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What’s Your Wrist Action? – Dr. Yessis SportLab

You may wonder why this question is even being asked. After all doesn’t everyone know what the wrist does in throwing and hitting? Sadly, the answer is no. Very few athletes, even the best in the professional leagues, can tell you what actions the forearm/wrist/hand undergoes in throwing and hitting.

Most athletes will try to show you what takes place because they are not able to tell you what takes place. But even as they show you they will be questioning the actions that they are doing. This is a well substantiated fact!

For example, if you ask an athlete to tell you what comprises the wrist break in throwing and hitting, most will invariably respond, wrist flexion (bringing the palm side of your hand toward the forearm). Most ballplayers believe this is the action used in the wrist break as in baseball and golf hitting.

However, wrist flexion is used only in basic throwing, as in a fastball, but not in hitting. In baseball and golf hitting, wrist ulnar flexion takes place (little finger side of the hand moves toward the forearm while the hand stays in line with the forearm). Wrist flexion occurs in tennis forehand hitting.

The wrist action you use in a throw determines the final outcome. Not only is it the avenue through which your total force is imparted to the ball but it also determines the pathway taken by the ball (accuracy).

Your wrist action, especially when overemphasized or done incorrectly, can lead to injuries of the wrist and elbow. For example, little league elbow and Tommy John injuries occur because of the forces experienced in incorrect wrist and/or forearm actions. Thus, to prevent injury and to enhance your performance, knowing what takes place and how you can strengthen the muscles involved is a prerequisite.

Hand pronation and wrist flexion take place when you throw for distance, speed, and maximum force. During the release of the ball, the index and middle finger are directly behind the middle of the ball when contact is broken. In this way all of the force generated by the body is transmitted into the ball.

To prevent injury and to enhance your performance in throwing, you should do exercises to strengthen the wrist in flexion and pronation as these actions occur in the throw. In other words the exercises duplicate (use the same neuromuscular pathway) what occurs in the actual throwing motion.

To strengthen the index and middle fingers Exer rings are used. Some of the exercises specific to throwing include strengthening the index and middle finger by pushing down on an Exer Ring against the thumb.

Because the major muscles that work the fingers are located in the forearm, their tendons cross the wrist to attach on the fingers and thus play an important role in keeping the wrist strong and allowing it to function well.

For wrist flexion, use dumbbells in the hands. To balance the muscular development of the wrist flexors you should also do reverse wrist curls to strengthen the extensors.

To strengthen the forearm pronator muscles, hold the Strength Bar vertical, gripped at the non-weighted end with a weight plate secured at the other end. The forearm should be stabilized on the bench as you lower the weight and turn your hand palm down until the bar is horizontal (pronation) or slightly below and then raise the bar up and over to turn the hand palm up (supination).

For more information and pictures of these exercises and the equipment used, see Biomechanics and Kinesiology of Exercise or check out some the exercises on our YouTube channel. Also more information on what is involved in hitting and throwing see Build a Better Athlete.

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