This tutorial is meant to improve the wrist and ankle strength, which are known as the two common weak points in athletes. I run technical, rocky trails regularly and used to hand balance almost every day and have never had a wrist or ankle injury using these protocols.
A few notes before beginning:
Before strength is gained in any position, the position’s mobility must be developed.
There is such a thing as perfect alignment, but it’s uncommon and often the best-case scenario. Train for the worst-case scenario (poor alignment), because it WILL happen.
Why train wrists and ankles? Both are the required blocks to basic human movement. Walking, running, and standing requires the ankles. Activities requiring basic dexterity use the wrists, among other common tasks (typing, writing).
For all stretches, no bad discomfort should be felt nor limits pushed. ROM progression should be gradual.
For all strength exercises, progression should be gradual and not forced. (This will be mentioned a few times.)
Who should use these exercises?
Wrists: Handbalancers, avid keyboard users, pressers (bench press, overhead press, etc—lots of stress on wrists)
Ankles: Trail walkers/runners, ruckers, trickers, high-impact-sport athletes
There are four different types of wrist movement: flexion, extension, ulnar deviation, and radial deviation.
Five types of wrist mobility exercises will be performed. Because these exercises target the tendons, the progression of each should be very gradual and only done by increasing the ROM. All stretches should be done on the knees and with straight arms.
All wrist stretches can be found in the following video (timestamps included in each exercise’s description):
Place the hands flat on the ground (palms down) with fingers pointing forwards
Lean forward at the shoulders while keeping the palms grounded
Place the top of the hands (palms up) flat on the ground with fingers pointing backwards
Lean back at the shoulders while keeping the top of the hands grounded
Place the hands flat on the ground (palms down) with fingers pointing backwards
Lean back at the shoulders while keeping the top of the hands grounded
Place the hands flat on the ground (palms up) with fingers pointing forwards
Lean forwards at the shoulders while keeping the top of the hands grounded
Make a fist, then place the top of the fist flat on the ground
Lean backwards at the shoulders while keeping the top of the fists grounded
There is no good stretch that targets radial deviation since the ROM is so small.
You might also like General Guidelines for Yoga Practice.
Three types of wrist strength exercises will be performed. Because these exercises target the tendons, the progression of each should be very gradual and only done with increasing the amount of bodyweight used. Never work to failure or pain. Increasing reps is preferable to adding weight when the full version is reached. This is the first part of the wrist and ankle Strength tutorial.
Wall: Start with no lean (90° between body and ground) and get used to the movement. Slowly increase lean (decrease body-ground angle).
Knees: Like knee pushups, use knees to support the movement.
Plank: Perform the movement in a full plank.
Handstand: Perform the movement in a handstand. To make this easier, enter into a chest-to-wall handstand and walk the hands away from the wall. This removes weight from the wrists.
All wrist exercises and progressions can be found in the following video (timestamps included in each exercise’s description):
Make a right angle at the first knuckle between the fingers and palm with the fingers straight
Place the fingers flat on the ground and align the first knuckle, wrist, and shoulder
Enter knee plank or plank (if doing these in a handstand, enter in a handstand, then create the correct finger/hand position)
As you descend to the bottom of the pushup, drop the back of the hand onto the ground
When pushing back up and nearing the top, “pop” the back of the hand back up into its original position
To perform variation 2, simply keep both the back of the hand and fingers on the ground and perform pushups. Note that getting full lockout on the plank is limited by the wrists’ mobility.
WPU Variation 1 (Knees): 0:00
Then, WPU Variation 1 (Plank): 0:06
WPU Variation 2 (Knees): 0:13
WPU Variation 2 (Plank): 0:22
Finally, WPU Variation 2 (Handstand):
Enter plank with both hands flat on the ground
While keeping the fingers grounded, use the knuckles to lift the wrist
FKP (Knees): 0:29
FKP (Plank): 0:35
Finally, FKP (Handstand):
Enter plank with fists
Lean forward while rotating the fists so the side of the index finger and top of thumb is making contact with the ground
Next, you should lean backwards until the original position (plank with fists) is reached
Lean backwards while bending the elbows and rotating the wrists so the little finger is making contact with the ground
Finally, lean forwards and straighten the elbows until the original position is reached
DR (Knees): 0:46
DR (Plank): 0:58
(No DR in handstand found. Please contact me if you have seen DR in a handstand.)
Novel movements for hand, wrist, and elbow. These are helpful to do once per day for 10-15 reps per exercise. These help a lot on improving the wrist and ankle strength.
Any hand balancing position (crow, elbow lever, handstand, etc) will strengthen the wrists, especially if you’re using a cambered hand position.
Wrist exercises need only be done once per week for 1-2 sets per exercise. These can be done at the end of a training session or in a stand-alone session.
Stretches: 1×30-60 sec
WPU: 1-2×5-15 rep
FKP: 1-2×5-15 rep
DR: 1-2×5-15 rep
The wrist strength you develop from these does not go away quickly—I have not done these in over a year, but was able to do sets of 15 with no warm-up.
There are a few different types of ankle movement: dorsiflexion, plantarflexion, inversion, eversion, lateral rotation, and medial rotation.
Six types of ankle stretches will be performed, each corresponding to one of the types of movements. They can be done in reps or held for time. All ankle stretches can be found in the following video (timestamps included in each exercise’s description):
The dorsiflexion stretch can be done on one (preferable) or two legs. Simply keep the entire foot grounded and move the knees as far forward as possible. The soleus is primarily stretched. Depending on the amount of weight and lean, this can double as a strength exercise.
The plantarflexion stretch is done on one leg at a time. Take one leg, curl the toes down so they touch the ground, then move the ankle forward.
The inversion stretch can be done on one or two legs. While trying to keep the legs as vertical as possible, roll your foot to the outside, so the larger toes come off the ground.
The eversion stretch can be done on one or two legs. While trying to keep the legs as vertical as possible, roll your foot to the inside, so the smaller toes come off the ground. The ESc range-of-motion is much less than the ISc ROM.
The lateral rotation stretch is done on one leg. Plant one foot, then attempt to rotate the entire body, including the leg, away from the inside of the planted foot without moving it. For example, if your right foot is planted, the body will rotate left (counterclockwise about the body).
The medial rotation stretch is done on one leg. Plant one foot, then attempt to rotate the entire body, including the leg, to the outside of the planted foot without moving it. For example, if your right foot is planted, the body will rotate right (clockwise about the body).
This is the second part of the improvement of wrist and ankle strength.
Dogen’s Titanium Ankles tutorial (see below) is a great resource for general ankle strength:
Other strength exercises are simply variations of the stretches. The exercises can be found in the following video (timestamps included in each exercise’s description):
Similar to the stretch, attempt to hold for longer and with minimal external support. Helps tremendously on the wrist and ankle strength.
PF strength is tough to train, as well as a bit dangerous. The best method seems to be a variation of the PFSc, but with support. Using a counter/parallel bars/etc, enter into full support, then position both feet in the PF stretch position. Slowly decrease the support the arms are giving (increase bodyweight used) to load the muscles.
(Note: I strained my shins doing this, so be careful!)
There are three options for inversion strength, all of which can be used.
The first exercise is walking while inverted: after getting into the stretch position, simply begin walking. This loads all of the body weight onto one ankle momentarily and can be scaled by supporting the body with the arms.
The second exercise is jumping while in inversion, like Ido Portal does in the video above. Doing this on a soft surface is recommended.
The third exercise is the one-leg inversion holds. Simply invert one ankle and stand on it for time. Weight can be added as needed.
Eversion strength exercises are the same as inversion, albeit more awkward: eversion walks, eversion jumps, and eversion hold.
Both lateral and medial rotation strength can be trained through Dogen’s lateral isometrics (6:39 on the video): push against the wall with both the inside and outside of the foot to train both types.
Ankle exercises will be done only once per week for 1-2 sets per exercise. These can be done at the end of a training session or in a stand-alone session.
Stretches: 1×30-60 sec
DFSg: 1×30-60 sec
ISg: 50-100 steps or 2×5-10 jumps or 1×30 sec
ESg: 50-100 steps or 2×5-10 jumps or 1×30 sec
LRSg: 1×30-60 sec
MRSg: 1×30-60 sec
The ankle strength you develop from these does not go away quickly—I have not done these in over a year but was able to do all exercises with no warm-up.
This is it about the improvement of the wrist and ankle strength.
Note: All credit goes to the Reddit user Awarenesss.