T Nation

Bench Press and Wrists


My wrists seem to be a prevalent area of issue in regards to lifting for me, well, particularly the bench press. I'm fine up to a point and then I'll reach a certain weight on the bench where my wrists will snap back (extend) as I'm benching. Not only does this make the sets themselves uncomfortable and unsatisfying but I feel as though it's really halting my progress on the exercise.

The question I have, and I've tried to be as succinct as possible, is if my problem is simply due to mechanics or if it's an inherent problem concerning my wrists -- do I need to get my grip strength up? I have pretty small bone structure and as a result small wrists.


Wrist wraps


It's more to do with the "grinding" action on your wrists from having them locked in position (not able to move at different parts of the action...not having a more neutral/natural grip).

You'd be surprised at the amount of exercises that contribute to this issue (not just the exercise that causes it to show). For me, I have to use the EZ bar for curls. Same can happen with pullups when load gets really heavy.

Apart from wraps and hand possition, I'd suggest looking at your other exercises as well, and if not sorted, switch to dumbbells for 2-3 months and then go back to the barbell.

BTW, my brother has more issue with this than me and the problem is likely over-use of the wrist joint (insert joke here) rather than them being weak, because he loved (READ obsessed over) forearm/grip strength and as he progressed more and more on it, he had to back off because it really aggravated his wrists while benching.


I had the same problem for a long time, the two things that helped me:
1. Wrist wraps
2. Improving bench form more like a powerlifter, predominately bringing the bar down lower than I had been.

Another note is it took me a long time to decide to use wrist wraps because so many claim it makes your wrists weak and if you do it only do it for top sets if that. Ya, the guy that convinced me to use them has a 2k total and he uses them all the time - good enough for me!


I've had wrist issues when pressing before. Mostly during overhead press and some during bench press. I don't like to use wraps, but what has helped me the most is using a false/suicide grip. I never used to use it before as I thought it was dangerous but now it feels a lot more comfortable for me and helps with the wrist issues. I can still go heavy and not worry about losing my grip.


Work on different hand positions under the bar and with different width grips. Extremely wide grip bench can be fairly painful to the wrists, and you may find that positioning the bar over the base of your hand works better than having the bar rest on the palm of the hand.

x2 on wraps, but make sure you are wearing them properly; some toolbags wrap their wrist below the joint and the wrap doesn't do a damn thing.


I started using a false grip and my shoulders and wrists feel much better. Do reverse curls after benching because those muscles are often weaker than their antagonists (strength imbalances can irritate joints). Wrist wraps are a good choice for heavier sets, but if you need them for loads that you can do reps with, you need to assess deeper wrist issues before you continue pressing.


My wrists are terrible, I get sharp wrist pain with anything over 185lbs on bench and on a lot of extension motions.
I use wrist wraps on all heavy pressing and most tricep work, and am relatively painless now.
A decent pair of wrist wraps is only like $15-20, more than worth it.


also try forearm curls


I like all of this, but I honestly do not agree with the wrist wraps. I'm guessing you are not a competitive lifter and, not to be a dick, but I've never heard a really good bench presser complain about wrist pain so I'm guessing you're not pressing enough to warrant wraps. I had this problem when I first worked with standing overhead presses; wrists would KILL me after a given set, enough to cut the workout short. Honestly, focus on wrist stability and strength. The 'sand treatment' where you do hand exercises in a bucket/barrel of sand worked wonders for me(when the sand is wet it's even tougher). Other than that, basic forearm exercises will help as long as you are stretching out your flexors and extensors.
One small fix that did a lot for me was to roll your hands forward some(during the movement) and grip the bar as if you want your fingerprints put on the bar(focus on getting the bar directly over the main wrist bones, not near the fingers[thank you Starting Strength]). Focus on keeping the elbows under the bar/wrists during the press and continue full hand squeeze to the end of each rep.
And honestly, a video does wonders.


X2 on the false grip.

I use it on every pressing motion with the barbell.


Sweet, thanks guys.

I'm definitely going to be more in tune with my hand placement around the barbell. I need to have the barbell on the meatiest part of the hand (near the thumb) and further away from the fingers.


I have to consciously do this, and it makes a world of difference. I had a lot of wrist issues years ago, to the point where I had to seriously consider stopping my weight training. Use of a false grip, and some decent wraps (I use Inzer Z-wraps) are also things I rely on.



+1 on wrist wraps (on sale now at eliteFTS)

also try a fat bar