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The Best Wrist Strengthening Exercises

by Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT May 06, 2020 0 Comments

Pinching thera putty

Knowing which wrist strengthening exercises can help is crucial when recovering from conditions like wrist tendonitis or carpal tunnel. If left untreated, these conditions can lead to symptoms of pain, stiffness, and frustration. Luckily, all it takes is a little dedication and the right information to get on the right track. Keep reading to learn more about a comprehensive wrist strengthening program.

Therapy Putty Grip Exercises

Wrist exercises that address grip strength are a great way to warm up. For other great warm-up ideas, see our full list of wrist stretches for tendonitis too. As you read through these, if you’re not sure where to start, you might consider physical therapy. 

Power Squeeze

Place a ball of therapy putty or a rolled towel in the palm of your hand. Grip and squeeze to the ball or towel as hard you can tolerate. Keep the wrist in a neutral position throughout.

Hold 5 seconds, repeat 10-15 times for 1-2 sets. Modify your grip if you experience pain.

Flat Pinch

Place a ball of putty between the tips of the fingers and thumb. Keeping all the fingers and thumb relatively straight, simply squeeze the putty together and hold. If you don’t have any putty, you can use a small folded towel.

Hold for 3-5 seconds, repeat up to 15 times for 1-2 sets. Avoid hyperextension of the thumb when you press as this will cause aggravation.

Full Finger Spread

Use a small office rubber band or roll out a long piece of putty and create a circle. With the fingers and thumb all touching, place the band or putty around them about midway. Simply push out against the band or putty as you spread the fingers and thumb.

Repeat 10-15 times for 1-2 sets. Adjust the strength of the band or putty as needed.

Forearm & Wrist Exercises

All of the muscles that move the wrist are located in the forearm which is why forearm muscle strength training is important for restoring proper wrist function after an injury or pain. 

Wrist Extension

You can try this exercise with a small, one-pound weight or with no weight at all. Start by sitting with your forearm supported on a table or your thigh. Keep the wrist free for movement. With your palm facing down toward the floor, simply lift the back of the hand up toward the ceiling.

Repeat 10-15 times for 1-2 sets. Move back and forth slowly for a count of 2 or 3 in each direction.

Wrist Flexion

Again, the starting position will be with a small or no weight and the forearm supported. This time, your palm is facing up toward the ceiling. Then, bend the wrist as you bring the palm of your hand up toward the ceiling into a wrist curl. Focus again on staying controlled and keeping the motion painless.

Repeat 10-15 times for 1-2 sets. Keep a slow count of 2 or 3 in each direction.

Radial Deviation

Start with the same set up as the last two exercises, this time with the thumb facing up. Then, lift the thumb up toward the ceiling and hold for 2-3 seconds before returning to the resting position and repeat. This move may be harder to accomplish with a wider soup can, so try it first without weight or a small weight if possible.

Repeat 10-15 times for 1-2 sets.

Pronation and Supination

Sit with the forearm supported and wrist free. Start with your thumb facing up toward the ceiling. This time, if you’re using a small weight hold it from the bottom, keeping most of the weight above the hand. Then, simply rotate the hand back and forth between palm up and palm down. Move slowly back and for a count of 2 or 3.

Repeat 10-15 times for 1-2 sets.

Ulnar deviation with Band

Sit with your hand supported on a table, depending on your comfort your wrist can be free or entirely supported on the table. Then, simply move the wrist sideways back and forth (like you did with radial deviation above but now in both directions). To add resistance, you can hold a resistance band in your opposite hand as you continue to tilt your wrist sideways away from the body.

Repeat 10-15 times for 1-2 sets.

Benefits of Wrist Strengthening Exercises

Proper muscle strength plays a pivotal role in wrist function. Without it, many of the daily activities we participate in would not be possible. When wrist pain and other issues surface, we start to realize just how important good wrist health is. There are many benefits to a wrist strengthening program:

  • Increased circulation for injury prevention and healing
  • Muscle balance for optimized function
  • Maintaining full wrist range of motion
  • A great adjunct to other home remedy treatment options for wrist pain
  • Tolerance for full participation in daily activities like typing, driving, cooking, etc.
  • Improved quality of life


Remember, these muscles are small so it doesn’t take much to strengthen them. Keep these tips in mind to optimize your routine:

  • Start slow with small or no weight, progress as tolerated
  • Stay in control throughout the full range of motion
  • Focus on the return motion since this is where tendon healing is optimized
  • Keep the fingers and wrist in good alignment
  • Modify your effort if you experience pain or neural symptoms

Safe Wrist Strengthening Exercises

Wrist tendonitis and other dysfunction is more common than you think. Wrist strengthening requires attention to form and a delicate balance of pain-free movement. With time, each movement should get easier. Seek medical advice from a physical therapist or physician if you experience a change in symptoms, such as neural symptoms, increased pain, or difficulty completing normal daily tasks.

Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT
Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT

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