Coaching Neutral Wrist

Over the past three weeks, we’ve discussed why neutral spine is important, as well as neutral neck. Today we’re going to bring the series to a close, discussing the importance of keeping a neutral wrist.

While this one may not be as intuitive as the other two, it’s nonetheless important. Watch most people perform any pressing exercise, and you’ll see their wrist getting dominated by the barbell or kettlebell.

At best, it’s an energy leak, reducing their strength, power and performance.

At worst, it’s going to land them on the disabled list.

Below is a quick video on how I coach and cue someone into a neutral wrist alignment:

Once again, here are the key take home points:

  • When doing any kind of pressing, try to get the handle of the kettlebell, or the barbell in close to the thumb (versus towards the fingers). This reduces the lever arm and makes it easier to keep the wrist in neutral.
  • When doing any overhead or pressing work with a kettlebell (arm bar, Turkish get-up, overhead press, windmill, etc.) keep the wrist in neutral. If you can’t “spear” the bell and have your fingers straight up and down, you’re not doing it correctly.
  • When performing any barbell bench pressing, cue yourself to keep the knuckles pointed upwards throughout, but especially as you get close to your chest.

This simple cue can make a profound difference, not only in your strength and performance, but your wrist health as well.

Stay strong

MR

21 Comments

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  1. Mike,
    I often have problems keeping neutral wrist during squats (low bar especially). I think it is more likely in this case to be a case of shoulder mobility deficit rather than not cueing myself to do it. Any thoughts?

    • Perhaps a lack of external rotation? Have you tried foam rolling/static stretching pecs, lats, subscap, etc.?

  2. I really am enjoying your Neutral series.
    These are things that most of us do not think of.

    On a technical note, the audio on these videos is really low volume. Perhaps you can use an external microphone or a separate close voice recorder and sync the video with the audio.

    • Elie –

      Not sure where the problem lies – we use an external mic and a pre-amp. No one else has mentioned the audio being an issue 🙁

      I’ll look into it though – thanks!

  3. Mike-

    Rippetoe recommends the barbell closer to the fingers on a DL-would you agree in this situation? Thanks!

    • As a general rule of thumb put the weight close to your thumb on pushing exercises and close to the fingers on pulling exercises.

      As deadlifting is pulling put it close to the fingers just as Rippetoe recommends.

  4. Mike,
    What are your thoughts on using a false grip when pressing? For me, using a false grip helps me keep the elbows tucked and I find that it is difficult to maintain this neutral wrist position when using a false grip.

    • Matt- I used to false grip myself. It does allow you to tuck better but unless you are gripping that bar ridiculous tight, trying to stay neutral may risk you dumping it. Personally I’d just try and work on getting tucked with thumb around focusing on staying neutral rather than false grip. Just my thoughts

    • Agreed with Stevie. I understand from a leverage perspective, but the practical side tells us if you dump the bar, you’re going to be shelling out some serious cash at the dentist!

  5. Love the neutral series. I was bench pressing yesterday, and when I got to my heaviest set, I just could not keep my left wrist in neutral. Magically, you posted this video, so now I have some new things to keep in mind.

    BTW, neutral neck was great for my t-bar deadlift. I felt a big difference. Thanks, Mike!

  6. Great stuff Mike. Thanks a lot I was just talking to my guys about that today on their bench.
    Does it apply on BB military press as well? I find the when pressing with straight wrists with a BB my elbows tend to track more to the outside and use more shoulders instead of triceps.

    What are your thoughts on this?

    Thanks Mike! Love the stuff and video series!

    • I think Greg Everett on the O-lift guys would be better people to ask about pressing.

      What makes sense to me (and I feel they’d recommend) is starting closer to the fingers when you’re in the starting/rack position, and as you press up the bar will roll back towards the thumb a bit.

      I could be off here – I need to check out his book again.

  7. How does one keep their wrist in neutral when doing a front squat and overhead press with a bar? That is when the wrist appears to be most strained.

    • This doesn’t apply to front squatting. If you don’t have the requisite mobility to get into the right position, you need to address that limitation first.

      See above re: overhead pressing with a bar. And be sure to check out materials from O-lifting coaches like Glenn Pendlay and Greg Everett – both VERY sharp guys.

      MR

  8. Mike how about neutral wrist against deviation to the thumb or pinky.. Please answer asap because I don’t do wrist work really anymore because I don’t know how to line that up.

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