My Favorite Exercise Combinations: Installment 17 – Hands, Wrists, Forearms – Oh My!

I’m continuously fascinated by how much one part of the body that seems so far away from another can affect another body part. In this case, I’m super interested in how a lack of flexibility can affect your hands and wrists!

Interestingly, the most I can point to is the concept of relative stiffness from Sahrmann, and regional interdependence in which a proximal area (shoulders) will affect a distal structure (hands and wrists).

Biceps - Forearms Check - AROM Collage
On the Left: Muscular Hypertrophy is also another reason why distal structures may be tight. On the right: Hypermobile individual without as much hypertrophy displays much more mobility.

Question: In the above picture, would the left or right individual have an easier or harder time setting up a traditional front squat position from the shoulder position on up?

Essentially if you are stiff up top, your range of motion will obviously be affected up top. Thusly, you may “ask” of your body to move where there is a path of least resistance – and thus the smaller structures involving the elbows, forearms, wrists, and even hands may display different movement patterns. This is opposed to if you aren’t as tight or stiff up top!

Long story short, if you have short or stiff lats, this may affect what is going on at the biceps, which can affects what goes on at the forearms, which can affect what’s going on at your wrists and hands!

This is of course, assuming you have had a pre-disposition towards these range of motion deficits. I’ve seen many athletes that walk in our door display a lack of shoulder range of motion, but make up for it further down the chain (and have a shift to the right in wrist and forearm pronation).

But what happens if you apply a stressor such as a sport (such as baseball) or even lifting heavy weights in the context of hand or wrist issues?

What happens if you constantly dance on your hands and abuse your wrists?

Well, sometimes blood flow to an area can create a residual or superficial warming up of the affected area, and movement improves.

This is a good thing.

Other times, however, you can aggravate your issues further by ignoring the specific issue, and overgeneralizing your warm-up, and the condition is glossed over.

This is a bad thing.

For example, take into account one athlete that came into our doors earlier this year:

As you can see, there is a lack of closed chain wrist extension (or the ability to place her hands on the ground flat, and move her wrist into extension past 90°. There was even a discrepancy from hand to hand, which was concerning to me. Perhaps there was a soft tissue problem that can be alleviated, but if not there may be something else going on!

Turns out she competes in pole vaulting. (Watch some high level pole vaulting here.) This motion is exacerbated when she bench presses, and rightfully so as the barbell compresses her carpal bones in a not-so-fun manner.

So what are some easy fixes that can be done if you have issues with compression?

Well, from a joint appraisal point of view, assessing rib mobility will allow you greater input towards what occurs at the glenohumeral joint, which can affect shoulder flexion, extension, and internal & external rotation. This seems to be first. Afterwards, identifying range of motion at the hand, wrist, and forearm will be next.

Shoulder Motion
Photo Credit:

Next, we assessed what was happening with her bench press technique.

If you don’t keep in mind the specificity of what happens when someone does an activity, you may be caught in a “corrective exercise rabbit hole” that you won’t be able to dig yourself out of.

Turns out her wrist position was not ideal, and we also assessed her ability to deliver high tension techniques in her bench press, which was improved after a few minutes of coaching.

Read: Wrapping the Barbell in the Bench Press

Developing a Simple Plan of Action with Exercise Combinations

To give a few really easy drills of what we did from an exercise combination point of view:

1. Golf Ball on Forearm/Hand for Neurological Inhibition (or loosening up the structures on superficial level)

Wrist and Hand SMR - 22. 1-Arm Lat Stretch with Hand Distraction

1-Arm Band with Hand Distraction

3. Fixed her bench press technique.

These few items helped alleviate or at the very least, staved off any problematic issues from preventing her from competing in either powerlifting or pole vaulting.

These sports are not the only sports that are affected or plagued by hand issues. There are tons of them out there – gymnastics, bboying, any contact sport involving pushing, CrossFit even – not to mention even typing on a computer or laptop for 8 hours a day for hours on end will create carpal tunnel like syndromes that can be alleviated with some simple exercises.

In Conclusion…

With these tips in mind, I have a slew of other exercises that were utilized to help improve hand, wrist, and forearm range of motion for those who are lacking the ability to get into certain positions with their upper limbs. If you’re interested, I have a whole webinar dedicated to this topic, and it can be found at Elite Training Mentorship here.

—> Join Elite Training Mentorship TODAY <—

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As a part of the Cressey Sports Performance webinar library, I also have uploaded several exercise demonstrations along with monthly webinars that go over functional anatomy and exercises that you can begin using today in the gym – without all the fancy philosophy and rhetoric.

You can join today for less than a weekend out in the city, and get a ton of different content (including all of the past content) to help you coach and train your clients today. Make sure to check it out at

As always,

Keep it funky.


Musings & Things to Watch and Listen To – 7.4.15

Happy 4th of July!

Today I want to cover identifying limitations with the toe touch, improving understanding of the handstand, and other items with respect to individual movement qualities.

Elite Training Mentorship – Improving the Toe Touch

ETMWhen I take individuals through the movement assessment process, one quality that often goes overlooked is the ability to touch your toes. There are many aspects involved with improving the “toe touch”, and this webinar I created dives into the logic behind what is involved touching your toes.

Toe Touch (Side & Post)

Many athletes (and former athletes) are often very surprised when they can touch their toes after going through a few of our exercises; I vividly recall one individual who touched their toes for the first time in over 15 years! This is the sort of stuff that excites me. Now that individual has a lowered psychological fear towards falling, tying their shoelaces, picking something up off the ground without fear of back issues.

If you work with any athletes or general population folks who have issues touching their toes, check this webinar out that I created on Elite Training Mentorship! I believe it will be very informational for coaches and trainers out there who are looking to improve results for your clients.

Enhance2DanceTV – Episode 7 – One Limiting Factor for the Handstand

Many talk about shoulder strength, core strength, alignment – all of these items are great, especially when it comes to improving your handstand skills. However, when it comes down to it if you are going to be upside down, you are going to fall. If you can improve your ability to fall with grace, your abilities to improve your handstand abilities will improve twofold.

Check out the newest episode of my dance development program, where I go over this one very undervalued factor when learning how to develop your handstand!

Physical Preparation Podcast – with Mike Robertson featuring Patrick Ward

I find myself listening to various podcasts throughout my week – Tim Ferriss, EliteFTS Sports Performance with Mark Watts, and Iron Game Chalk Talk with Coach McKeefery, to name a few. I’ve engrained this habit from an often long commute up and back to work, often when I’m working multiple jobs, just to keep my head in the game when it comes to strength and conditioning.

Mike Robertson continues to push interesting and thought provoking content out there on the interwebs, and this is no exception to the stream of info that he provides.

Mike Robertson


Patrick Ward is an interesting individual, and his personal journey along with insights into sports data always makes for an interesting 60 minute car trip, to say the least.

Give this among other podcasts a listen to vary your daily thoughts and inputs!

As always,

Keep it funky.