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Importance of grips and preventing wrist injuries

Injury prevention & Rehab
How many times have we spotted people in the gym getting a wrist injury while lifting? Even if the form and the techniques are right, how does a little tweak in the wrists or their grips can cause so much trouble? Are those wrist wraps just a style statement, or do they prevent such mis happenings?

Let’s find out. Weightlifters and gym-goers often aim at lifting heavier and getting stronger. For that, training with a proper plan and progressive increase in load are necessary. We can see that almost every lift, directly or indirectly,engages the wrist. Upper body lifts like bench or dumbbell press, arm curls and extensions engage the wrist directly. Whereas, lower body lifts like squats and deadlifts make an indirect use of it. At times, due to negligence and ego lifting temperament,people injure their wrists. This is a common roadblock that many people face in their strength training journey. Let’s dig deeper and find out how we can prevent this. Understanding the structure: Structure of our wrist and forearm is quite complex. But, this complexity provides us flexibility and dexterity. It consists of 8 carpal bones: the distal-most part of the forearm bones, proximal parts of metacarpal bones, 16 muscles, 3 primary nerves, 14 arteries and veins and 4 joints. These structures help the wrist to perform movements like the extension, flexion, radial deviation, ulnar deviation, pronation, and supination. Unlike the ankle, the wrist is not strong enough to bear heavy weight due to the evolutionary changes like smaller bones, thinner ligaments and lesser cartilage in the joints. These changes make our wrists vulnerable towards injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome,osteoarthritis, etc. But with the right technique, form,and precautions, such risks can be mitigated. Connection between wrists and gripping: Wrist and Grips work synergistically. A proper grip,wrist and bar position on hand,not only makes it possible to lift a load in a much safer and efficient way, but it also helps in the maximum utilization of the force used to lift the weight. When to use a regular grip: A regular grip is where the thumb is under the bar whereas a false or a thumbless grip is the one in which the thumb is over the bar. Exercises like bench press or overhead press are quite risky but they are rewarding in nature. They are risky because any error in the lift may make the weight fall directly on the body. Escaping from that fall might be impossible due to the locked position of the body. In such kind lifts,the wrist should always be in a neutral or slightly extended position. It’s wiser to keep the wrist as close as possible to the line of movement (path) of the weight (which is perpendicular to the ground). In an extended or flexed state, the wrist is away from that path but in a neutral or slight extended position,the wrist will be closer to the path. The position of the wrist is set by the way the bar is held in the palm. Placement of the bar across the palm is the best way to hold the bar in position for a neutral wrist. For bench press or overhead press, a false grip (thumb less grip)is quite risky. Though it minimizes the engagement of hands and increases the impact on pectoralis or shoulders, there is no lock of thumb on the bar for preventing it from slipping out of the hands. When to use a false grip: In exercises like squats and deadlifts, a proper grip and wrist position will give an added edge to your lift. In squats, a thumbless grip on the bar might be helpful in keeping the bar pressed on the traps and not injuring the wrist. Isolation workouts (single joint press workouts) where the body is not in a vulnerable position (risk of weight falling on the body), can be done with a thumbless grip to minimize the engagement of forearms and maximizing the impact on the worked muscle groups. Other Grip patterns: Other grip patterns like a wide grip or a close grip should only be practiced if they do not cause any unnecessary stress on the wrist. A grip which keeps the wrist in the neutral position shouldalways be preferred. To performdeadlifts,multiple grips can be used. Your hands may give up soon on a regular grip. In that case, a mixed grip or a hook grip might be helpful in keeping the bar locked in the hands. Grips for pull movement: Pull movements can be done with multiple grips because the body is not at as much risk,as compared to the push workouts. Here, we can try different combinations of grips. Workouts like pull-ups and chin-ups can be done with a regular overhand grip, underhand grip or a thumbless grip. Locking the bar with the thumb will engage the forearm into the workout. Whereas, a thumbless grip will engage the back muscles more. Exercises such as rack pulls or bend over pulls, where the weight is to be pulled against the ground can be done with the regular grip,thumbless or a false grip, reverse grip, mixed grip or a hook grip. The objective is to hold the bar firm and then engage the back muscles. Olympic lifts: Injuries are a part of a sportsperson’s life. If you are a powerlifter, the chances of wrist injuries increase due to the hyperextension of the wrist during a clean snatch and jerk. In order to minimize the risk of an injury, never start lifting with extremely heavy weights. A proper understanding of the kinetics, the range of motion of the lifts and the types of grips to be used, is a prerequisite to injury prevention. Supporters and Accessories: Wrist wraps are quite helpful in providing safety and support to the wrist. Selection of supporters should be done to minimize the stress and to hold the wrist in a position to bear the pressure of the weight. You do not have to completely depend on these wraps. In fact, you have to let your wrist gain the strength and then adjust to the training. Instead of lifting heavy, start training them with lighter weights, thus, minimizing the chances of injury. Wrist conditioning and strengthening workouts: Starting with a proper warm-up can reduce the chances of getting a wrist injury. Wrist extension, flexion, radial deviation, ulnar deviation, pronation,and supination can be done to prepare it for the upcoming lifts. Training them in isolation with heavier weights should always be avoided as they are not meant for it. They can only lift heavy in compound movements. Tip for safety: Always try to understand your body and its response to the load. If you find the weight too heavy for your wrists, drop the thought of lifting it. A wise decision allows to lift heavier in future, but a wrong decision may injure you for the rest of your lifting career. Fear of getting injured should never hold you back but you have to train with a proper plan and techniques. SO YES! ALWAYS LISTEN TO YOUR BODY’S RESPONSE!! To sum it all up, we have to be extremely aware of the science behind heavy lifting and injury prevention. Because, a second of ignorance can be really hurtful and may even stop your lifting career. So yes, gather knowledge and don’t give in to the fear. Instead, be more aware. We wish you a safe workout session. Peace!! Author credits – Suraj Ray

Viji M

I faced a partial cartilage tear on ulnar side n was out of action for three mobths. I have resumed traybut still i do have pain sometimes on wrist. I am using wrist bands now but still pain exists especially during bicep exercises.

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