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Two Simple Strengthening Exercises to Keep Your Elbows and Wrists Healthy

Even among fitness enthusiasts, I've consistently found that many people neglect the tendons that control their wrists and elbows - this is a big mistake, as these tissues are not well perfused with blood, so when they are injured, they can take many months to heal. All of us constantly use our wrists and elbows, but most of us only tune into this reality if we injure one of these areas.

To build and maintain strength in the tendons that attach to and move your wrists and elbows, please consider making the following exercises a part of your everyday life:

Tennis Ball Squeeze



Slowly squeeze and release a tennis ball for 20 repetitions, 3 times a day. Be deliberate in squeezing and relaxing at a slow pace, as both phases of contraction - concentric and eccentric - are important for building tendon strength. The orange and yellow tennis ball in the photos above is a low compression ball that is a good choice if you find it difficult to squeeze a regular tennis ball. You can also use a smaller squash ball or any other type of ball that compresses with pressure and reverts back to its ball shape when you relax your muscles.

Squeezing a ball in this fashion strengthens the tendons and muscles that line the side of your forearm that you see when your palm is facing you. These tissues include:

  • Flexor digitorum profundus
  • Flexor digitorum superficialis
  • Flexor carpi radialis
  • Flexor carpi ulnaris
  • Flexor pollicis longus

Elastic Expansion

To strengthen the tendons and muscles that line the opposite side of your forearm, bring your fingers together like you're closing the mouth of a puppet that is draped over your hand, surround the ends of your fingers and thumb with an elastic band, then slowly expand and relax your fingers and thumb like you're opening and closing your puppet's mouth. As with the tennis ball squeeze, be mindful of doing this exercise slowly, especially the eccentric (relaxation) phase.



Twenty repetitions, 3 sets a day will build and maintain highly functional strength in the following wrist extensor muscles, imparting tremendous protection to multiple tendons in your wrists and elbows:

  • Brachioradialis
  • Extensor digitorum
  • Extensor carpi radialis longus
  • Extensor carpi radialis brevis
  • Extensor carpi ulnaris
  • Abductor pollicis longus
  • Extensor pollicis longus
  • Extensor pollicis brevis

The best part of both of these wrist and elbow strengthening exercises is that you can do them anywhere and without too much expenditure of mental energy. I keep a tennis ball and elastic band in the cup-holder in my car, as well as with my foam roller for when I stretch, roll, and do core work in the evenings before bed. So whether I'm working during the day or taking some time to unplug in the evening, it's simple to take care of my wrists and elbows with these exercises. I'm obsessed with them, actually, and I think you and your loved ones will experience noticeable benefits if you get obsessed along with me.

Please note that as with all exercises, it's important not to engage in them if they are creating pain. You should have the feeling of your forearm muscles getting a workout, the kind of burn you feel when you do squats. But no pain. If you feel pain, try a softer ball or a thinner elastic band. If you still have pain, rest and gently massage for a few days or until you can try again without discomfort. Pain is your friend - it lets you know in real time if your tissues are capable of being used and strengthened. This is why numbing your pain with an analgesic like acetaminophen and then exercising through an injury is a recipe for worsening your condition.

For optimal results with these wrist and elbow strengthening exercises, you'll want to combine them with stretching and self massage, which you can read about here:

How to Keep Your Elbows, Forearms, and Wrists Healthy

Hope these tips come in handy in the days ahead.


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Do you have any suggestions or exercises to do if you have already injured
the wrist due to over exercising (exercise machine)?

Instead of sqeezing a tennis ball, can I use a "Hand Grip Strengthener" or "PowerPutty"?

Of course, you can use anything you have on hand.