If you’ve ever experienced hand or wrist injuries, you know firsthand how annoyingly painful they can be. Not only do you have to take time off of training, but sometimes the road to recovery takes more time than you think. And while your lifting routine puts forth many benefits, it’s doing few favors for your hand and wrist health.
From wrist strains to cysts, thankfully, there are actions you can take to help ensure better hand health starting now!
Common hand and wrist injuries and the exercises that cause them
Unfortunately, weightlifting and common body-weight exercises can cause a variety of hand and wrist injuries. Nick Maroldi, physical therapist and certified hand specialist at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York explains, “Oftentimes, tendons or ligaments are overloaded or repetitively strained during certain exercises, leading to tendinitis, tenosynovitis, or ligament sprains or tears.”
Although repetition and time under tension are great for building muscle, it’s not so great for hand health. “Repetitive stresses from exercise can also lead to ganglion cysts, which most commonly appear on the back of the wrist,” says Maroldi. These can make many exercises difficult to continue.
“Other exercises that involve dynamic movement and loading the wrists, such as snatches and clean and jerks, can lead to ligament tears in the wrist, most commonly the scapholunate ligament (SL ligament),” adds Maroldi.
While there’s no doubt that weightlifting can cause hand stress, when it comes to exercises, there are certain moves that can compromise hand health more than others. “The most common exercises that cause wrist/hand injuries are those that involve weight-bearing or dynamic loading through extended wrists such as pushups and burpees,” Maroldi says. So, if you hate burpees, you now have an excuse to avoid them!
Michael Wittig, certified personal trainer and IPE Natural Pro champion, is familiar with hand injuries during his time working with others. “The exercises I hear about most often from my clients when it comes to hand strain are the pushup, plank, front squat, and straight-bar barbell curl.” Some may stop performing their favorite exercises due to the stress they feel on their hands.
The good news is, you don’t have to stop training; there are things you can do that can lighten the load on your hands but not your muscles.
Tips for avoiding hand injuries
Your wrists and hands are working more than you realize during exercise. Lightening the load off of your hands while adding a stable foundation of support to your hands can allow your muscles to get worked while protecting ligaments and tendons of the hands and wrists. Here are some ways you can do that.