It's hard to get stronger by doing planks and push-ups if your wrists can't comfortably support your weight. Here are some strategies to work around those tight wrists and eventually improve your strength in them.
Redistribute Weight in Your Hands
You may be able to relieve some of the discomfort with subtle changes in how you use your hands. As yoga instructor Lilith points out in the video below, you should feel the weight in the front of your hands, toward your knuckles and fingers, and not just in the heels.
She also suggests checking the position of your hands under your shoulders: directly underneath is best, and putting your hands a little in front of your shoulders can relieve pressure further. Check in a mirror to make sure you've got your positioning right.
Use Props or More Drastic Position Changes
If the subtle fixes above aren't enough, the next step is changing your wrist position. Anything that puts your wrist into more of a straight line than an L-shaped bend will help you do floor exercises more comfortably. This includes:
- Resting on your fists instead of your palms
- Placing a foam wedge or rolled-up towel under the heels of your hands
- Using a bar mounted near the ground, or portable push-up handles
- Using straight-sided dumbbells (like the hexagonal kind popular in many gyms) as impromptu push-up handles
Position changes can help relieve wrist pain in other exercises, too. If your wrists keep you from holding a barbell the traditional way in a front squat, try a cross-arm grip to stabilise the weight without involving your wrists at all.
Stretch For the Future
If you're happy with props and position changes, read no further. But if you want to improve flexibility in your wrists, you'll have to work on it specifically.
Muscles and tendons stretch less painfully when they're warm, so delaying tough wrist exercises until midway through a gym session can help. You can also work gently on wrist flexibility exercises, like this one:
Although the video recommends doing this before a push-up session, I tested this tip and found the opposite to be true: stretching my wrists for two minutes just made them hurt more when it was time to do the real exercises. While a pre-workout stretch may be effective for some people (especially those who are very close to being able to do push-ups comfortably) I'd recommend those of us with trouble flip the script. Do your workout as usual, with props or other modification, then work on stretching at the end as an investment in the future.