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.


My Favorite Exercise Combinations: Installment 16 – Kettlebell On Kettlebells

Today’s exercise combination is a little different! In other installments, I usually went over some neuromuscular strategies to increase strength, to combine multiple movements that will help improve motoric control of a movement pattern, or anything of the like.

In conjunction with the awesome weather we are having recently, I’d like to ride the wave of people gearing up for beach season (see what I did there?).

With that said, the most interesting piece of equipment in any gym I believe is the kettlebell. It is shaped funny, you can swing it around, press it, row it, have it as a door stop, and do all types of awesome stuff with the kettlebell.


Now, to use this piece of equipment in a circuit, let’s make it quick, get it done, then step away from it.

Do the thing, and you’ll have the power. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sometimes just focusing on the process of what should be done, over deliberating, deliberating, deliberating, and then making a decision has power with respects to just doing it. Too many people are uneasy with the decision to make, too many people are unfocused, and too many people are looking for the next shiny object. Sometimes what you have to work with is the rusty, hunk of metal, tucked away in the corner of the gym, waiting to be thrown around a few hundred times. Sometimes that is what it takes to get what you want.

So if you’re focusing on  the ability to produce force, improve recovery between tough training sessions, or just looking for a way to sweat, check this exercise combination out.

A1. Kettlebell Swing – 12 reps

A2. 1-Arm KB Row – 8/side

A3. Kettlebell Goblet Squat 12 reps

A4. 1-Arm KB Half Turkish Get Up – 3/side (easy inhalations/exhalations in between movements)

Complete 4 Rounds. Rest 90 to 120sec in between rounds, or until heart rate is between 130 and 140.

Performing these movements in a circuit like fashion with little to no rest is a great way to get your weekend started. Do this specific circuit at the end of your workout every other day of the week, and in conjunction with a dedicated focus on what you are eating, I’m sure you will see results towards an aesthetic you may enjoy seeing in the mirror every day.

That’s it! I want you to enjoy your day, so complete this circuit, get a nice sweat in, and enjoy your weekend/day/life.

As always,

Keep it funky.


My Favorite Exercise Combinations: Installment 15 – Building Up the Squat

The overhead squat is a coveted screen and assessment tool used by many in the fitness, strength community, and rehab worlds. Many live and die by this movement, and others do not place much priority on it. This combination will look at my own experiences and observations in the overhead squat, along with providing pragmatic application of exercises that will hopefully aim to improve your movement capacity in the squat.



There are many different ways to identify how to “score” the overhead squat – I choose to follow an FMS-based instruction towards the overhead squat, as it allows me an easier component towards bucketing and placing athletes in certain groups. Over my tenure at Cressey Sports Performance, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing a relatively large amount of athletes, on top of providing an individual program to cater to their specific needs. This is an experience that is unique to this facility, because many times coaches can look at a large population of individuals, but cannot provide the individual instruction or exercise selection necessary in order to improve outcomes.

The numbers of adequate overhead squats were staggering – over 115 squats and only 12 (twelve) squats were at industry standard. The other 103 squats were below standard or had other complications in their other movement patterns which limited the squat!

Those who scored “3’s” on the Overhead Squat were either young, relatively hyper mobile in comparison to their other peers (especially in the hip region), and interestingly, played multiple sports (more than just one sport such as only baseball).

Now the reasoning for a lack of ability to perform an overhead squat can be traced to several ideas:

  • Your joints don’t allow it.
  • Your tissue quality doesn’t allow appropriate lengthening and shortening in this movement.
  • You are unfamiliar with the movement.
  • Your brain is limiting you in some capacity due to pain, novelty of movement, or some other threat.
  • Your issue is not the squat – it is higher up in terms of movement patterns.

(With respect to the above, I’d like to assume that almost all of the individuals coming into CSP are pain free.)

  1. If your joints don’t allow appropriate motion because of one hard structure bumping into another hard structure, that will be difficult to improve an overhead squatting motion to past 90° of hip flexion.
  2. If your tissue quality is relatively dense and possibly fibrotic, well then that could limit your ability for your muscles to be pliable. Relatively less dense muscle quality can relate to improved neural connections as these drivers.
  3. Many times individuals simply have no pre-conceived notion of what an appropriate squatting movement pattern consists of, so naturally their performance on the screen is limited or poor.
No one instructed “baby” on how to squat…

If your brain perceives threat in some manner, then perhaps changing levels at the hip joint will cause some type of input into the brain that says, “Don’t do this! It might hurt!” There are tons of ways to reduce threat (if you need to), so making sure you are in a positive environment (to take care of the psychological component), safe and appropriate environment and equipment (to take care of the physical component), along with using the right exercise for the right individual will hopefully take care of the issue of threat perception.

The psychological component can definitely influence physical factors.

And finally, the overhead squat is in actuality, my least concern of a movement pattern from a screening perspective. There are actually several other movements that I’m more concerned about, on top of owning breathing, and more importantly several other athletic movement endeavors, such as skipping, shuffling, sprinting, throwing, etc.

The small parts of the overhead squat are actually addressed in detail in other movement patterns from another assessment process, other tests, and even screens. In this case, the small parts that comprise the bigger parts of the overhead squat are just that – mere minutia in the grand scheme of a total screening and assessment process.

Despite having a limited overhead squat pattern…

  • Will your athlete be successful in his or her sport?
  • Will your athlete still have immense amounts of force production capabilities?
  • Will your athlete be able to control other motoric movement patterns?

I’m not saying completely ignore the overhead squat, but placing an immense amount of priority on whether or not someone can perform well when screening for the overhead squat correctly is not a big deal.

To re-emphasize this for you, I’ve done over 115 formal assessments, and an unknown amount of informal assessments (for staff, interns, friends, etc) while only at CSP, and I’ve seen only 12 overhead squats that have gone for par.

That is only 10% of the individuals that have come through the doors, having an adequate standard of movement for one test (out of several movements that were also assessed and screened).

SFMA - Top Tier 7
There are other priorities in an individual!

So 90% of the other population that I’ve assessed have had poor squat patterns.

This does not mean I exclude the squatting motion from their exercise program – it just gives me better information on how to address their specific and individual problems.

With ALL of this in mind, now I can introduce an exercise combination that I’ve found lots of success with, as it address several things all at once – a catch-all combination to use some cliche phrases.

Reverse Inchworm to Overhead Squat

This exercise catches a lot of things all at once:

  • Challenges anti-extension movement
  • Upward scapular rotation
  • As you sit back, it catches hip flexion
  • As you rock back into a squatting pattern, there is sensory input so you can find more ankle dorsiflexion
  • There is input as you rock back as well for great toe extension, which is crucial for acceleration and gait purposes
Photo Credit:
Photo Credit:

Prying Goblet Squat with Breathing

The next component in this exercise combination talks about:

  • Owning a position of deep hip flexion
  • Improving the activation of the hip external rotators as you rock the kettlebell/dumbbell up and down
  • On top of owning breathing patterns.

Programming for Building Up Your Squat

I refer to “building up your squat” because you are doing so from the ground up. First you have a movement pattern that forces you to move backwards – something that doesn’t happen too often in a commercial gym setting, and then own it with breathing and heavy weights.

If you’re programming this, you probably don’t need it too much to improve upon your squat. It’s like taking medicine, you don’t need a full week of over-the-counter medicine to improve symptoms, but maybe 2 days of it plus good sleep will do the trick.

Just like that analogy, maybe you only need a few days of this exercise combination in order to improve your movement patterns, instead of a full month or year of “corrective exercises!”

With this in mind, see how this feels in the beginning of your day, or at the beginning of your exercise program as follows:

A1. Reverse Inchworm to Overhead Squat – 2×5

A2. Prying Goblet Squat with Breathing – 2×5 Breaths (Inhale + Exhale)

As always,

Keep it funky.