If your wrist flexors are tight, your grip won’t be as strong. Static stretching won’t help you achieve the gains you’re after. Read on for a technique that will provide lasting mobility.
What are the Wrist Flexors?
No matter who you are or what you do, your wrist flexors are probably a bit overworked – especially if you’re an athlete or desk jockey.
While we might be unconsciously working our wrists, most of us aren’t devoting the same time to stretching these important muscles, nor are we considering the best way to do so.
Your wrist flexors are found on the anterior aspect of your forearm. Many originate at the medial epicondyle of the elbow and cross the wrist joint as well, running up to your palm and fingers.
Image by healtheappointments.com
When you contact and shorten these muscles, they flex the wrist. Thus, to stretch your wrist flexors requires lengthening these muscles by going into wrist and finger EXTENSION.
There are 3 different layers of wrist flexors – a superficial layer with 4 muscles, an intermediate layer with 1 muscle, and a deep layer with 3 more muscles .
As you might suspect of so many muscles, they can aid in motions other than just pure wrist flexion. For example, some aide radial or ulnar deviation – moving your wrist toward your radius on the thumb-side of your forearm or toward your ulna on the pinky side.
This information can be used to target different flexors as we aim to lengthen the muscles.
For example, if we radially deviate our wrist while in extension, the extensor carpi radialis has to fire up a little bit more, shortening the muscle. This can mean a deeper stretch in the flexor carpi ulnaris, which runs along the other side of the forearm.
We’ll use this principle later to comprehensively lengthen different wrist flexors.
Why Are My Wrist Flexors Tight?
If you play a sport that uses your hands – chances are, you’ve got tight wrist flexors.
Your wrist flexors play a big role in your grip strength. So if you’re regularly gripping onto anything with force, these muscles are prone to becoming chronically shortened and tightened.
Hockey, tennis, baseball, golf… any sport that has you grabbing a handle requires a strong grip and wrist flexor activity.
This is also true if you ‘re a gymnast who spends a lot of time holding onto the rings or bars, an MMA fighter who’s always grabbing for an opponent, or a gym rat who’s constantly gripping heavy weights.
And that’s not even considering other activities outside the gym – say if you’re a dentist who’s always holding onto instruments or a mechanic who is gripping tools all day.
Suffice to say, wrist flexor tightness is a common problem, and just about everyone can benefit from the lengthening technique I’ll teach you in this article.
The Traditional Approach to Wrist Flexor Lengthening
The traditional approach to this common problem involves DUN DUN DUNNNN – static stretching.
You probably know by now if you’re a regular Precision Movement reader that while static stretching can have its place, it’s not the fix it’s often cracked up to be.
A common static stretch used to lengthen wrist flexors is to simply hold wrist extension. You just use straighten your arm and your other hand pull your fingers back toward your forearm, stretching the wrist flexors .
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A More Effective Approach: ERA Sequences
One of the big problems with static stretching is that your body is basically programed to fight it.
When your muscles are lengthened, your body will reflexively contract the muscles to prevent tears. This is called the myotatic stretch reflex and it protects you from injury, but also from effectively elongating your muscles.
This is why a technique called Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) can be so effective. In PNF you follow an activation pattern of contract-relax-antagonist-contract (CRAC).
CRAC allows you to activate the agonists that bring you into the end range of motion you are trying to achieve and the antagonists muscles that are responsible for moving you out of the end range.
This movement pattern of contracting and relaxing allows you to basically bypass the myotatic stretch reflex and move actively into bigger ranges of motion.
Research has been backing up the theories behind the PNF approach. A review of different studies involving PNF found it to be effective at not only increasing range. But increasing athletic performance .
In my End Range Activation (ERA) sequences, we take PNF a step further by involving just about every muscle – not just the major agonists and antagonists – that can influence at the end range.
So when it’s all said and done, the stabilizers, the prime movers, the synergists, and the antagonists are all being strengthened at the end range.
At your wrist, that means we won’t just contract and relax your flexors and extensors, but we’ll get your ulnar and radial deviators in on the action, too.
This more effectively teaches your neuromuscular system to accept an end range instead of defaulting back to your normal and also builds end range of control – not just a range of motion because you can actively enter, exit and move around the end range.
Extended Flare ERA Sequence
Be sure to maintain an extended flare position with both your wrist and your hand throughout the movement. In this pose, not only is your wrist and all fingers extended, but your fingers are flared meaning they’re spread out as far as possible.
- Start with your right hand by your side with arm bent and elbow at 90 degrees
- Extend at the wrist and flare your fingers out.
- Hold this position as you place your other hand on top of your middle metacarpal and push downwards. Resist with the flared hand and hold for about 5 seconds
- Next move your hand to the bottom of your middle metacarpal and press upwards, again resisting and holding for about 5 seconds
- Repeat this pattern by pressing on both the inside and outside of your flared hand, trying to push your wrist away from yourself laterally, and then pushing in toward the midline
- Hold both of these poses for 5 seconds, resisting as you press
- Switch arms and repeat entire sequence
Activating specific wrist muscles in this pattern is going to help your flexors get long and strong.
As you push down against your flared hand, you fire up the muscles that move you into the end range of this motion even more – your wrist extensors.
Pushing up against the hand fires up the muscles that help you move OUT of that end range – your flexors.
Pushing laterally, away from the midline, fires up the radial deviators. And pushing in medially fires up the ulnar deviators
This move really lets you work on creating length 360 degrees around the wrist. This builds a balanced wrist joint that is mobile and lengthened in a safe, maintainable way and with an impressive range of control.
When you’re done with this move, you should really give your wrist a well-balanced stretch by checking out my ERA Sequence to lengthen the wrist extensors.
And if you’re interested in learning other effective techniques that address not only your wrists, but your whole upper limbs, check out the Upper Limb Control course.