The wrist is comprised of eight small bones that look like small irregularly shaped pebbles. These bones glide past each other in intricate ways that contribute to the ability of the hand to freely move on the forearm. The hand needs this level of complexity in its foundation as it can mold itself around objects of just about any shape. This greater degree of freedom comes with a cost. Grip strength becomes substantially weaker when the wrist is excessively bent or when the hand is not adequately aligned with the forearm. It is therefore important to have adequate awareness and skill in coordinating the wrist to be in a neutral position when tugging, pushing, or lifting cables, weights and other types of resistances you might find available in a fitness center. Poor wrist alignment is a very common mistake observed on the gym floor. What occurs is that the muscles at the wrist become a bit lazy as effort and thought are on other muscles such as the shoulders and arms. We rarely do a triceps (the back of your upper arms) exercise with the hands/wrists in mind (unless something hurts). The key in correcting this error is first to notice it, and second to generate greater muscle action in the direction that is opposite the deviation. If the wrist is excessively bent backwards with the knuckles towards the forearm as is commonly seen in exercises that involve pressing downwards, then the correction would be to maintain more muscle tension on the palm-side of the hand to bring the grip back in line with the forearm. Since there are not many things that can be manipulated in our environment without the hands, wrist alignment during upper-body exercise is an important protective skill.
Anna Kotula, DPT