Wrist Pushups and other treats

Martial Artists – Boxers, Karateka (空手家) and Bruce Lee fans knew it all the way: Pushups are the way to strengthen your hands and wrists.

When I was a kid, I had my hand broken (the metacarpal bone of my index finger), when blocking a kick to my backside. Mind you this was not in a martial arts session but simply happened during fooling around with my family.

About a month ago (and about 35 years later!), I got on a taxi with my colleagues. We were on our way to a client meeting and were in a rush. I guess somebody should have reminded me that one should not hold onto the door frame of the car when another person is going to close it.

There was a thud…then shocked faces (because the door did not close and we had all figured out why by then), I must have turned pale as I turned to look at my hand expecting the worst…but to my surprise, nothing had happened. Sure, I had pinched the skin on my fingers and there was a little blood. But these were mere scratches. My fingers were totally fine. I could move them without pain. I could clench a fist.

What happened, between getting my hand kicked as a kid and getting my fingers jammed in a car door as a 45 year old? ….Regular hand conditioning drills. 15 years ago, after a number of short stints with a variety of martial arts, I settled for Thai Boxing training. While I have never been interested in entering the ring (I treasure my straight nose, and I really don’t enjoy hurting others), I have always been into Thai Boxing/Kick Boxing training.

In another article, I will write about the structure of my Thai Boxing workouts and the many benefits of it. Today, I would like to talk about one small aspect of a Boxing workout, which is hand conditioning.

In Thai Boxing, Kick Boxing, Karate, Boxing, Tae Kwon Do and all other combat sports where you strike with your hands, as well as in Judo, Aikido and Sambo – in Martial Arts where gripping strength is important, regular conditioning training for your hands is indispensible.

In Kyokushin Karate (極真空手), a semi- contact Karate style, notorious for its bone-breaking rigorous conditioning drills and devastating low kicks, you do pushups on your knuckles all the time. In fact, the hard core Kyokushin Karate guys (and girls) have strongly calloused knuckles, which are not pretty to look at but which surely protect their hands from injury.

So, if you would like to protect your wrists and fingers from injury (in freak accidents such a jamming our hands in doors etc.), I recommend hand, finger and wrist conditioning with the following sets of exercises. The “holds” are all isometric exercises in which you simply hold the position for a certain amount of time. The progression of holds are “dynamic” exercises. I these series of exercises they are simply pushups.

Fingertip Hold

– Get in a pushup position, press your fingertips in the floor and hold for time. Start off with 10 or 15 seconds and build up to 1 minute.

Beginners should build up gradually: You can begin in a pushup position on your knees and/or your fingers on a soft surface such as a Yoga mat or a carpet. Once that gets easy, get in to the full Fingertip Hold on a hard surface.

Advanced Version:

Fingertip Pushup

You can build up to full Fingertip Pushup by starting out on your knees and/or on a soft surface. Once that is not much of a stimulation anymore, move on up to the full Fingertip Pushup on the floor. 1 set of 10 to 30 reps, 1 to 3 times a week is plenty to strengthen your fingers and wrists.

Fist Hold

– Get in a pushup position, press your fists in the floor and hold for time. Start off with 10 or 15 seconds and build up to 1 minute.

Beginners should build up gradually: You can begin in a pushup position on your knees and/or your fist on a soft surface such as a Yoga mat or a carpet. Once that gets easy, get in to the full Fist Hold on a hard surface.

Advanced Version:

Fist Pushup

Again you can build up to full Fist Pushup by starting out on your knees and/or on a soft surface. Once that is not much of a stimulation anymore, move on up to the full Fist Pushup on the floor. 1 set of 10 to 30 reps, 1 to 3 times a week is plenty to strengthen your knuckles and wrists.

Wrist Hold

– Get in a pushup position, press your wrists in the floor and hold for time. Start off with 10 or 15 seconds and build up to 1 minute.

Beginners should build up gradually: You can begin in a pushup position on your knees and/or your wrists on a soft surface such as a Yoga mat or a carpet. Once that gets easy, get in to the full Wrist Hold on a hard surface.

Advanced Version:

Wrist Pushups

You can build up to full Wrist Pushup by starting out on your knees and/or on a soft surface. Once that is not much of a stimulation anymore, move on up to the full Wrist Pushup on the floor. 1 set of 10 to 30 reps, 1 to 3 times a week is plenty to strengthen your wrists.

I usually do only 1 set of Fingertip, Fist and Wrist Pushups after my regular workout once a week. This is enough to protect myself from injuries to my hands.