tips to strengthen weak painful wrists

6 Tips to Strengthen Weak Painful Wrists

Many people complain about having weak wrists and wrist pain. Whether it’s working out with weights in the gym or trying to open a jam jar, the wrists are the weak link for many people. In this article, I will present 6 tips to strengthen weak, painful wrists.

What Causes Weak Wrists?

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There is really no such thing as weak wrists. The wrist is a joint. Joints are neither weak nor strong; they are simply bone. It is the muscles that are connected to the joints that determine how strong the movement that the joint is involved with is. So, when it comes to the wrist action, we are talking about the muscles of the forearms, not the wrist bones or even the wrist joint.

To get stronger wrists then, you need to strengthen the muscles of your forearms.

Fix Your Wrist Alignment

Before we address some specific exercises to strengthen the forearms, let’s consider a common problem that causes wrist problems in the gym. When doing pressing movements, such as the dumbbell or barbell bench press, many people have relaxed wrists so that, in the fully extended arm position, the heel of the hand is horizontal. This puts the wrist in a very vulnerable position.

When you are pressing a weight, you want to have your hands fully engaged. When they are, the heel of your hand should be vertical to form a straight line with your forearm. When you assume this hand position, your wrists will be stacked directly over your forearms, making the wrists a lot stronger and making them far less vulnerable to injury.

Squeeze the Bar

Whenever you are doing an exercise where you are holding a bar, squeeze that bar tightly. This will provide a workout to your forearms in addition to the main target muscle group for that exercise. Squeezing the bar will also make sure that the previous tip – to engage the wrists – is taken care of.

Perform Wrist Curls

Adding wrist curls to your workout routine will go a long way to strengthening your forearms which will, in turn, make your wrists stronger. I recommend doing wrist movements like wrist curls on the same day that you work your biceps.

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To perform the wrist curl, kneel side on to a bench with a barbell in your hands in a palms-up grip. Rest your forearms on the bench so that your wrists are hanging over the side of it. Your hands should be close together with your pinkies about six inches apart.

Now roll the bar down your fingers as you extend your fingers down toward the floor. Reverse the action by curling your hand back up to full flexion. Be sure to get a full range of motion.

Select a weight that allows you to do 12-15 reps with strict form. Do 3-4 sets of 12-15 reps.

Perform Wrist Extensions

The wrist curls described in the previous tip will cater for the first of the two actions of the wrist – flexion by the wrist flexors. The wrist extension will cater for the second action – wrist extension. This is the opposite action to the wrist curl, in which you are extending the hand up rather than down. 

To perform the wrist extension, kneel side on to a bench with a barbell in your hands in a palms-down grip. Rest your forearms on the bench so that your wrists are hanging over the side of it. Your hands should be close together with your pinkies about six inches apart.

From this starting position, pull your hands up toward the ceiling to fully extend your wrists. Reverse the action to lower your hands back toward the floor, making sure to keep the motion smooth. That is one rep.

Select a weight that allows you to do 12-15 reps with strict form. Do 3-4 sets of 12-15 reps.

Use a Wrist Roller

In addition to the flexion and extension barbell exercises just described, I recommend using a wrist roller. This device actually combines both actions – flexion and extension – in one exercise. 

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A wrist roller consists of weight with a rope connected to the top of it. On the other end of the rope is a handle. To perform the exercise, you stand holding the handle out at chest level so that the rope is hanging down with the weight on its end. You now perform a rolling action to wind up the rope. Keep going until the weight is all the way up at your chest level. That takes care of the extension part of the exercise.

Now reverse the action to unroll the rope until it is fully released and the weight is back at the starting position. This takes care of the flexion part of the exercise. 

You can either add wrist roller sets after your wrist curl and wrist extension workout in the gym or do it as supplementary exercise on the days that you are not ‘officially’ doing your forearm workout. 

Use a Hand Gripper

A hand gripper is a spring-loaded device that you squeeze and relax for repetitions. There are all sorts of different models and variations of the hand gripper. Look for a hand gripper that allows you to adjust the resistance level.

A hand gripper is an excellent tool to strengthen the forearms and overcome wrist weakness. You can buy a good-quality hand gripper for about $20. The best way to use a hand gripper is to perform squeeze and relax reps for time. Start with 4 sets of 30 seconds, then slowly build up until you are doing four 60 second sets. Then increase the resistance and go back to 30 seconds.

At the end of your 4 squeezes and release sets perform one squeeze and hold set for as long as you can.

Using an exercise band can also help to strengthen the forearms. Exercise putty is another device that allows for repetitive squeezing. people with osteoporosis can use all of 


If you are experiencing ongoing wrist pain, you should consider visiting a physical therapist or an occupational therapist. they will be able to determine if you have a condition like rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory arthritis and what your risk of osteoporosis is. the therapist may suggest including higher amounts of calcium in your diet to build up weak bones and overcome joint pain. Wrist splints and wrist guards may also be recommended to hello with loss of motion. Repetitive stress injury may also be diagnosed. 

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Acute wrist injuries and acute wrist pain should also be directed to a Physical Therapy specialist. If you have a history of osteoporosis, psoriatic arthritis, or rheumatoid arthritis in your family you should also consult a therapist. Prescription medication may be given for loss of movement and as a treatment for osteoporosis or to treat the symptoms of arthritis. 


Don’t allow weak, painful wrists to be your weak spot. Take action against wrist pain by applying the six tips covered here. Be patient, perform your exercises regularly, be sure to progressively add resistance as you get stronger and be aware of your wrist alignment when you are pressing and your wrists and forearms will become strong and vibrant.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best exercises to strengthen the wrists?

The best exercises to strengthen the wrists are those that strengthen the forearms as this is the muscle that controls wrist flexion and extension. The best exercises to work the forearms are wrist curls, wrist extensions, reverse barbell, and dumbbell curls. However, any exercise routine you do when you are gripping a bar will work your forearms.

Do I have to do separate exercises for the wrists and forearms?

Unless you know that you have a specific weakness in the area, you should be able to sufficiently work your forearms and wrists simply by gripping the bar when you work the rest of your body with your normal exercise routine. You will especially get a good forearm workout when you are doing such exercises as deadlifts and pull-ups.

Steve Theunissen

Steve Theunissen is a former gym owner and personal trainer based in Tauranga, New Zealand. He is the author of six hardcopy books and more than a hundred ebooks on the topics of bodybuilding, fitness, and fat loss.

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