every day, from typing on a keyboard to gripping the steering wheel in your car. Over time, repetitive motions like these can create stiffness and even weakness from your forearms to your fingers.

Daily stretching and exercises for your hands and wrists can help to prevent injury and work to strengthen your hands and wrists at the same time. In other words, forget asking someone to open that jar for you -- doing these exercises can help you get that done yourself!

The Benefits of Stretching

When you take your hands and wrists through a stretching routine, then you are helping to accomplish a few things, such as:

  • Increasing flexibility
  • Reducing risk of injury
  • Preventing pain

The only people who don’t benefit from hand and wrist stretches and exercises are those with serious joint damage or inflammatory joint conditions. In those cases, you should avoid these stretches and exercises unless cleared by a healthcare professional treating your condition.

A Few Simple Stretches

There are many easy ways to stretch your wrists and hands. They’re so simple, they could even be done at your desk as you work during the day (and probably should!).

A few stretches you should try out include:

  • Clench fists - As you sit, place your hands open on your legs with your palms facing up. Close your hands until you make a fist, but make sure not to clench them too tightly and make sure to go slow. Raise your fists from your legs toward your body, bending at the wrists, and hold for 10 seconds. Lower your hands to your legs and open your hands wide as you do. Repeat 10 times.
  • Arm extensions - This is a great stretch you can do easily by extending your arms palm up toward the ceiling. Take your free hand and gently pull the fingers on the raised hand back toward you and hold for up to 30 seconds. Repeat with both arms, completing two to three cycles.
  • Praying pose - Stand up and put your palms together as if you’re going to pray. Bring your elbows together as you do this with your hands in front of your face. Your arms should be touching from your fingers to the elbows. Next, spread your elbows apart and move your hands in the direction of your waist until you sense the stretch. Hold for up to 30 seconds and then repeat.

How to Build Strength

Stretching is only one part of the equation -- you should also try to build strength in your hands and wrists. You can do this easily with a few of these hand and wrist workouts:

  • Tennis ball squeeze - Simply get a tennis ball or stress ball and hold it firmly for up to 10 seconds at a time.
  • Thumb exercise - Make a fist with your thumb pointing up, like you’re giving a thumbs-up sign. Then pull back on your thumb with your other hand as you try to keep your thumb from moving out of position. You can also push the thumb away from you while trying to keep it in the thumbs-up position. Hold for as long as you can, up to 30 seconds.

You can avoid or minimize any pain you may be experiencing with some simple stretches and exercises. The important thing to remember is that even though your hands and wrists aren’t obvious parts of the body to stretch and exercise, that doesn’t mean you should avoid doing so. Who knows, after a few weeks of these routines, you can probably give Popeye a run for his money when it comes to wrist and hand strength, no spinach required.

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