Strengthen Your Wrists with Pilates

Vintage Pilates instructor Nicole Briggs has written this awesome article about how she uses Pilates to address weak, and/or stiff wrists. Learn more about Nicole here—and enjoy her insights below!

I realized a couple years ago, while taking an aerial fitness class, that I needed to strengthen my wrists and forearms. I could not grip the hanging fabric or the trapeze bar for any length of time, so I used the Pilates sand bag regularly. The sandbag brings blood flow to the upper body and limbs and helps to strengthen and stretch the hands and arms, upper back, and shoulders. That was just perfect for all the climbing and lifting of my body that I was doing.

Loosen up and Strengthen with the Sand Bag

The sand bag can weigh up to 6lbs, and is attached with a cord, to a thick dowel (photo above). To use, stand on an elevated surface with good posture, arms outstretched, without locking the elbow joints. Lift one hand off the dowel, spread and stretch fingers and wrist as the other hand rolls the bar, to unwind the cord. Keep alternating hands in a controlled manner. Once the bag reaches the floor and you have run out of cord, keep working the dowel so that it rolls up the other side. Complete entire process 1-2 more times.

In working with my students over the years who have arthritis, I have seen better range of motion and decreased stiffness thanks to the sand bag.


Adjust Your Relationship With the Reformer

In the past I used to “fall” into my wrists during my Pilates workout on the Reformer, which can cause some strain in people. Once I figured out how to wrap my hands over the bar and use my upper back as the extension of my wrists (see above), my body was much happier. The hands are meant to be a point of contact, not where all the weight should be, which is especially important when you need more support, like in Knees Off (see below).


Stabilize With Your Body—Not Your Wrists

unnamed-3When I need to allow some bending in the wrists, such as in the Push Down on the Wunda chair (right), I make sure to press onto the pedal, with support from the rest of the body, so the wrists have a very little job to do.

unnamed-4The Pull Up requires a greater degree of intensity, compared to the Push Down. I am so glad I did my sandbag, to focus on my entire body during this exercise.

If you need other strengthening or stretching exercises to help your wrists, ask your teacher what you can do in studio or at home.