Hand Exercises for Writers: Protecting Your Hands from Writing Related Injury and Stress

Why do writers need to do hand exercises? How many times a day do you hit an individual keyboard key? Move a mouse or swipe a tracking pad? Type on a touchscreen? Hold a mobile device or book? Write with a pen?

Lost count, right?

The hands are the writer’s outlet. For most of us, our hands are the connection from mind to words. Beside our brains, our writer’s hands are our most precious body part. They’re often also our most overlooked body part when it comes to health and exercise.

It’s a shame we can’t walk into a gym and see a hand exercise station next to the leg press machine or the peck deck. Our front paws really do need their own specific workouts and stretches for strengthening, stretching and recovery.

The fitter our hands the better we’re able to write – ok, so maybe that’s more in a quantitative sense. But not having sore hands and wrists will also mean a better focus on the work. And that will make us better writers in a qualitative sense too.

Hand Exercises for Writers p

Hand Exercises for Writers –Strength

This series of hand strength building exercises comes from Breaking Muscle. They were developed by Dr Levi Harrison, an Orthopaedic surgeon from California who specialises in sports related upper body issues and hand rehabilitation.

These exercises all require slow, careful and precise movement so make sure to use a small weight that you can control easily. Increase your weight as you increase your hand strength.

  • Hold a fist for 30 seconds. Release your fingers and stretch them out as far as you can, holding for 30 seconds. Repeat for 2 sets.
  • With your elbows straight, but not locked, flex your wrist inwards and hold for 30 seconds. Now extend your wrist and hold for 30 seconds.
  • Grip a small weight (small is relative so pick something really light, 500g to 1kg to start and increase from there until you know your limits) and sit, back straight, with forearms resting on thighs, thumbs pointing up. Move the weight, using only your wrists, as if you were wielding a hammer. Move slowly through 20 reps, 3 times.
  • Now repeat the same thing, except this time take the seated position with your palms facing up as you grip the weight. Curl your wrist up slowly for 3 sets of 20 reps. Your wrists should be about 3 inches away from your knee. Now do the opposite, extending your wrist down for another 20 reps, three times.
  • Take your small weight and sit with your palms up, forearms and wrists resting on thighs. Let the weight roll down to the tips of your fingers and then curl your fingers back to grip the weight securely.

Hand Exercises for Writers – Flexibility

Every bit of our body benefits from a good stretch and hands are no different. There are roughly a gazillion different hand and wrist stretches out there, these are my favourites and the ones I’ve worked into my daily routine.

This one comes from Nutritious Movement.

Place the backs of your hands together, with all fingers and thumbs touching, forearms parallel to the floor. Lightly interweave your fingers and lower your wrists. Feels good, no?

Here’s another hand stretch I discovered through Kangaroo Fitness while dealing with carpal tunnel when I was pregnant. Pregnancy and carpal tunnel long gone, I still use this hand stretch every day to keep things fluid.

Hold your forearm out, palm facing up, elbow tucked into your sides. Splay your fingers, without overstretching them and, with a finger from your opposite hand, pull each finger downward. With your thumbs, extend your thumb horizontally until you’re making a 90 degree angle to your index finger.

Hand Exercises for Writers – Recovery

Just like our bigger muscles need time off from the gym, our hands need to rest in order to recover and strengthen.

Set a time point in the day that marks the end of typing. For most of us, this is going to be the end of the working day, so probably early evening. If you’re a night writer, then it might be early morning.

In an ideal situation this would be a time for complete rest for your hands, but unless you’re going to be doing absolutely nothing once you’ve finished work – no cooking, no playing, no cleaning, no gym – then it’s impossible. Still, try to aim for a space of 12 hours without hitting the keyboard. If you still need to write during this recovery time, handwrite with pen or paper, use dictation or use some other input device like a touchscreen. The idea is to take a break from your usual action and strain and give your hands a chance to move differently, preferably without any impact or force.

Perhaps you have your own regime of hand exercises that help you in your daily work. I’d love to hear about them.

Kate Krake
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Kate Krake

Kate Krake writes speculative fiction and non-fiction. She is the author of the urban fantasy series Guessing Tales. Kate blogs about popular culture, health, wellness and creative writing. She lives in Brisbane, Australia with her husband, daughter and two beagles. Find out more on www.katekrake.com.
Kate Krake
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