There are a few ways to minimize wrist pain when lifting. The first one is to strengthen your wrist; then, it’s ensuring that you’re using proper technique and form while also not trying to lift more than you’re able. Lastly, wearing wrist wraps will help you stabilize the wrist and prevent frequent pain and injuries.
Wrist Anatomy During Bench Press
- Flexion is when you turn your wrist inwards, and your knuckles point upwards.
- Extension is when you move your wrist backward, and your fingers are facing the ground.
- Ulnar deviation is the movement you do when you try to shake someone’s hand - the pinky toe is trying to reach the wrist.
- Radial deviation is when you bend your wrist from the side where your thumb is.
- Circumduction happens when you start doing circles with your wrist.
- Starting position
- Lowering phase
- Lifting phase
- End position
In the starting position, you should be lying down on the bench with your feet firmly planted on the ground and your eyes looking up. From there, you should place the bar in the middle of your palm and directly over your forearm so that you can transfer power up the arms and to the bar. Then wrap your fingers around the bar and grasp it with the wrists set under the bar while being shoulder width apart.
From there, unrack the bar, lock the elbows and the wrist and get the bar over your chest. Lower it down until it touches your sternum (the bone in between your pecs).
Lower your bar to your chest, tap it quickly and then quickly drive back to your starting position.
Rack the bar after all reps are made.
If you perform the exercise correctly, the likelihood of you getting a wrist injury from bench press is minimal; however, if not, you may start to experience some bench press wrist pain symptoms.
Common Bench Press Wrist Pain Symptoms
Thumb-side Wrist Pain
You might be noticing pain on the side of your knuckle or palm, and it can range from the occasional throbbing to sharp pain. These types of injuries vary from arthritis to stress fractures in the joint that’s found at the base of the thumb. If you tend to have this type of pain and you notice it gradually increases the more you bench press, then it’s good to consult with a doctor as that might be a sign of arthritis, which is far more common than people believe.
Pinky-side Wrist Pain
In a similar fashion, you might experience pain on the knuckle or palm side. Again, it could be due to a stress fracture, but those are less common than what people believe. It’s more likely to be some kind of a long-term strain, which is common for people who either work with their hands or work out a lot.
Pain Towards the Palm
What is called carpal tunnel syndrome is perhaps the most widespread wrist pain. It can cause numbness that extends from the wrists to the hands or throbbing pain and is caused due too nerves becoming compressed.
Pain at the Back of the Wrist
If you experience this kind of wrist pain, it may be because of long-term bone damage. This is common with people whose job includes loads of heavy lifting, and it’s also more common with powerlifters.
Bench Press Pain Reasons
Placing the Bar on Your Fingers, Instead of Your Palms
If you place the bar too close to your fingers, it can lead to wrist pain while performing the exercise. Your hand has to act as a platform for the bar as you lower it down and bring it back up.
For your hands to become like a platform, you can’t grasp it with the top of your hand as this will put your wrist in an awkward position that’s not aligned with your forearms and is not neutral. As a result of all that, the force of the bar is not transferred to the chest, and some of it is going to your wrists, thus leading to pain.
Using a Thumbless Grip or Just a Few Fingers
In the beginning, you have to wrap your fingers around the bar and then set it correctly on the heels of your hands. In no exercise besides the squat should you ever do a thumbless grip when using free weights.
During bench pressing, your entire hand helps you keep the bar secure, not only so that it doesn’t fall on you but also for lifting efficiency. By not grasping the bar with your whole hand, you are not able to lock your wrist completely, which doesn’t allow you to transmit force to your chest and upper body.
Your Wrists are Too Far Bent Back
You have to remember to keep your hands in a neutral position; if they’re too far back, then some of the force from the bar will get unevenly distributed and lead to more wrist pain.
Your Grip is Too Wide
While grip width is up to your individual preferences, however, you should aim to have a range of motion that includes your forearms being in a vertical position and shoulder width apart. If your grip is too wide, the bar won’t move as far back, and it locks out before your triceps get involved with the movement, meaning that your chest muscles are doing most of the work.
Too Heavy Barbell Weight
If the weight you’re trying to lift is too heavy for you, then you might be lacking strength in your hand and your forearm, which can lead to you being unable to keep the wrist in a neutral and stable position. All that can result in pain and potential injuries.
As a lifter, you should look to progressively overload until you reach a point where your forearms and hand muscles are stronger and thus more able to support the wrist joint. However, that won’t happen in a week or two; you will need to consistently lift for months in order to see proper results.
How to Prevent Bench Press Wrist Pain
Lower the Weight
Often wrist pain or even small injuries can happen due to the fact that you’re lifting a heavier weight than what you can handle. That’s why, if you feel pain while performing the exercise and after, you can try lowering the weight down by 10-20% and see if that improves the situation.
Often beginner lifters try to go for too much weight too soon, and their joints are simply not strong enough to handle the additional weight, so, if you take the weight down and work up to it, you might find that it helps get rid of wrist pain.
Use Wrist Wraps
Wrist wraps are what can help you keep your wrist in a neutral position and they can provide it with additional support during your workouts. What’s vital here is to purchase a high-quality pair that can endure many sessions, and that truly supports the wrist joint. Our recommendation is to go for the Warm Body Cold Body Premium Velcro pair as it's made with great materials, truly tighten and supports the joint, and comes in several different options.
Maintain Proper Form
We’ve already talked a ton about what proper form for bench pressing looks like. When it comes to the wrist, your main focus should be on putting them in a neutral position and gripping the bar correctly. With that said, when lifting, people often tend not to think about form and put their focus on lifting more weight instead. However, if you want to protect yourself from future injuries, you should become one of the exceptions that put more effort into maintaining the correct position than trying to boost your ego by lifting more than you can handle.
What To Do if You Started Feeling Pain in Your Wrist During Bench Press
- Stop the training session and move on to another exercise
- Lower the weight to see if that eliminates the pain and continue the workout by doing more reps with less weight
- Fix your form to see if that causes an improvement
Why Does My Wrist Hurt in Bench Press?
There are several reasons why your wrist might be hurting during the bench press. These include lifting more weight than you can handle and doing so with improper form. Along with that, wrist pain can be caused by stress fractures, arthritis, or other old injuries that are getting inflamed because of the exercise.
How Do I Stop My Wrist from Bending on Bench Press?
You can stop your wrists from bending on the bench press by using the kind of weight that you can handle, locking the elbow and wrist joints, and additionally using wrist wraps that provide further support to your joints.
Should I Wear Wrist Wraps When Benching?
If you experience pain frequently, then wearing wrist wraps when benching might be a great way for you to stabilize the wrist joints, provide them with additional support and potentially eliminate the pain and prevent injuries.
Getting wrist pain when bench pressing is fairly common amongst people who lift heavy and regularly. And if it happens rarely, it shouldn’t really concern you all that much - just try to adjust the weight you’re lifting, your form, and use wrist wraps to give additional security to your joints. However, if you feel sharp pain, you should stop training and consider a visit to the doctor. Having said all of that, we wanted to ask whether you’ve experienced wrist pain during your lifting sessions and if yes, how did you prevent it? Share useful tips and tricks with us in the comments.
- Wrist pain // Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/wrist-pain/symptoms-causes/syc-20366213
My name is Ihor and I have been a professional weightlifter since 1996. With over 20 years of competition experience, my resume includes European Champion in 2009 and the silver medalist at 2011's Senior World Championships – 105kg division.
I competed at the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics.
After hanging up my own competitive lifting shoes, I decided to share my huge background as a coach. I am currently coaching multiple athletes who are competing at national and international competitions.