“My wrists hurt from planks, push ups and downward dog!”
That’s the number one thing I hear about all those positions or exercises that put your hands on the floor.
Here’s the reason for that…. our hands and forearms are usually SUPER TIGHT.
Building strength and mobility for your fingers, hands and wrists is simple, but it takes a bit of time. It’s absolutely worth the investment, though, given how important your hands and fingers are in the the function of your whole hand/arm/shoulder complex. Not to mention making sure you don’t have to deal with having your wrists hurt from planks!
Once you’ve got your hands and wrists happy, try out this series of Rhomboid Push Ups for another way to build your strength.
If you’re a movement student and want to get moving, here’s the exercise series: Movement Masterclass: Hands and Fingers. You’ll need a set of Yoga Tune Up balls to complete the whole thing, but if you haven’t got any you can substitute a tennis ball. There is some discussion in the first part of the video, and the actual hand sequence starts part way in. Try doing the series every day for a while and see how your planks and downward dogs change! You might find that it changes whether your wrists hurt from planks!
There is a lot of discussion in the movement world these days about how to put your hands on the floor. There is the flat hand approach and the natural hand approach. They both have value and are appropriate in certain circumstances, but they both need a greater context than just the hand on the floor. The position of your hands is inextricably linked to what’s going on in your forearms and your shoulders, and contributes to whether your wrists hurt from planks (or any of the other exercises and poses).
There is a spiral effect that runs from the shoulder joint, down to the elbow, through the forearm, the wrist, the palm of the hand and finally into the fingers. Tensions in any one of those areas contributes to function and dysfunction everywhere else!
The natural hand position is definitely more comfortable for most people. It makes it easier to get the elbows to neutral (where the eye of the elbow is pointing forward), lessens the pressure in the wrists and fingers and provides better support for the shoulders. Bingo! Let’s do that, right?
For sure, some of the time it is a great idea to allow for less tension so you can work through the pose or sequence, to minimise discomfort or to actively seek a connection through the outer rim of the hand and trigger more work in the lats. But it doesn’t mean you should ALWAYS do that, any more than that you should ALWAYS use the flat hand.
The key is to understand WHY your wrists hurt from planks and deal with that. We live in a culture that doesn’t require a wide variety of hand movements. We don’t climb trees for food, we don’t carry that food a distance, we don’t make our clothes, our dishes, our tools. We don’t use our hands for many tasks that don’t have tools!
We do manipulate computer keyboards and mobile devices, drive cars, carry purses, use TV remotes. All those activities put the shoulder, forearm, hand and fingers into an internally rotated position and then do very small actions. Doing those things over and over creates a pattern, an organisation of the muscles all along the spiral, that makes it hard to plant the hand on the floor without some discomfort.
Rather than decide that one hand position is “better” than another, why not address ALL the parts involved, recognise the limiting factors and work to change them? Sometimes let your hands move out to a more comfortable position and move freely. Sometimes allow for a smaller range and less load and work to unwind the tensions that limit your movement. It’s the movement equivalent of sometimes having cake, sometimes having kale and sometimes getting into precise supplements to make sure all your needs are addressed!
When you are being a mover for yourself, it’s great to be able to enjoy all the hands-on-the-floor poses and exercises like plank, downward dog, crawling, push ups and the like. When you are being a yoga teacher, Pilates teacher or personal trainer it’s critical that you see and understand the bodies in front of you. You need to know when and under what circumstances you cue your clients to load their tissues to avoid injury or pain and to increase strength and mobility safely and effectively.
Ok, with all that in mind now check out the Mini Masterclass and go work your hands! Then hit the mat and cycle through all your favourite quadruped series, some down dogs, a few planks, some push ups and finish off with some crawling.
Every body is different. You bring your own history to the mat and so your results will be different from your best buddy. Or different from me, for that matter!
How do your hands and wrists feel? Does this series make a difference for you or your clients?
Let me know in the comments or reply to shoot me an email!