Fitness / Strength Training

5 Exercise Modifications to Alleviate Wrist Pain

Here are some easy modifications you can make to common exercises that cause wrist pain.

It’s really frustrating when just want to workout but instead, you’re stopped by your wrist pain.

You may think that this means you have to eliminate certain exercises in your training routine that aggravate it (we’re looking at you, push-ups!), but that actually isn’t necessary.

You can modify exercises that cause wrist pain so you don’t have to stop. Two of our expert Aaptiv trainers tell us how.

Aaptiv has classes that are suited for everyone, including low-impact and modifiable ones for those who may be suffering from an injury. 

Exercises and Modifications

Straight-Arm Plank

The conventional form of a plank requires that you rest your bodyweight directly on your wrists. Over time, this can cause wrist pain or aggravate existing wrist irritation. However, don’t give up on this core-strengthening exercise just yet.

Do this instead:
Forearm plank. Instead of resting on your hands so that your wrists are taking the full brunt of the weight, try using your forearms. This way, your forearms are what keeps you up, allowing your wrists to rest. With this larger support base, you’re able to hold your plank for as long as you want while still working your core and upper arms!

Alternatively, you can plank on your knees as opposed to your toes. Jennifer Giamo, Aaptiv trainer and owner of Trainers in Transit, also recommends using “an elevated surface like a bench or box,” shifting some bodyweight away from the wrists.

Push-ups

Push-ups can definitely aggravate wrist pain so it’s best to make adjustments in order to work those arms without any problems.

Do this instead:
“Use a block or dumbbells underneath your hands for push-ups with palms facing each other,” suggests Giamo. “Wrap your hands around 4- to 5-pound handheld weights as your base,” says Giamo. “Be sure to keep your wrists in a neutral position—not bent at all.” This offloads some of that pressure from the wrists and hands as it forces the wrists to remain straight.

Aaptiv trainer Erin Kaye Locksley Sanders also recommends folding your hands into fists. You can also follow the steps of the plank modifications and use a bench and/or block to minimize the pressure on your wrists.

Along with modifications, Aaptiv offers visual guides to make sure that you’re maintaining proper form, preventing your chances of getting injured.

Burpees

Burpees—they’re great to get that heart rate up but can also aggravate any tension in the wrist.

Do this instead:
“While in the push-up position of this movement, instead of [laying your] hands flat on the floor, make a fist. [This] position keeps the wrists in neutral which decreases the stress on the wrists,” explains Giamo.

She also suggests using a bench to perform incline burpees.“Try to do the exact same sequence but at the barre or a waist-high surface.” This will adjust the angle of the wrist during this movement, taking away some of the pressure.

Bicep Curls/Tricep Extensions/Shoulder Raises or Presses

Giamo says, “Rolling the wrists during these exercises is common when they are weak or injured. You may be using a too-heavy weight and your wrists roll forward or backward involuntarily.”

Do this instead:
Use a lighter weight until you have enough strength to accurately perform these movements without aggravating your wrist pain.

Cat/Cow

The Cat/Cow is a great stretch for the spine. It involves arching the back (extension) and rounding it (flexion). While it can help with back pain, unfortunately, it can also cause wrist pain.

Do this instead:
“In poses where the hands are in a 90-degree angle but are not bearing too much weight, you can place your fingertips on the ground instead of the full palm,” explains Giamo.

“Start with shorter periods of time though, as your fingers might not be used to the weight. You can also try forming a fist with your hands so that the wrists stay straight.”

Downward Facing Dog

The downward facing dog pose is one of the more well-known yoga poses—and for good reason. It stretches the arms, shoulders, calves, and hamstrings. Wrist pain stems from the pressure put on this area.

Do this instead:
Instead of using your hands, lower yourself to put your weight on your forearms. This will give you the much more wrist-friendly dolphin pose.

Often times pain can actually be caused by a tight muscle. Aaptiv has several stretching classes to help you keep all the muscles in your body loose and limber.

Do gym accessories help?

As Giamo explains, “Even if you’re using proper form and these modifications, support may still be necessary. Tape or wrist guards will keep your wrist properly aligned during exercise, which should reduce pain.”

You can also use yoga blocks to adjust the angle of the wrist in certain poses. Wrist straps and wrist guards are also really helpful in stabilizing the joint.

“Wrist straps may offer some extra support and stability and can compress the wrist while exercising which may alleviate some pain,” says Sanders. “But if a person has pain, they might just need to modify the exercise versus masking it.”

Giamo also agrees. She doesn’t recommend relying too heavily on them. Doing so “can weaken the wrists and be used a ‘crutch’ to push through an injury.”

She adds, “Try stretching out [your] wrists before and after exercise (e.g. rolling out the wrist and stretching in both directions) to gain more flexibility.”

How else can I relieve wrist pain?

If you are suffering from wrist pain, first and foremost, rest the area. Giving yourself enough time to recover can make a big difference in alleviating the pain. You can also ice and elevate the inflamed area.

Giamo recommends, “Stretching the flexors and extensor muscles manually.” To stretch the flexors, extend the left hand in front of you, palms facing upwards.

Use your right hand to pull the left hand down towards the floor at the fingertips. Do the same for the other hand. Then stretch the extensor muscles by doing the same on each hand but with the palms facing downwards.

Another way to strengthen the joint is by using resistance bands or squeezing a stress ball or even a tennis ball.

While these modifications are a great way for you to continue exercises, it’s also crucial that you know when you to stop.

As Sanders says, “Exercise should never be painful. You might be uncomfortable as you push yourself to go beyond your limits, but that is not the same as pain. If something hurts, don’t do it.”

Now that you know the difference between pain and discomfort as you push past your limits, get started with Aaptiv, the number one audio fitness app that will have you sweating in no time. 

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