Building and maintaining strength is a challenge under any circumstances, but when you're suffering from a broken wrist, that challenge gets even harder. You might be tempted to forego upper body training completely and just work on your lower body or switch to cardio, but with a carefully tweaked program, you can still maintain your upper body strength. Just make sure you check everything with your health care provider before stepping foot back in the gym.
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The Pain Game
It may sound obvious, but avoid anything that causes pain. Your doctor or physical therapist should be able to advise you further on warning signs to look out for when training, but avoiding pain is a good bet. Should your wrist hurt in any way, cease the exercise you're doing immediately and move on to something else.
Rise of the Machines
Machines that don't require you to use your gripping muscles are highly useful when training around a broken or fractured wrist, notes strength coach Courtenay Schurman of Body Results in Seattle. Pec deck flyes are a good option along with machine lateral raises, as both place the stress on your upper arms, not your wrists. You may also be able to do a little work with a resistance band to work your upper-back. Try pull-aparts by tying the ends of a resistance band around your forearms instead of using your hands. Hold your arms out in front of you at chest height and pull your arms apart while squeezing your shoulder blades together.
Reps Over Weight
Rather than trying to shift huge loads and make gains with regard to how much weight you're lifting, concentrate on increasing your repetitions. Heavy weights and short sets of six reps or fewer builds maximum strength. By going lighter and lifting for sets of 12 to 20 reps, you might not increase maximal strength by much, but you will boost your strength endurance. Lighter training is also less risky and places less stress on your joints.
Get Your Best Side
Placing more emphasis on your uninjured side is another way to keep progressing in the gym. You may be worried about creating imbalances between arms, but many athletes already suffer from imbalances, according to Boston-based trainer Eric Cressey. If you've injured your stronger wrist, then use your recovery time as an opportunity to bring the weaker side up to par. Perform exercises like dumbbell rows, lat pull-downs and dumbbell shoulder or chest presses with one arm.