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Let's Get A Grip On Wrist Strengthening

Oct 04, 2021

Let's get a grip on wrist strengthening. Wrist surgeries can be complicated, but they don’t always have to ruin your climbing. The wrist, hand, and forearm are some of the most functional parts of your upper extremity. We use these muscles for everyday activities, like gripping, cooking, and in this case, climbing. Strengthening/ maintaining strength after a wrist surgery can be key to the fastest recovery and get you back to full sends. 

You can strengthen your wrist in many ways, but it is important to know WHY you're doing it, and for what reasons. If I was working with someone who has just come out of wrist surgery, I would rehab them with a different approach than someone who is 8 months out of surgery and competing in a climbing competition. The stress demands are very different depending on which phase of the recovery you are currently in. 

Post Surgery

It is very important to protect your surgical site so it heals well. Always follow your surgeon's precautions, which usually last about 6-8 weeks. However, that does not mean you cannot strengthen your wrist. Climbers might be a little bit more familiar with isometric contractions; meaning no movement. These types of contractions are usually prescribed in the early stages of rehab, as moving the surgical site too much might result in compromising the complex surgery you just endured, but it is still super important to get the blood flowing through the area, and isometric contractions are a great way to do that. 

Isometric Contractions:

Using a wall, make a fist and push into the wall while contracting your forearm muscles. You can contract for about 10 seconds, take a small rest, then repeat. 

You can also try this from different angles. Such as placing your palm on the side of the wall and push inwards, which is also internal rotation, placing the back of your hand and pushing outwards against the wall ( external rotation), and downwards on a table or chair. Be sure to keep the forearm/ wrist in a neutral position to maintain the integrity of the surgical site.

Eccentric Loading:

Another type of exercise you can do is called eccentric loading. Eccentric is just a resisted load, causing muscle lengthening. In terms of a strengthening exercise, we're going to use a resistive load with muscle lengthening. There is some research to suggest that this exercise generates 20-60% greater force levels and greater neuromuscular activation levels as well. This just means your brain is more activated during a type of eccentric load compared to a concentric load. This is the preferred method earlier on in the rehab journey.

This is usually for 2 reasons:

1: You are typically performing this exercise in a slow and controlled manner.

2. It can also cause you to work harder. 

Eccentric Exercise:

You can use a lighter-weight dumbbell, place the weight in your surgical hand, and slowly let it come down ( similar to bicep curl). 

Concentric Loading ( Shortening): 

A concentric load is when the muscle shortens. A great example of this is a bicep curl. If you were to resist the load, while slowly letting it down, you’ll see your bicep lengthens, while resisting the load, it becomes an eccentric contraction. 

Concentric Exercise:

Use your leg as a fulcrum point, flex your wrist down, put the weight in, and curl your wrist up. This will cause your forearm muscles to shorten. As you progress, you can combine these exercises. 

Bonus Tip:

If you are looking to improve your wrist performance, there is a type of contraction called and e-concentric contraction, meaning it goes from an eccentric position to a concentric position. This looks like bringing your arm back while bending your wrist ( almost like throwing a baseball), following through the throw, and flexing your wrist down. 

Keeping blood flowing, and a clean and undamaged surgical site is the fastest track to wrist surgery recovery and will get you back to climbing! 

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