Strong wrists and hands are essential for real physical work. They also tend to store a lot of tension, which the modified aikido stretches below will be helpful in releasing. Rock climbing is an intense workout for your forearms and a very fun way to get outside and get some exercise. For more movements from the Element Training program, click on the figure at left.
Exercises for Strength
Smooth Dowel & Rope Tool
This is the best way I've found to work the forearms from both sides, and is worth the extra effort. Find a thick wooden dowel about two feet long and drill a hole through the middle, so there's a foot of dowel on either side of the hole. Find a smaller piece of wood (about 4" x 1/2" x 1/2") and drill a hole through it like you did with the dowel. Attach the two with about 3 feet of rope, tie up the ends, and thread the smaller piece of wood with the rope attached through the center of a dumbell plate. The tool is now finished.
Stand and hold the sides of the dowel in both hands, with the weight at your feet. Take up the slack in the rope and tighten one hand around it. Bend that hand forward (or backward) at the wrist, thus wrapping the rope around the dowel and lifting the weight. Turn the dowel with one hand, relax the other hand and bring it around, then tighten and turn with the other hand in three distinct steps. When you run out of rope lower the weight slowly and start again.
Barbell Wrist Curls
Load some plates in the center of a dumbell bar without the handle, like so --||||--. Sit down and anchor the backs of your forearms against your thighs, with your wrist and hand over the edge. Now hold the ends of the bar and bend your wrist up and down to lift the weight. Try releasing and grasping and releasing a little with the fingers as you curl up and down. When you're done reverse the curl by placing the fronts of your forearms against your thighs. Either way, use a light weight and pay attention to your wrist.
Backs of the Hands
Stand facing a wall and place the backs of your fingers against it. Step your feet back farther to increase the difficulty, then lift your wrists followed by your knuckles off of the wall and repeat.
Walking Forearm Exercise
You can do some simple forearm exercises while you walk, by adding resistance against your fingers (front or back) with one hand, and overcoming that resistance with the other. It's best to bend both the fingers and the wrist.
Stretches for Flexibility
Fourfold Forearm Stretch
Stand up and place the back of your upper arm against your ribcage, with the forearm extended forward. (One) Turn the palm up and close the hand, and use the assisting hand to bend the wrist up and towards you. Hold the wrist in this position as you bend and extend at the elbow. (Two) Rotate the wrist 180° and once again, hold with the assisting hand as you bend and extend at the elbow. Repeat parts one and two on the other arm, then return to the first arm for three and four. (Three) From the starting position, turn the palm up and use the assisting hand to pull down and back on the fingers. To even out the stretch, use the assisting thumb to push up and forward behind the stretching hand's knuckles. Bend and extend at the elbow once again. (Four) Return to the start and turn your palm downward. Pull up and back on the fingers, even out the stretch with the assisting thumb, and bend and extend as before.
Finishing the Fourfold Stretch
From the third position with elbow bent, lift the stretching arm's elbow into the crook of the assisting arm's. Tuck the stretching hand's thumb under your chin and gently lower your head to deepen an already deep stretch.
Place your hands in a prayer position in front of you. Push with the bottom knuckles of one hand to bend the other at the wrist; then push with each finger of the first hand, stretching each finger of the second hand to its individual limit.
Prayer Stretch Behind the Back
Touch your palms together behind your back pointing downward. Then rotate your praying hands until they point upward, and lift them up to between your shoulder blades. This is a difficult stretch that also involves the rotator cuff and must not be forced. Grasping opposite elbows behind your back is an easier stretch that has much the same effect.
One-Handed Stretch Behind the Back
Touch the lengths of your fingers together behind your bottom, perpendicular to each other. One palm will be facing your body; turn that palm down and outward, as you pull up on its fingers with the assisting hand.
Static Holds for Endurance
Various Hand Isometrics
Do any form of push-up from your fingertips. Transition from a split-legged standing forward bend to a six-point stretch, without losing the stretch in the inner thighs, supporting yourself on one or both hands as you lower yourself down. Finally, hold a tennis ball or anything that fits well in your hand and squeeze it for a long period of time, thus strengthening your grip.