Health / Expert Advice

How to Work Out With a Wrist Injury

Small area, big impact.

Day to day you might not think much about your wrists—that is until you suffer a wrist injury. Certified Personal Trainer and Orthopedic Exercise Specialist Cary Raffle asserts that of all the injuries, a wrist predicament might be the most frustrating. It impacts nearly everything from your ability to grip equipment to feeling comfortable performing bodyweight moves like push-ups. As he explains, you could struggle to work your shoulders, forearms, chest, and back, depending on the severity of the sprain. That’s why Jill McKay, a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach, says that the most important first step with a wrist injury is contacting a doctor or physical therapist. “With some injuries, it’s best to avoid irritating the area at all. Other injuries may benefit from gentle movement and light stretching,” she explains.

Once you’ve received the seal of approval from your doctor, consider these modifications to maintain your workout routine, even with a pesky wrist injury.

Introduce resistance tubes and bands.

In addition to seeking a wrist brace to give more support to the tender area, Raffle says implementing resistance tubes and bands can be especially helpful. When you loop these assistants around your lower arm, you can perform most resistance exercises without involving your wrist at all. This allows you to maintain your workout regimen. “Tubes are portable, inexpensive, and provide a different kind of resistance that increases at the end of the range of motion,” he adds.

Decrease weight and do more repetitions.

Much like an arm injury, Physical Therapist Lauren Lobert, DPT, OMPT, CSCS, says that having pain in your wrist prevents certain bodyweight movements. You might have loved burpees and mountain climbers pre-sprain. However, now that your wrist needs to heal, it’s better to keep the full pressure of your limbs off of this recovering area. Once you’ve started to feel more comfortable and are experiencing less pain, Lobert suggests starting with a much lower weight than you used to lift but doing more repetitions to avoid further irritation.

Run, baby, run. Or, walk.

Therapeutic Yoga Specialist Diane Malaspina Ph.D. says that when your wrist injury means that you can’t put an ounce of weight on it, set your sights outside. Or, rather on the road. Whether you walk or run, focusing on cardio is a smart solution to stay active and health-focused. “Walking has been linked to numerous health benefits. [These] include maintaining a healthy weight, strengthening bones and muscles, improving mood, and enhancing balance and coordination,” she continues.

And, if you’re physically able to go faster, running reduces stress, improves cardiovascular health, and increases strength. It might not be as effective as pumping iron. But, arm movement is part of cardio fitness and will keep you moderately toned.

Focus on your core.

As Physiologist and Author Jerry Snider puts it, you definitely don’t need your wrist to engage your core. As a more mindful way of working out, consider floor movements that can challenge your abs. From crunches and air squats to sit-ups and jumping jacks, as you run through these wrist-free activities, zero-in on your abdominal muscles. As you’re protecting your wrist, you’ll actually end up focusing on strengthening those hard-to-reach abs! Win-win, for all limbs.

Consider weight vests and machines.

When you have a wrist injury, holding onto a dumbbell or a kettlebell is out of the question. After all, you don’t want to put more strain on the already-delicate ligaments. Fitness Professional Kyra Williams says that you don’t have to give up weighted-movements completely, though! Instead, look into investing in a weighted vest. When you wear this, you challenge your muscles in a unique way, as you go through your typical regimen. Another option, with the help of a trainer and the A-OK from your doctor, is to use weight machines to maintain your posture and endurance.

During yoga, use your forearms instead of hands.

Can’t stop, won’t stop your yoga practice? Malaspina says that there is a simple-enough modification. Bring your forearms to the ground anytime that you would normally place your hands on the mat. “When the hands are down, that increases pressure on the wrists. But having the forearms down takes the pressure off of the wrist. [It] is a safe modification that will allow you to continue your yoga practice,” she explains.

Reimagine the plank.

You might not be able to do a plank on your hands. But, McKay says that you can still get into the position by applying the weight to your forearms. This is a recommended move since it gives you the opportunity to work your shoulder rotation in a specific way. Increasing your scapular retraction, you simply separate your shoulder blades and bring them back together again. This maintains your overall arm strength and endurance, even if you can’t do other wrist-heavy workouts.

Don’t let an injury in such a small (though critical) area of your body hold you back from quality workouts. Talk to your doctor about your specific injury and how to modify exercise around it. Then, jump in with a few of these modifications.

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