Written by Gaje McDaniel
Sometimes we neglect areas of our body that may be vital to take care of; for example, the forearms, wrist, ankles and calves. If you’re anything like me, you may try and focus on more superficial things like the hamstrings, quads, back and t-spine, or shoulders. I want you to take a little time out of your schedule to spend some time focussing on your forearms.
Gripping kettlebells, dumbbells, barbells, and pull-up bars builds up a lot of tension over time that we don’t ever release. Today I want to improve your range of motion overall by tackling your anterior and posterior muscles. Are you lacking with internal or external rotation? Do you have elbow pain or achiness? How can you benefit from improvements?
In this post, we want to address the movement issues and restrictions you may have and then improve them, while also keeping you away from injury and making you the best mover you can be. Lets do a series of drills and stretches to see how you can personally benefit.
First, get into a tabletop position, shoulders over wrists, hands placed on the floor, fingers spread wide and facing forward. One small movement at a time, rotate your hands outward with a straight locked out elbow. You’re going to try and maintain a proficient position and see if you can get your fingers facing your body. Keeping your palms fully on the floor, can you maintain this position without pain or loss of position or letting your palm come up? You should feel a deep stretch that may be uncomfortable. If you were unable to reach full turn around and only got half way, this is the test and we will be working on improvement. If you are excelling in good movement, these mobility drills are still for you.
Now that we’ve established a range of motion for you wrists and forearms, let’s go through a series of drills.
This is going to allow us to loosen up any buildup that may have occurred over time. For the first drill all you need is a barbell and a pad to support your forearm. With your forearm on the pad, face your palm to the ceiling or palm facing downward, exposing the soft tissue on either side of your arm, you’re going to place the barbell closest to your wrist and begin rolling back and forth. With the barbell applying pressure, work on getting flexion and extension with your wrist to stretch those muscles. You can also make some rotations with your elbow to address all areas.
Drill number two is as simple as placing a lacrosse ball onto a table or box and applying the same pressure and movement. You can add a second ball, one underneath your arm and one applying pressure from the top. Don’t be too nice to yourself; if it’s uncomfortable, thats a good thing! If you are in the gym and have an able body accessible, lay on the floor and have your super friend take their shoe off. They’re going to apply pressure with one foot onto your forearm and smash those muscles appropriately.
Try to spend 2-3 minutes on each arm with just one of these drills. Relaxing and letting the barbell, lacrosse ball, or partner get deep into those muscles. Pain faces are acceptable, but make sure you’re breathing deep and not tensing up. The goal is to loosen up tissue and release the tension you may have built up in your forearms.
If you own a Voodoo Floss band or have accessibility to one, I recommend you try out this technique. You can start by wrapping from your wrist upward towards your elbow, very tightly. It’s important you don’t let your fingers go numb, nor feel too painful. Do not leave it on for too long – just enough to stretch, and appropriating time is key. This is a great way to tack down the muscles, gain blood flow to restricted area, and overall a good mobilizing technique.
After all of that smashing time, now we should be able to reach a better extension and flexion in those muscles. For stretch number one, you’re going to need a PVC pipe. Grabbing a full grip onto the pipe, you’re going to use your opposing hand to then rotate it internally and external. Holding the pipe into deep rotation, keep your shoulder back and down, and elbow straight. Hold for 10-15 seconds and then repeating for a few sets.
For stretch number two, I want you to test how the smashing benefited you. We’re going back to our first test drill and repeating all the steps. Has your range of motion improved? Can you execute this stretch with less tension as before? Overall you should be able to lengthen these muscle groups through these drills and find them more mobile.
Test them, retest them and see how you can benefit from doing this regularly. Tests you can do may include the front rack, handstands, pull-ups, and anything that may include grip as well.
These proactive mobility drills should be done after workouts. Make an effort once a week or every other week to address your forearms and I bet your body will be thanking you for it. This will keep you from elbow pain and wrist pain and allow for a better range of motion.