One of the most common complaints I get from those who lift weights is wrist pain. Many people experience wrist pain while lifting weights, especially during exercises like bicep curls, bench press, and even shoulder press. All these movements put a lot of stress on the wrists, especially with improper form. Wrist pain while doing bicep curls is a very common issue. However, wrist pain while shoulder pressing is another very common problem that I addressed in another article.
Most weightlifters don’t even think about their wrist or wrist positioning while lifting. It isn’t until their wrists start hurting that they notice, and usually they will neglect it for awhile. They will continue lifting with that minor wrist pain or twinge, however it will eventually keep getting worse if left unaddressed. I am going to be discussing why your wrist hurts during bicep curls, tips and products that can help, and ways to prevent wrist pain while bicep curling.
Causes Of Wrist Pain During Bicep Curls
The most common cause of your wrist hurting during bicep curls is due to improper wrist positioning. Poor wrist positioning can cause inflammation in the wrist joint due to the repetitive stress of lifting weights. Most people will do heavy bicep curls without even considering their wrist position. This can cause injury to the wrists, because the wrist joint was not designed to withstand heavy loads. That is why it is crucial to protect the wrists while weightlifting, especially if you want to continue lifting long term.
Other potential causes of wrist pain during bicep curls is wrist tendinitis, muscle/tendon strains, wrist impingement, and ligamentous sprain. However, in most cases it is simply due to repetitive stress causing the wrist joint to become inflamed. This often can be avoided with proper wrist positioning during movements like the bicep curl. Most people will fix their wrist position by maintaining a strong neutral grip, and they will notice that their wrist pain begins to go away.
Fix Your Wrist Positioning
Over the last few years, I have found that the majority of those who lift weights do not consider their wrist position. However, most do not realize that poor wrist positioning is causing their wrist to hurt during movements like the bicep curl. Heavy movements like the bicep curl, bench press, and shoulder press need to be done with a strong neutral grip.
This means you cannot let your wrist bend during the movement. This will take the impact out of the wrist joint. Look at this image. You can with the image on the left, the wrist is forced into extreme extension which is often the case when people are doing bicep curls, bench press, shoulder press, handstands, etc. However, the image on the right is with a strong neutral grip. I advise all those who lift weights to maintain this strong neutral grip during exercises like the bicep curl.
By maintaining a strong neutral grip you will avoid inflammation in the wrist joint due to repetitive stress. When the wrist is in extreme flexion/extension it causes the small bones of the wrist to be under a lot of pressure. This also puts a lot of strain on the tendon and ligaments around the wrist joint. Maintaining a strong neutral grip like the image on the right will prevent this from occurring.
Switch To Dumbbell Curls
Another common cause for wrist pain during bicep curls is using a barbell. Don’t get me wrong I think the barbell is great, and I am not suggesting that you ditch the barbell. However, I do think that for bicep curls you should stick to mostly dumbbells. Especially if you suffer from wrist pain while lifting weights. The problem with the barbell curl is that your hands are stuck in one position with the barbell. So this can put a lot of torque and pressure on the wrists.
Especially, if your grip is too wide or too narrow. Often people like to alternate between a wide and narrow grip to put more emphasis on different parts of the biceps. While this is effective for bicep training, it does put a lot of pressure on the wrist joint. When you go too wide of a grip on the barbell then your wrists are no longer in line with your elbows. Same thing holds true if you go too narrow of a grip on the barbell.
When performing the bicep curl you want to have your wrists straight in line with your elbows. This will ensure no torque is transmitting through your forearm and wrist. That is why dumbbells are ideal when doing bicep curls. You are free to move in multiple planes of motion when using the dumbbell. Unlike the barbell which restricts most movements of the hands/wrists. I recommend switching to dumbbells for bicep curls, at-least until your pain goes away.
Strengthen Your Wrist
Maintaining strong functional wrist are a must! Especially if you are going to be lifting weights long term. The wrists are extremely important and often overlooked. Imagine how much we use our wrist/hands for tasks throughout the day. So you do not want to neglect your wrist, and it is important to protect them when lifting heavy weights. I recommend incorporating some direct wrist exercises into your weekly routine. This will help eliminate the wrist pain, and will prevent future wrist injuries from occurring. Some of the best ways to strengthen your wrist are with a simple forearm grip kit.
I highly recommend using a set of finger bands to work on your forearm extensors. We are gripping things all day long so the forearm flexors get overworked compared to the forearm extensors. So the finger extensor bands are a great way to help strength the forearm extensors and fix this imbalance. Another great product to add into your arsenal is a pair of fatgripz. These can be attached to dumbbells, barbells, and most other pieces of gym equipment. The fatgripz will increase your grip strength and improve your wrist stability. I recommend trying these out, especially if your wrist are hurting during bicep curls. All these products will strengthen your wrist, and prevent future injuries.
Should I Wear Wrist Wraps?
If you go to a popular gym you will see some guys putting on wrist wraps before performing a heavy set of bicep curls or bench press. Wrist wraps can actually be extremely helpful when doing heavy lifting movements. Let me explain why. Like I stated earlier the main reason your wrist hurts during bicep curls is due to poor wrist positioning. The wrist are placed in either extreme flexion or extreme extension which causes stress/inflammation to the wrist joint. So the reason wrist wraps are helpful is that they prevent your wrist from going into these extreme ranges. When you apply a wrist wrap, the wrist is held in a strong neutral position. The wrist wrap can actually prevent your wrist from being placed in these harmful positions. Check out my article on wrist support while lifting.
Best Wrist Wraps For Bicep Curls
Listed above are my top wrist wraps to wear when lifting heavy weights. I do not recommend wearing them all the time, but for heavy lifts or movements that put a lot of pressure on the wrists. Movements such as bicep curls, bench press, shoulder press, and even handstands. Make sure to put on the wrist wrap fairly tight so that your wrist is nice and supported. This will help maintain a strong neutral position.
I know how frustrating it can be when your wrist pain is limiting your daily life or workouts. Just remember it will get better, and you can quickly resolve this issue by incorporating the things listed above. I recommend first fixing your wrist positioning while doing the exercise, and see if your wrist stills hurts while doing bicep curls. Sometimes that is all you need to do to eliminate the problem. Also, I would switch to using dumbbells for the time being. The barbell can put extra stress on the wrists while doing movements such as the bicep curl and shoulder press. If neither of these helps, then I recommend purchasing a pair of wrist wraps and finger bands. It is important to incorporate these exercises into your routine to help strengthen your wrists and prevent future wrist pains. The wrist wraps are good to have, and very useful to wear when performing heavy lifts. Give these a try, and let me know how it goes!