The Rebuild: Fixing The Wrist


As mentioned in my previous post, I have taken a break from proper training to fix myself up. Main issues to work on include my wrist, my hips and some technical bits for my lifts. So in the first part of my rebuild, I am going to look at how I actually approached my rehab for my wrist. rack-position

Picture from

The Issue

It began with a strain in the wrist from catching the weight in the snatch. With time, it developed into a slight pain at the distal end of the radius (the forearm bone closer to the side of the thumb). I also felt it when doing my cleans as I usually have a slight grip on the bar when racking the weight. On a daily basis, I feel a pain in the left wrist when going into flexion or extension and I do not have as much range of motion as compared to my right wrist.

So here are some of the things I implemented in my wrist rehab:

Wrist Stretching and Strengthening

After having the physio (Jim from Pinnacle Physical Therapy in Mount Eliza) smash my wrist up with a brutal massage, I started working on stretching out the left wrist from all planes of movement. At the same time, I was introduced to Ido Portal from my mate (Benny at Cohesion Strength and Conditioning) and I started looking up on his videos. One in particular was the wrist routine he recommended. A post on All Things Gym on wrist mobility provides a very good illustration of this as well. This involved stretching the wrists out in four directions (fingers facing North, South, East, West) in flexion and extension.

One of the key elements about this is to keep the arms in full extension as any flexion in the elbows takes away the stretch in the forearms and movement would come from the elbow or shoulder when we are supposedly stretching the wrist. Even if your range of motion is minimal with a locked elbow and compact shoulder, start from there and work to a better range of motion. Do these wrist stretches to a point where its tolerable. Do not push till there is pain.

The strengthening aspect of this comes from performing these stretches as well. While you put yourself into the positions for these stretches, you will be either on your palms (when stretching in wrist extension) or the back of your hands (when in wrist flexion). To strengthen the wrist up, I have tried putting some pressure on these areas while stretching. Firstly, it's to build up the confidence to put pressure on the wrist and secondly, it's to build up the strength in the wrist. It is also important here when you apply pressure to make sure that your arms are locked out and shoulder is compact. This is to emphasize the idea of a lockout in a snatch or jerk or the top of a press or bench press.

Wrist Mobility

Think of stretching and strengthening as giving you the ability to maintain the required positions of the movement. Mobility is the ability to transition from one position to another in regards to the joint. So mobility is more associated with movement than a fixed position.

So with help from Becoming a Supple Leopard by Dr Kelly Starrett, I applied the method of compression bands on my wrist and start working not only on the stretching exercises with the bands but also the movement that my wrist gets involved in in the lifts with the bands as part of my warm-up. I felt that this really helped loosen up the structures in the wrist but also gets the wrist pretty warmed-up for movements to come.

Technical Changes in the Lifts

Sometimes injuries surface from the technical errors which you have let slipped in your lifts. The wrist is one that easily falls into this category. That's why if you think you can get away with sloppy technique, think again. So what I did in terms of this for my wrist were just two simple adjustments.

First adjustment was just the width of my grip in the snatch. Because of a grip that perhaps was too wide (that wide so that I could get the bar higher), this wide grip put more strain on  my radius at the distal end when catching the weight. So I just brought the grip in closer and it seems alittle better. Only time will tell. The second adjustment I made was more of being more focused in maintaining a good lockout. Locking the arms out allows the weight of the bar to be effectively transferred down the arm into the shoulder and the torso for the catch. This was done by using a lighter load and emphasizing the lockout everytime I caught the weight. Only when I could do it confidently then I would increase the load being used.

That was for the snatch. For the clean and jerk, i also made a few conscious adjustments. Firstly, the rack position in the clean is one of the culprits for wrist injuries. Rack the weight wrongly and you would probably feel it in your wrist straight away. Having a death grip while racking the weight on your shoulders is another way to strain your wrist in my opinion. Racking of the weight should be the bar coming in contact with your shoulders and having the weight on them, not in your hands. I can't seem to time this right so this has been a limiting factor for me (not relaxing my grip to rack the weight). So I have been practising the racking of the weight on my shoulders and letting my fingers cradle the weight. This also allows my elbows to turn around faster and remain in that position rather than collapsing and eventually letting my torso collapse as well.

On the flip side, in the jerk, I have been focusing on getting a grip on the bar and maintaining my grip while performing the jerk. This keeps my wrists in a more stable position and somewhat gives me a better ability to transfer my drive into the bar during the jerk (could be a placebo but it seems to be working so far). The problem with that is the issue of timing again. I have to have a grip while pulling the weight, let go of my grip when racking the weight and then firming my grip up again for the jerk. Seems complicated right? Yes, that's my thought process when performing the clean and jerk (probably why I find the snatch so much easier).

So that's my rehab process for my wrist for the past 6 weeks or so. It has helped me so far and I have managed to get back into lifting at Phoenix again. And so, I have managed a 95kg snatch since stopping and implementing this program (though I still suck at the clean and jerk and only managed a 105kg since taking a break) so I think it has worked for me somehow.


Stay Strong and Keep Training Your Wrists,

The Training Geek