How You Can Avoid Wrist Pain From the Bench Press

John asks…

The last 2 weeks I’ve noticed a pain in my wrist following the Bench Press. First time I lifted through it and my wrist hurt for a week. Second time I dropped my last set and it hurt less. Third time I narrowed my Bench Press grip and had no pain.

Do I Bench Press a weight my wrist can take without pain while I strengthen the wrist? Or do I get a wrist brace and keep lifting heavy? I had no wrist pain the last week, but did felt a “warning pain” when I used a wide Bench Press grip last time

Why Your Wrists Hurt. A common error on the Bench Press is gripping the bar high in your hands, close to your fingers. The weight of the bar makes your wrists roll back, stretching them beyond their normal range of motion.

Gripping the bar incorrectly increases the risks of wrists injuries. Your elbows & shoulders are forced to overcompensate, which can also get them injured. Wrists wraps & wrists curls won’t help, you need to grip the bar correctly.

Bench Press Wrists
Left: bad technique, wrist rolls back. Right: correct technique, wrist inline with forearm.

Correct Bench Press Grip Technique.
Your wrists must stay inline with your forearms on the Bench Press. The only way to do this is to put the bar in the palm of your hand, close to your wrist.

Picture below. The bar is close to the fingers on the left. Notice the pink: the fingers can’t wrap completely around the bar. The solution is to put the bar close to your wrists like on the right.

Left: bad technique, bar close to fingers. Right: correct technique, bar close to wrists.

How to Grip the Bar Correctly.
Your fingers support the bar on the Bench Press. But they don’t control the bar. Your thumbs do. This is safer on your wrists & increases power transfer to the bar.

  • Setup for the Bench Press
  • Put the bar over your palm heels (picture below)
  • Rotate your hands out
  • Hook your thumbs around the bar
  • Wrap your fingers around the bar
  • Squeeze the bar hard so it can’t move in your hand

Bar over Palm Heels

Pain means something is not right: technique, flexibility, posture, … It’s your responsibility to find out what. Never train through the pain.

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