Monday, January 28, 2008

Wrist Twists

Musicians often neglect the importance of their physical health. I have many friends who have suffered preventable injuries that have had a big negative effect on their playing. For me, my wrists have often bother me and in my plain painful (and as a result on enjoyable). One "cure" I found has been yoga. Particular positions (e.g., downward dog, back bending) give opportunities for your wrist open up and stretch. This builds muscles and flexibility which can prevent the repetitive strain injuries.

Jason Heath recently referred to a post by Denson Angulo in which the following exercise was presented:

step 1: Extend your arms in front of you with your palms facing out (wrists bent up/back) lock the elbows

step 2: make fists as hard as you can squeeze

step 3: open your hands as ‘hard’ as you can. fully extend the fingers.

step 4: repeat steps 2 & 3 as fast as you can for as long as you can…

i doubt many people here can go past 1 minute without wanting to cry.

this will strengthen and stretch muscles and strengthen the insertion points of your tendons….

I was able to do this for about 45 seconds. However, it seems to me that this is the wrong kind of exercise to be building flexibility as it seems to create a workout for the tendons (and some associated muscles) and opens the risk for excessive strain.

Here are the exercises that I do and recommend to others. They focus on stretching the rest in building flexibility: The first is to hold your arms out to the side creating a straight line from one wrist to the other (i.e., arms held out to be in line with the shoulders). Move the hands so they face vertically (perpendicular to the wrists) and hold them there for three breaths. Then counterbalanced the stretch by making the fingers face downwards (again perpendicular to the wrists) and hold this for another three breaths. This not only flexes the wrist but also opens up muscles throughout the arm (in particular the armpit) which are important for rotation and movement of the whole arm (something I encourage when playing pizzicato or slapping).

The second stretch was suggested to me by yoga instructor. Sit on your knees with your hands on the floor, hands turned outward so that the fingers are pointing towards the knees. Your hands should be about 1 foot in front of your knees. Pushing your palms down and keeping your back straight, pull your hips back. This pulls back your whole torso and opens and stretches the wrists. Do this for a count of five breaths and then repeat the posture with the wrists stacked, palms up, fingers facing the knees. This reverses the stretch and builds/stretches muscles in the top of the forearm. This stretch has worked great for me and, when space and decorum permit, I try to do this before the start of each gig.

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