Penmanship Workouts: Exercises To Keep Your Hand In Shape

As we grow older and rely more on typing and texting, it becomes easy to forget about the importance of handwriting. However, keeping your handwriting skills sharp provides many benefits for adults. Handwriting engages the brain in a unique way that improves motor skills, memory, creativity, and concentration. It also allows for more effective note taking, quicker documentation, and personal expression. Maintaining legible penmanship helps convey professionalism and attention to detail in communications. Additionally, handwriting notes or letters shows care and connectedness in relationships. While digital communication has its place, preserving the ability to write clearly by hand remains a valuable skill with lifelong utility.

According to research, handwriting stimulates the brain more deeply than typing. The coordination of the hand and brain to form letters, words, and sentences boosts neuron activity and leads to improved recall and learning capabilities ( Adults who keep practicing handwriting will reap cognitive rewards while preserving an artform that technology cannot truly replace.

Warm Up Exercises

Before starting any handwriting practice, it’s important to warm up the hands and fingers to prevent cramps or fatigue. Here are some simple exercises to get ready:

  • Finger stretches – Gently stretch each finger back towards the wrist and hold for 5-10 seconds. Spread fingers wide and bring them back together in a fist. Repeat 2-3 times per hand.
  • Wrist rolls – Slowly roll wrists clockwise and counter-clockwise 5-10 times each.
  • Shaking hands out – Let arms hang loose and shake hands vigorously for 10-15 seconds to relax muscles.

According to research, warm up exercises improve dexterity and get blood flowing to prevent stiffness. Starting handwriting practice with a proper warm up can also reduce pain or discomfort during writing tasks. Be sure to warm up for 1-2 minutes before intensive writing sessions. See this source for examples of hand warm ups.

Strength Exercises

Strengthening the muscles in the hand and fingers can help improve handwriting and fine motor skills. Some effective strength exercises include:

Squeezing exercise balls or play dough helps build strength in the hands and fingers. Have children repeatedly squeeze soft balls or roll small pieces of dough into balls. This engages the muscles used for writing and develops strength and dexterity. According to Hand Strengthening Activities by The OT Toolbox, “the repeated squeezing motions help to build up hand and forearm muscles” (source).

Finger push-ups are another great strength exercise. Have kids spread their fingers wide and press the palms together. Then have them push the palms together as hard as they can for 5-10 seconds before releasing. This engages all the small muscles in the fingers and hands. According to Axes Physical Therapy, finger push-ups are one exercise to “help strengthen intrinsic muscles of the hand” (source).

Dexterity Exercises

Dexterity exercises train the small muscles in your hands to make precise movements. Improving dexterity can strengthen your hands and fingers for better penmanship control. Here are some helpful dexterity exercises:

Tracing shapes and letters is an easy dexterity exercise. Use a pencil to slowly trace outlines of shapes or letters on paper. Focus on keeping your lines smooth and accurate. Start with simple shapes like circles and squares, then advance to more complex shapes and uppercase letters. You can also trace along dotted lines.

Connecting dots is another useful dexterity drill. Draw or print out pages with numbered dots scattered around. Take a pencil and connect the dots in sequence by drawing lines between them. Try to keep the pencil on the paper for the entire line. Go slow and work on controlling the pencil precisely from dot to dot.[1]

These exercises activate the small muscles in the hand and fingers, helping to build strength and fine motor control. With regular practice, tracing shapes and connecting dots can lead to noticeable dexterity improvements ideal for better writing and penmanship skills.


Writing Drills

Writing drills involve practicing writing individual letters, words and sentences. When practicing letter drills, trace over letters multiple times to get the motions down and build muscle memory in the hand and arm. Focus on your trouble letters. For example, practice lowercase f and t repeatedly if you struggle with getting the loops right (Source).

Word drills involve writing the same word over and over. Start with simple words and move to more complex words. Trace the words carefully to master the letter shapes and transitions between letters. Increase the speed as you get more comfortable writing the word (Source).

Sentence writing drills help reinforce letter shapes, spacing and flow. Copy sentences that incorporate challenging letter combinations to improve dexterity. Start with simple sentences, then advance to more complex sentences with longer words. Make sure to focus on proper letter formation, even spacing between words, and consistent slant and size of letters (Source).

Writing Activities

Writing activities provide a fun and engaging way to keep your penmanship skills sharp. Here are some ideas:

Journaling is a great writing exercise. Keep a daily or weekly journal to reflect on your thoughts and experiences. Make journaling a habit by setting aside a regular time to write. Use your nicest pen and stationary to make it feel special.

Writing letters to friends and loved ones also exercises your handwriting. The personal touch of a handwritten letter shows more care than an email or text. Try establishing a regular letter writing routine, such as writing to a different friend each Sunday.

Creative writing exercises flex your imagination while keeping your writing nimble. Try doing a 10 minute free write every day on whatever topic inspires you, writing a short poem on a seasonal theme, or coming up with a fictional story based on an interesting photo or first line. Look online for creative writing prompts if you need inspiration.

Check out these resources for more ideas on journaling and creative writing exercises for adults: Indigo Blog on Creative Writing, Authority Publishing Creative Writing.

Writing Tools

Using the right writing tools can help improve handwriting. When it comes to pens and pencils, try using ones with triangular grips or soft, cushiony grips as they position the fingers properly for writing and prevent fatigue (Fine Motor Tools for Handwriting Development). Weighted pens and pencils provide sensory input and stability for better control. Look for pencils and pens with grips made of rubber or foam. TheHandwriting Grips & Tools from Handwriting Without Tears provide a variety of options.

For paper, use lined paper with midline dashes to guide letter size and consistency. Raised line paper provides tactile feedback. Colored paper or tinted transparent overlays can reduce visual stress for some individuals. Try different textures like smooth, glossy, or matte to find what works best (5 Tools to Encourage Good Handwriting).

Writing Posture

Proper posture is crucial for good handwriting and avoiding hand fatigue or strain. When sitting at a desk or table, it’s important to have your chair at the right height. Your thighs should be parallel to the floor and your feet flat on the floor. If your chair is too high, your shoulders and arms will be strained reaching down to write. If it’s too low, you’ll hunch over causing back, neck and shoulder pain.

Sit up straight with your head level. Bring your elbows in to rest lightly at your sides. Scoot close enough to the desk so your forearms can rest gently on the surface, keeping wrists straight. Don’t slouch or lean over the page. Maintain good upright posture from head to toe to allow your hand and arm to move freely across the page.

Position the paper at an angle between 20-35 degrees. Place it on the writing side so you don’t have to twist your arm. Many recommend angling the paper so that the bottom right corner points to your dominant writing hand. This helps keep the forearm straight and relaxed. Use a book stand if needed to prop up the paper.

Take breaks periodically to stretch and correct your posture. Sitting for too long hunched over can strain muscles. Get up and move around to relieve tension.

Ensuring proper posture setup keeps your body relaxed and comfortable for optimal handwriting.

Stretching Cool Down

Following penmanship workouts, it is important to do some gentle stretching of the hands, wrists, and fingers to cool down. Here are some simple stretches that can help relax muscles after writing or typing for extended periods:

Finger stretch: Stand or sit with one arm straight out in front of you. Use your other hand to gently bend each finger back until you feel a stretch. Hold for 10-30 seconds. Repeat on the other hand. This helps stretch the muscles between the knuckles. 1

Wrist flexor stretch: Extend one arm straight out in front of you with the palm facing down. Use the other hand to gently pull back the fingers until you feel a stretch in the wrist and palm. Hold for 10-30 seconds and release. Repeat on the other hand.1

Wrist extensor stretch: Extend one arm straight out in front of you with palm facing up. Use your other hand to gently push the fingers back until you feel a stretch on the top of the wrist and hand. Hold for 10-30 seconds. Repeat on the other hand. This stretches the extensor muscles used in writing and typing.2

Perform these simple stretches after writing or typing to give your hands a break and keep them limber and pain-free.


In summary, keeping your handwriting skills sharp provides many benefits. Handwriting boosts memory and retention more than typing, as writing by hand utilizes more regions of the brain. The focused attention and fine motor skills involved in handwriting also aid cognition. Handwriting helps students better organize notes and concepts. Practicing handwriting exercises and activities enhances dexterity and coordination. Developing good penmanship instills confidence and allows for clearer communication and expression. In a digital age, maintaining writing by hand retains an ability that grounds our thinking and enhances learning. The creative, tangible process of handwriting remains a valuable skill with lifelong advantages.

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