The bench press is a compound movement that trains the upper body muscles. It’s excellent for building strength and size; therefore, adding it to your upper body training days is crucial.
However, many people complain of experiencing wrist pain during the exercise. We’re here to tell you everything you need to know about wrist pain while benching and how to deal with it.
Why Does My Wrist Hurt When Bench Pressing?
There are a few reasons you may be experiencing a painful sensation while lifting the barbell overhead. First, you may be lifting more weight than you can handle at the moment. Keep in mind, good form should be your first priority — not the amount of weight you can lift. Reduce the amount you’re benching and see whether the discomfort in the wrists persists.
A wide grip on the barbell can be at fault as well. Bring your grip inwards, so your hands are in line with your shoulders.
Another placement mistake many beginners make is using a thumbless grip. Placing your thumbs on the bar can give you more support and take some of the strain off your wrists.
Furthermore, stop resting the bar at the base of your fingers. Instead, the barbell should rest lower down on the palm. In addition to this, you also want to avoid bending your wrists too far back when pushing the weight upwards. This position is a recipe for bad wrist pain and potential sprains.
What are the Symptoms of a Wrist Injury?
If you are lifting with great form but still find that your wrists are aching after exercising, you may have suffered a serious injury. Here are a few ways to differentiate between momentary pain, soreness, and injury.
Momentary pain should vanish within a few minutes to half an hour. Soreness can last somewhere between one to three days. However, if you find that you’re still in pain for five days, contact a doctor. Furthermore, other signs to look out for include:
- Pain lasting for a week or longer
- Swelling of the inflicted area
- Warmth around the injury
- Tenderness when moving the wrist
- Feeling the wrist ‘popping’ out of place
- Loss of motion
- Significance decrease in strength
If this applies to you, seek medical attention immediately. You may have one of three grade-level sprains. Grade I: includes pain with no major or long-term damage done to the ligament.
Grade II sprains involve some pain, with more damage done to the ligaments. In addition, you’ll experience some loss of function.
Finally, a Grade III sprain involves a completely torn ligament, severe looseness of the joint, and complete loss of function.
Causes Of Wrist Pain When Bench Pressing
The wrist links the forearm and hand. It’s a complex and useful part of the body that assists you in daily motion and exercise. It moves in five ways: flexion, extension, radial deviation, circumduction, and ulnar deviation.
When the wrist is placed in excessive flexion or extension, this can cause pain, swelling, and discomfort. Adding excess weight can cause an even more serious injury.
Things You Can do to Eliminate Wrist Pain
If your wrists are in severe pain, take some time off from the gym. Rest the ligaments for 24 to 48 hours and see if the injury improves.
Additionally, try putting ice on the afflicted area to calm the swelling and pain. Ice it for three hours every day until the pain subsides.
Use a Bandage
You can also compress the wrist with a bandage. Wrapping is a great method for short term and quick relief, as it reduces the swelling fast. Elevate your wrist as well. You can put it on a pillow and but your feet up. Rest for a couple of hours until the swelling has gone down.
Medication to Cut Inflammation
If none of these methods provides you with relief, take some over the counter painkillers like Advil or Aleve. However, don’t rely on these meds every time you feel some discomfort from benching. While they effectively cut down on swelling, they also have side effects that include ulcers and internal bleeding.
Use these medications occasionally unless instructed by your doctor.
Learn Common Bench Press Mistakes
Bench properly, and you shouldn’t have an issue. Avoid these common mistakes many gym beginners tend to make.
Don’t use a thumbless grip
When you use a thumbless grip, you only use a few fingers on the bar. When in the bench press starting position, wrap all five fingers around the bar. Using the entire hand helps secure the bar during the movement. Not only is this grip more comfortable, but it’s also safer. Additionally, when using a thumbless grip, you’re not engaging all of your muscles correctly. This mistake can harm more than simply your wrists.
Lifting feet in the air
Refrain from letting your feet lift while benching. They should be anchored to the ground to give you more support. Lifting and flailing your legs can cause more strain on the lower back, and of course, the wrists.
Check grip width
Your grip may also be too wide. Try a narrower grip and see if the pain persists. When you use a wider grip, the barbell doesn’t move as far out as compared to a neutral grip.
If your wrists are unengaged, this can cause an uneven distribution of power. When moving a heavy object, you don’t push using relaxed wrists. The same should go for when you’re lifting a barbell.
Use a different grip – bulldog grip
Certain exercises can be modified to work for you. The bench press is definitely one of them. Try using a different grip if the standard feels awkward or uncomfortable. The bulldog grip is one such popular variation. It has this name due to the slight rotation of your hands on the barbell. They resemble the feet of this popular dog breed!
For this grip, memorise these cues.
The barbell must sit at the fleshiest part of your palm, directly over your radius bone. Also, remember this grip by thinking of your wrists stacked on top of the elbows.
For a step by step process, follow these tips.
- Grasp the barbell and use a standard position.
- Then, rotate your hands inwards slightly. Your thumbs should be on the bar but tilt towards the ground.
- Ensure the barbell is close to the end of the palm — the meatiest part of the hand.
- Tuck the elbows so they are positioned underneath the wrists.
- Rest the fingers on the bar loosely. Don’t wrap them around the barbell fully, as this disrupts the rotation needed to complete the movement.
- Make sure there is a slight gap between the fingertips and the barbell.
- Begin the movement — press upwards with this grip to start the rep.
There are several benefits of the bulldog grip. For instance, this grip gives your upper body more leverage, allowing you to utilise more of your power and strength. You also protect your wrists better, decreasing the likelihood of injury.
If you’re struggling with this new grip, implement the new habit slowly. Warm-up with no weights on the bar, and practice rotating your hands while keeping the metal of the barbell in line with the radius bone. Then, little by little, start adding weight throughout the week.
Dumbbell Bench Press
Maybe the barbell bench press isn’t for you. This doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the benefits of benching. You can modify the exercise to suit you. Swap the barbell out for two dumbbells instead. This method can help stabilise your wrists by keeping them in a neutral position.
Incline Bench Press
Furthermore, you can also try switching to an incline bench press modification. The incline of the bench can help the exercise feel more natural. Set the bench at a 15 or 30-degree incline for the most comfortable position.
Wrist wraps can offer you additional support to make the bench press a more comfortable exercise. Though commonly confused with lifting straps, note that these are different fitness accessories. Lifting straps are made to offer support when deadlifting, whereas wraps will stabilise the flexors of the wrist, so you don’t have to worry about them caving when lifting heavy weights over your head.
Keep in mind, you don’t want to become too dependant on the wraps, as this method can cause your wrists to grow weaker over time.
Take a normal rubber band and stretch it around your fingers and thumb. Next, open and close it around your fingers, working the muscles in your hands and tendons in your wrists.
When You Should See a Doctor
If you have implemented proper form and find that your wrists continue to hurt, seek medical attention. Make sure to see a doctor if your wrist or wrists are swollen, burning, bruised, or red. You should also see a doctor if the pain refuses to go away after two weeks. This level is considered acute pain and should be examined by a medical professional.
Furthermore, if you have lost sensation in your wrist, see a doctor right away.
How Do You Strengthen Your Wrists?
Train your wrists to withstand more weight, so you won’t have to worry about experiencing that painful sensation during this crucial lift. Implementing mobility and flexibility exercises can also cure weak wrists.
Try these exercises at home.
Strengthen Your Grip
Strengthening your grip is a key way to improve your wrist and forearm strength. Shop for a hand gripper and perform this exercise a few times throughout the day. Grasp the handle of the gripper and squeeze as hard as you can. Release, and repeat this ten times before switching hands. Ensure just your hand is moving, and not your entire arm. Try to keep your arm still. Adjust the tension on your hand gripper as your strength improves. You can also upgrade to a gripper with more tension.
Try using a resistance band to improve the strength of your wrists. Several movements can help improve your flexibility as well. First, loop your foot around one end of a resistance band. Next, grab onto the other end with your hand, palm facing upward. Finally, bend your wrist upward and relax it. Repeat this motion ten times on each hand.
While the gym may not have the equipment to strengthen your wrists, here’s a safe and effective way you can utilise a dumbbell to train the joints connecting your arm and forearm. Start by holding a one kg dumbbell in one hand. Next, rest your elbow and forearm on a bench, table, or chair. Your palm should face the ceiling. Next, allow your wrist to drop down towards the ground. Then, bring it back upwards, so it’s levelled with the table your elbow is resting on. Repeat this motion on both hands for 15 repetitions.
Yoga Poses and Stretches
There are also certain yoga poses that stretch and strengthen this area of your body. For example, in the morning, run through a sequence of the following yoga poses.
Practice clenching your fists, holding the pose, and releasing. Do this as many times as you need to stretch the tendons.
Cow Face Pose
Sit with your legs crossed on the floor. Reach for one hand with the other, placing both arms behind your back. Hold this for 30 seconds and switch hands.
Press the back of your hand, palms facing towards your body, against a wall. Create a stretch, hold this position, relax, and switch hands. Repeat until your wrists no longer feel tight.
Hands At Heart Centre
Place your palms together and bring them towards your centre. Bend them side to side, keeping your palms facing each other.
Start in a kneeling position. Lean back into your heels, keeping your knees apart. Reach forward with your arms. Extend your arms fully. Your palms should be facing down. Feel the stretch in your wrists, forearms, and lower back.
Nutrition can also be a huge factor at play when it comes to wrist pain. Not getting adequate vitamins can cause the joints to grow weak. If you’re still experiencing pain after correcting your form and implementing mobility exercises, look into a nutritional supplement that helps your bones and joints. The supplements should contain glucosamine, omega-3 fatty acids, chondroitin, or curcumin.
The bench press is a phenomenal exercise that can transform your upper body. However, though the exercise is effective, many people experience wrist pain during and after the movement. Thankfully, there are ways to counteract that.However, if you notice the pain is not going away after a few days, consult a doctor, as this can indicate something more serious.
Take care of the smaller parts of the body, like the wrists, to achieve total body health for life.