Paddle Healthy | Three Mobility Exercises to Fix Your Forearms, Elbows and Wrists
by Phil White
If you have a post-paddling mobility routine (and you should!), you're likely spending most of your time smashing your quads, sorting out your shoulders and liberating your lower back from stiffness. These areas all deserve attention, but so does your body's less obvious, more obscure parts and equally important parts. When was the last time you gave a second thought to those aching forearms, the stabbing pain in your elbows or the weakness in your wrists?
Spend two minutes per side on each of these mobilizations (better yet, keep going until you make change) and you will restore slide and glide to your soft tissues, break your elbows out of their pain prison, and make your hands and wrists feel a whole lot better. Plus, by delaminating your gristly arm bits, you'll improve paddling performance because you'll recapture missing range of motion and halt mechanical compromises and technique errors, like flaring out your elbow, caused by neural tension. Two minutes a day...it sure couldn't hurt!
1) Forearm/Wrist Smash
For a two-dollar investment at any sporting goods store, you can get one of the most versatile mobility tools out there: a lacrosse ball. If you can't find one, use a tennis ball or any small, somewhat hard ball you can find. Once you've got your ball of choice:
-Find a counter, desk or bench.
-Turn your left hand over so the palm faces up.
-Place the ball underneath your forearm where the wrist meets the forearm.
-Use your other arm to apply pressure to the top of your left forearm.
-Contract your hand into a fist and hold for a few seconds.
-Relax for two seconds, then repeat. You can also make circles with the hand.
-Repeat on the other arm.
-Ready to step it up a notch? Stack a second ball on top of your forearm and apply pressure to it and repeat the contract/relax and hand circling motions.
-Remember that you have easy access to all the tissues of your arms, so experiment by rolling the ball slowly across any sore spots.
2) Triceps Smash
Now that we've addressed the forearm, let's try to free up some restrictions upstream. Tennis elbow is an all too common ailment for watermen and women, even if you never go near a tennis racket. We typically make the mistake of looking at the joint itself, when in fact it's the soft tissues above and below the hinge that are causing the issue (plus, in the case of your triceps, also contributing to shoulder issues). Now that we've already gone downstream to the forearms, here's part two of the cure:
-In the gym, place a barbell on the squat rack at shoulder height and place your left arm on it just above the elbow.
-If you don't have access to a barbell/rack, use the edge of a chair or lie face down, extend your arm and place the lacrosse ball or a roller just above the elbow, and do the same motion as you would with the barbell version.
-Take your right hand and push down on your left bicep, to apply pressure between your tricep and the barbell. Then, rotate your left palm slowly toward your body (clockwise for your left arm) and then the opposite way.
-You can also use the "contract and relax" technique by clenching and unclenching your fist throughout the exercise.
-Work your way up toward where the triceps meets the shoulder (in other words, your armpit). If you find a sore/tight spot stay there and give it some lovin' until it loosens up.
3) Wrist Banded Distraction
Paddling makes your wrists and hands tight - no shocks there! In addition to doing pressure-based mobilization to feed some slack into the system, you can also use a banded distraction to improve capacity and liberate those clawed hands.
-Take a medium stretching band and loop it low around a squat rack, bedpost or any other stable pole. Loop the band around your wrist.
-Kneel down and place your left palm on the ground, with the palm facing away as if you were grabbing your hand and pulling it downwards.
-Bend your elbow a little and then press back to a straight arm, keeping your hand flat on the ground. You can also oscillate around the wrist in very small circles.
-Do this for two minutes, then repeat for the right arm.