By Jaimie Doherty MSEd, ATC, NREMT-b, CKTP

During my career working with cheerleaders, I see a lot of bases that believe taping their wrist makes their wrists stronger.  But it’s actually doing the opposite. Taping your wrists is like putting a cast on them, and when someone has a cast on, their muscles are restricted from movement, making the muscles not have to work. Therefore, you end up losing muscle mass and strength, resulting in having to rely on tape to hold your stunt.

So instead of reaching for the tape (unless you have an new injury), think about these ways you can make your wrists stronger.

  • Start sitting in a chair with your forearm flat on the table, with your hand in a loose fist. These next exercises are going to be repeated for all range of motion of the wrist. Try to do 3 sets of 10 repetitions.  Remember, some people may need to start with fewer repetitions if they are getting sore in their forearms.  The strength that everyone starts with is different, so listen to your body.  You will perform these exercises with one wrist at a time.
    • Start with palm facing down, hand is loose fist. The first motion you are going to work is wrist extension. Without moving your forearm, you are going to extend or lift your hand towards the ceiling.  Then bring your hand back down towards the floor.  This is one repetition.
    • The next motion you are going to work is ulnar deviation. Rotate your arm so your pinky is facing the ceiling, hand still in loose fist. The side of your forearm still on the table. Without moving your forearm, you are going to lift your hand with the pinky side of your hand moving up towards the ceiling.  Then bring your hand back down towards the floor, thumb facing floor.  This is one repetition.
    • The next motion you are going to work is radial deviation.  Rotate your arm, so now your thumb is facing the ceiling and your pinky is facing the floor.  Your hand is still in loose fist and the side of your forearm is still on the table.  Without moving your forearm, you are going to lift your hand with the thumb up towards the ceiling.  Then bring your hand down towards the floor, with pinky facing floor.  This is one repetition.
    • The next motion you are going to work is wrist flexion. Rotate your arm, so now the palm of you hand is facing the ceiling and the back of your hand is facing the floor. Your hand is still in a loose fist and the backside of your forearm is on the table.  Without moving your forearm, you are going to lift the palm of your hand up towards the ceiling.  Then bring the back of your hand towards the floor.  This is one repetition.

After a few weeks, or maybe even a few months, these exercises will start to get easy as you build strength. As you build strength, you’ll want to continue to challenge your muscles, so they will keep getting stronger. To make the above exercises more challenging, try holding a 1-2 lb weight while doing the exercise.  Often when you first add weight you will need to decrease number of repetitions. This is normal, but as you get used to the number of repetitions you are able to complete, increase by 2 repetitions.

Another exercise that is good for increasing wrist strength that is also done by many gymnasts, is finger walking. This is done with something like the shaft of broomstick.  You are going to hold your arm straight out in front of you, shoulder height.  The shaft will be in both hands, held lightly. Without bending your elbows, you are going to roll or turn the shaft in your hands using your fingers.  Don’t worry about which direction to go to first because you are going to go both ways. Try starting out rolling for 10-15 seconds each way.  As it gets easier, keep increasing the time.  When you’re ready to take this exercise to the next step, try tying a rope, about 2-3 feet long, around the shaft with a 2-5lb weight on the end of the rope.  Roll the shaft till you have wrapped the rope around the shaft. Then roll in opposite direction to unwrap the rope.

Please note these exercises should not be done with a new injury or replace any medical order or instructions you have been given.

Jaimie Doherty, MSEd, ATC, NREMT-b, CKTP- is a Certified Athletic Trainer specializing in performing arts working with several companies, including the Rockettes, Burn the Floor, Lord of the Dance and Varsity Spirit.