FlexBar Exercises to Strengthen the Wrists and Forearms

To complement the MASSAGE Magazine article, “Yoga Keeps Massage Therapists Flexible,” by Leslie Kaminoff, the July 2011 issue. Article summary: To the author, yoga is all about finding the spaces: in between the muscles, within the joints and especially in the breath.

by Teresa M. Matthews, L.M.T.

As massage therapists, we work with our hands daily—and on many occasions, for long periods of time. The constant overuse and necessary repetitive motions needed in our profession undoubtedly put us at risk for wrist injury.

Injuries such as tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome can develop over time, and can prove to be both painful and crippling to our longevity in this profession. With proper self-care and strength training, we can minimize and possibly eliminate the risk of these hand, wrist and forearm injuries developed from our occupational overuse.

A flexible resistance bar is a great tool for helping the massage therapist minimize the risk of injury. It is designed specifically to strengthen your hands, wrists and forearms—muscles that are extremely important to a massage career. In performing a beneficial massage on our clients, it is obvious we are continually using our hands, wrists and forearms and we need to make self-care a number one priority to ourselves and our career.

We not only use these muscles to do our work, but also in our everyday life, such as using a computer or lifting groceries. Being strong undoubtedly helps one in carrying out day-to-day activities. The flexion-and-extension wringing movement involved in using a flexible resistance bar can easily strengthen our forearms, hands and wrists.

Radial and ulnar deviation will give us the added edge in our performance. As we become stronger in this movement, the work we do with our thumbs or the heel of our hand becomes more efficient. It will give us the ability to keep our wrists straight, preventing injury.

There are a number of good reasons why massage therapists should strength train; unfortunately, we don’t spend enough time doing beneficial wrist-strengthening exercises. I use a flexible resistance bar a minimum of just a few minutes a day, three days per week, to keep my wrists and forearms strong.

A flexible resistance bar is an easy, effective and convenient tool for our hands, wrists and forearms. Strengthening the joints, tendons and muscles in these areas will not only improve your performance as a massage therapist, but will also help prevent painful and long-lasting injuries.  

Teresa M. Matthews, L.M.T., C.P.T., is the owner of the Arlington School of Massage and Personal Training in Jacksonville, Florida. She uses a Thera-Band FlexBar for the exercises described above (www.thera-band.com). She is a world champion athlete with more than 25 years in the fitness industry. Matthews is the Florida State Massage Therapy Association’s 2009 Sports Massage Therapist of the Year and the Florida Chiropractic Association’s 2010 Massage Therapist of the Year. She is the president and founder of Health, Wellness & Fitness Professionals Inc. For more information, call (904) 745-1688.

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