A good wrist exercise machine can work wonders for increasing grip strength. It can also be the answer to someone blessed with easy-growing biceps but cursed with tiny forearms, creating an odd, asymmetrical look. Whether you're a budding bodybuilding competitor or someone just tired of having to ask for help opening jars, there are some options out there for building wrist and forearm power.
The most common machine in the gyms out there is a forearm rolling machine. This machine typically has two connected, parallel, foot-long bars at about shoulder height. When you twist the bars, a weight is lifted from the stack, providing resistance. It's a very simple, yet effective machine.
One method of using this machine is to make it a race, alternating hands to quickly lift the weight all the way up and back down repeatedly. Another, that lends itself to more focused one-hand training, is to only lift the weight a couple inches and do single, concentrated reps to failure.
In any scenario, the key to success is to keep the elbows tucked firmly against your sides. If you start moving your elbows around, you inevitable shift the focus to the arms and back muscles, short-changing yourself in a major way.
There is another, less common machine that also works the wrists and forearms. Sometimes it's an addition to the basic rolling machine outlined above. The main difference is that instead of grabbing hold of a bar, there's a handle that you rotate not unlike the motion you'd use for screwing in a screw in a piece of wood.
While not useless, it is less focused since the twisting motion does involve a fair amount of biceps. It may also cause wrist pain, particularly for those who have done a lot of bench-pressing; these people tend to have cartilage buildup in the wrists which gets rubbed in an uncomfortable manner. If this is the case with you, avoid this type of machine.
Of course, don't discount the good old hand strengthener. Often found in the ads at the back of magazines, these spring-equipped handles can be quite effective at building grip strength quickly. If your gym doesn't have a couple, they're cheap enough to buy. See the illustration above -- it's not rocket science, but it works!
Other Ways To Train Wrists
If your gym does not have a dedicated wrist exercise machine, you can imitate the motion by tying a rope to an empty bar and attach the other end to a plate. Hold out the bar in front of you and twist the bar so the plate is lifted off the ground.
Plain old wrist curls can work wonders too. Simply lean your forearms against a pad and hold a dumbbell and barbell over the edge, getting a good stretch at the bottom and then curling all the way to full contraction.
Finally, reverse barbell bicep curls rounds out the package by hitting the back side of the arm. Stand as you would when doing regular bicep curls, just place your hand with thumbs facing down instead of up. If this is painful for wrists or elbows, try moving the hands a little closer together than you normally would.
Who Needs A Wrist Exercise Machine
Almost everyone benefits from having a strong grip. You don't have to be a dock worker to appreciate the usefulness of it; anyone picking up heavy items once in a while uses the wrists and forearms, even if its just carrying groceries from the car. But there are other situations where it is of even greater importance.
Rock climbers are an obvious example. You're hanging on to a sheer cliff hundreds of feet above safe ground. That's not the time when you appreciate lactic acid buildup and hand fatigue. Martial artists and fighters also need strong grips, and may benefit from packing a little more weight into the forearms for added punching power.
The aforementioned bodybuilder is another good example. Since the arms are a package deal, it looks very strange to have the two muscle groups out of sync, just like solid quads and tiny calves scream "amateur".
Business settings are another, perhaps not obvious instance. They say you can tell a lot from someone's handshake, and a person with a weak shake can be subconsciously perceived as less competent and reliable as someone with a strong, confident shake.