You’re gearing up for an intense few hours of play.
Food – check.
Drinks – check.
You pick up your controller. Then it hits you, that familiar cramping of the wrist, the dull ache in your fingers.
Much like any activity where you are using your hands for long periods of time, like typing and playing certain sports, holding and using a game controller or keyboard for a prolonged period of time can put stress on your wrists, hands, and fingers.
Whether you are gearing up for an intense few hours of play or are just resting in between matches, here are some hand stretches to keep you gaming at your best. Since we all tend to game on different platforms, the stretches you should focus on will differ. For PC players, wrist exercises will help maintain a full range of motion while finger and hand exercises will allow you to reach and hit all the keys. For consoles, clutching the controller can result in tension in your hands, so it’s important to focus on hand and finger exercises. Again, for console players, you should also place particular focus on your thumbs and their connected joint, known as the basal joint.
Hands & Fingers
You may have seen assorted people using stress balls as a way to calm down, but the act of gripping and squeezing something in your hand can stretch out those muscles. You don’t need to exclusively use a stress ball to get the benefits – rolled-up towels, tennis balls, and even small stuffed animals can do the trick.
Simply squeeze your chosen object in one hand, hold it for a couple of seconds, release it, then repeat. When you have done a few repetitions, switch to your other hand and repeat the process. This basic exercise improves circulation within your hands, reducing potential pain, numbness, and muscle cramps.
There are even certain handheld objects that are designed to help increase circulation using different fillings, such as iron, inside the ball/object itself, providing more resistance.
Stretch Your Fingers
This exercise is perfect for between-game breaks to relieve tension out of your fingers and thumbs. Fully open your hand, keeping each finger apart. Using your other hand, lightly push each individual finger back until you feel it begin to stretch.
Don’t push it so far that it causes you pain, just enough to make your finger muscles feel loose and limber. You may hear your fingers crack while you do this but that is just gas from the synovial fluid escaping from your joints. Make sure to repeat this for your other hand.
To further this, you can interlock all of your fingers, with your palms facing your body. Using your fingers, push your palms towards your body; you may hear your fingers and knuckles crack.
Place your hand palm down on a level surface, ensuring that your hand and all of your fingers remain flat. Staring from either your pinky or your thumb, gently lift a single finger while keeping the rest flat. Lift your finger as far as it will go without hurting yourself – you should be feeling a nice stretch in your hand and fingers. Lower it and repeat with the rest of your fingers.
When all of your fingers have been individually stretched, gently lift all of them at once, still keeping your palm flat. Do the same exercise on your other hand. The purpose of this exercise is to not only relieve tension in your hand but to increase the flexibility and dexterity of your fingers. This can help you achieve those quick reaction times and game-saving plays.
Particularly for PC gamers, the more flexible your fingers are, the faster and easier you can reach certain keys. Think of a piano player where they are able to play five or six horizontal keys from one position, just by stretching their fingers. Flexibility is something that will develop over time but you’ll need to keep your fingers loose and relaxed to be able to stretch during play.
To that end, the Finger Fan will help increase your flexibility, allowing you to reach the required keys or buttons quicker. To do the Finger Fan, you first need to form your hand into a fist. Slowly stretch your fingers outwards, as far as they can go. Hold that position, then slowly form a fist again. Repeat for a total of five finger fan stretches before doing five on your other hand.
Making A Fist
This is another exercise great for those short moments in between games and you may have been done something similar in the past. Take your hand and open it as wide as you can, feel your fingers and hands stretch out – hold that position.
Now, close your hand into a fist, squeezing it until you can feel a light tension – again, hold that position. Continue doing this for at least ten repetitions on each hand. This exercise promotes better circulation in your hands, especially important if you have been gripping a controller, or using a keyboard for long periods of time.
Particularly prevalent for console gamers, the thumb is one of the driving forces behind gaming success. Since it does get some heavy use, it is important to stretch out, and take care of, your thumbs.
Hold your hand out palm up and push your thumb across your hand using your lower thumb joint. Hold this for a few seconds, relax your hand, then push your thumb across your hand again. Repeat with your other hand.
How to strengthen your wrists
This is an exercise you can do on its own or with light dumbbells. Much like stretching before and after a gym workout, it’s important to work your wrist muscles through their full range of motion.
Place your arm out straight, resting it on a bench or other object if needed. Make a fist, and start by moving your hand down, then up, using the wrist joint. Do not move your arm or the exercise is ineffective. Repeat this process at least ten times on each hand. Follow this by doing circular rotations of your wrist to ensure a full stretch.
Straight Arm Stretch
Make sure you have a little bit of room in front of you for this one as it involves a fully extended arm. To start, you want to extend and hold your arm at shoulder height, holding your hand up like you are telling someone to stop. Your hand should be at 90 degrees to your arm.
Place your other hand along the top of your extended hand and gently pull back towards you. You should be able to feel your wrist and a little bit of your arm begin to stretch. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, then relax your arm for 5 seconds. Gently pull back again, hold for 30 seconds, then release.
On the same arm, you want to get into the same position, with your hand 90 degrees to your arm but this time have your fingers pointing down. Your palm should be facing you. Using your other hand, place it against the base of your outstretched hand, just under your wrist. Gently push your hand towards your body until you feel it begin to stretch. If you are feeling pain, readjust and try again. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, then relax your arm.
Repeat this exercise on your other arm.
Cross Arm Stretch
It is important to remember to stretch your shoulders after and during prolonged gaming sessions. As you sit, holding a controller, or using a keyboard, your shoulders tend to become bunched up and the muscles can tighten.
For maximum effectiveness start this exercise either sitting up straight or standing. Starting with your dominant arm, let’s say right arm, hold it out straight, then slowly move it across your body, resting it behind your left shoulder. Take your left arm, place it behind your right elbow, and push your arm gently further over your shoulder.
You should start to feel your upper right arm and your shoulder begin to stretch. Push your arm as far as it can go without causing pain and hold it for 30 seconds. Release and gently lower your arms to your sides. Repeat with your other arm.
Ear To Shoulder
A simple exercise, all you need to do is sit or stand up straight, and tilt your head to either the left or right like you are trying to touch your ear to your shoulder. Go as far as you can without raising your shoulder. You should feel a nice stretch in your neck and shoulder regions. This will loosen up tight and knotted muscles.
There you have it, a few quick exercises you can do, to ensure your gaming sessions are long, happy, and filled with glory.