How to Stop Wrist Pain on Bench Press

Bench Press with straight wrists to stop wrist pain. Don’t let your wrists bend back. The weight will stretch them past their normal range of motion which will hurt. Grip the bar low in your hands, close to your wrists, to stop wrist pain. This is the safest and most effective way to Bench Press.

Wrist wraps can provide relief from wrist pain. But they don’t fix its cause which is almost always bad Bench Press form. Same with wrist curls: they may strengthen your wrists, they don’t fix bad form. Grip the bar properly when you Bench Press before trying anything else to stop wrist pain.

Stop Benching with Bent Wrists

Bench Press Wrists
Your wrists will bend back if you grip the bar too high. This is ineffective and will cause pain. Grip the bar lower in your hands so your wrist stay straight.

Bench Pressing with bent wrists causes wrist pain. It puts the bar behind your wrists instead of above them. Gravity pulls the bar down when you Bench Press. It compresses everything under it and pushes your hands down if your wrists are bent. This stretches your wrists the hard way. The heavier the weight on the bar, the more it will stretch your bent wrists past their normal range of motion. This is what hurts.

Bent wrists also makes the weight harder to Bench Press. The force you generate when you press the bar from your chest can’t go straight into the bar. The bar is behind your forearms when your wrists are bent, not above them. To drive force directly into the bar, you need a straight line from bar to wrists to elbows. Straighten your wrists to make the weight easier to press and increase your Bench Press.

Your wrists will bend back if you grip the bar wrong. Most people hold it in the middle of their palms when they Bench Press. But the bar pushes your palms down and will bend your wrists back. Strengthening your wrists won’t keep them straight. This isn’t a weakness issue. It’s not a “small wrist” issue either. It’s a technique issue. The only way to Bench Press with straight wrists is by gripping the bar correctly.

Use The Bulldog Grip

Bench Press Grip
Left: holding bar mid-palm, wrists will bend back and hurt. Middle: bar low hand, wrist won’t bend. Right: hold the bar low in your hands.

Bench Press with the bar over the heels of your hands. Hold it close to your wrists, at the base of your thumbs, over your forearm bones. The goal is straight wrists: your wrists and elbows must be aligned with the bar so your forearms are vertical to the floor. Grip the bar lower and then wrap your thumbs around the bar using the full grip. Squeeze the bar so it can’t move in your hands back to a bad position.

The easiest way to grip the bar correctly is using the Bulldog Grip. Imagine how a Bulldog plants his paws. Grip the bar with your thumbs and index fingers first. Then rotate your hands in so your thumbs point to the floor. The bar should rest diagonally in your hands, between the base of your thumbs and palms. Close your hands by putting your fingers on the bar. Squeeze your fingertips into the bar so it can’t move.

Bench Press Bulldog Grip
Left: gripping the bar mid-palm, wrist will bend. Left: use the bulldog grip by rotating your hands in before you close your hands. Your wrist won’t bend.

The Bulldog Grip can feel uncomfortable at first. You may find it less safe than gripping the bar mid-palm. It’s not unsafe though. Your thumbs are around the bar. They prevent the bar from slipping out of your hands. If you’re weaker with the Bulldog Grip, it’s because you’re not used to it. The power transfer is higher with this grip. Stick with it and be patient. Your Bench Press will increase without the wrist pain.

Your wrists will remain straight if you grip the bar correctly. They won’t bend back because the bar will rest directly over your forearm bones. This will stop your wrists from hurting. It will also make the weight easier to Bench. The power transfer from your chest, shoulders and triceps muscles into you forearms and bar is higher. You’ll get more reps on StrongLifts 5×5 and Bench Press more weight.

If the bar starts over your wrists but moves in the middle of your set, you’re not gripping it tight. Squeeze the bar harder. Squeeze it as hard as you can. Push your fingertips into the bar and hook it with your thumbs. Don’t let the bar move up your hands to your fingers. It will stretch your wrist, cause pain and kill power transfer by putting you in a bad position. Keep the bar over your wrists by squeezing it hard so it can’t move.

Check Your Grip Width

Bench Press Grip Width
Left: grip too wide, forearms are angled. Middle: grip too narrow, emphasizes triceps. Right: vertical forearms, most effective way to Bench Press.

Bench Pressing with a grip too wide for your build can cause wrist pain. Your wrists can’t stay above your elbows with a wide grip. They move out which puts your wrists at an angle and stresses your wrist joints. Some powerlifters Bench wide to decrease the range of motion and bench more. But they usually use wrist wraps and bench shirts. For raw lifters like us, wider grips kill our wrist joints and are too hard on your shoulders.

Bench Press with your wrists over your elbows. Vertical line bar to wrists to elbows from every angle. Your wrists can’t bend back when you Bench Press. But they can’t be angled either. Videotape yourself and check your grip width. Unless you have wider shoulders, your pinky should be inside the ring marks of your bar. If your wrists aren’t above your elbows, your grip is too wide. Narrow it to get your forearms vertical.

No Thumbless Grip!

Bench Press Thumbless Grip
Left: thumbless grip, dangerous, don’t use it. Middle: full grip but bar too high, wrists will bend back. Right: correct bulldog grip with bar low in hand.

The thumbless grip means holding the bar with your thumbs on the same side as your fingers. It’s an easy way to fix wrist pain on the Bench Press. The bar automatically rests lower in your hands with the thumbless grip. Your wrist stop bending back and become straight. This stops wrist pain and makes the weight easier to lift at the same time. You get better power transfer from torso to forearms to bar.

The problem with Bench Pressing thumbless grip is that it can kill you. If the bar rolls in your hands, you don’t have thumbs to stop it from slipping out of your hands. You can’t escape from the bar either because you’re lying on the bench. Any spotter won’t be quick enough to catch the bar. It will drop on your face, throat or chest. This is a stupid way to die and yet it happens to a few people every year.

Don’t Bench Press with a thumbless grip. It doesn’t matter if that guy uses it and never had accidents. It also doesn’t matter if this guy dropped the bar despite Bench Pressing full grip. Thumbless grip is riskier than full grip. And it only takes once. If your wrists hurt, fix your form by gripping the bar lower in your hands when you Bench Press. You don’t need the thumbless grip to do this right, you can do it with the full grip.

Wrist Wraps for Wrist Pain

Wrist wraps look like lifting straps that you put around your wrists. They act like a cast for your wrist joint to prevent it from moving around. They support your wrists when you Bench Press. Not every strong Bench Presser uses wrist wraps but many do. Olympic lifters often put athletic tape around their wrists instead. This gives their wrists extra support when lifting, similar to how wrist wraps work.

Wrist wraps can be useful but they don’t fix bad form. If your wrists hurt because they bend when you Bench Press, then fix your grip first. Wrist wraps may provide relief from wrist pain, but they don’t fix the root of the issue. They can cover it up instead by acting like a band-aid. Your wrist pain could get worse if you continue to Bench Press with bent wrists, but more weight, thanks to the extra support from the wrist wraps.

Small wrists is the usual excuse to Bench Press with wrist wraps. I have small wrists. My thumb overlaps my middlefinger when I grab my wrist. Yet I don’t use wrist wraps when I Bench Press (or Overhead Press). Granted, my Bench is awful. But that’s a good point: maybe you need wrist wraps once you Bench Press huge weights. But you rarely need them to Bench Press 60kg/135lb or even 100kg/220lb if you use proper form.

Weak wrists is the other usual excuse. You don’t need assistance exercises like wrist curls to strengthen your wrists. Your wrists rarely hurt because they’re weak. They usually hurt because you grip the bar wrong. This is a technique issue. Besides, your wrists will get stronger if you increase your Bench Press. To Bench Press more weight, keep your wrists straight so they stop hurting. Wrist curls won’t fix bad form.

Always check your grip first if your wrists hurt. Bench Press with straight wrists. Grip the bar low in your hands, close to your wrists, over the bones of your forearms. Use the Bulldog Grip to get the bar low. Squeeze it hard so the bar can’t move out of position. Don’t hesitate to lower your Bench Press weight for a few weeks to get used to the new grip. This will also give your painful wrists a break so they can recover.

If your wrists hurt despite Bench Pressing with straight wrists, then get wrist wraps. The longer they are, the more you can wrap them around your wrists, the stiffer your joints will be. More stiffness is more wrist support. You don’t want too stiff though because that can restrict movement and cause bad form. But unless you’re a woman, short wrist wraps won’t be effective. Go 60cm/24″ at least. Here’s some good wrist wraps…

Use wrist wraps on the Bench Press like you use a powerlifting belt on the Squat and Deadlift. Wear the wrist wraps on your heavy Bench sets only. Bench Press your warmup sets without wrist wraps. This will challenge your wrists to support the weight itself on most sets. And it also forces you to hold the bar properly in your hands instead of relying on wrist wrap support to get away with bad form.

Bench Press Tip Sheet

I’ve put together a Bench Press Tip Sheet covering the most important tips to Bench Press with proper form. Print this one page document and take it with you to the gym so you can review these tips between sets. It’s crucial you Bench Press with proper form so you Bench heavy weights without injuring your wrists or shoulders. To download my Bench Press tip sheet, click the link below…

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