Thursday, May 14, 2009

Bad Habits: Shelfing the Wrists

Most trainees have a bad habit of "shelfing" their wrists during heavy pressing movements like the bench press or overhead press. I know, because I am one of them. After reading "Starting Strength" by Mark Rippetoe, I began making a conscious effort to wrap my thumb around the bar each time I pressed it. "Shelfing" is typically characterized when the bar sits in the palms of the hands as the writs are extended (almost level with the floor). The excessive weight and pressure of the bar puts alot of strain on the wrist (RSI), mainly due to the sheer forces that travel through the wrist from the angle from which it is placed an lifted.

A common problem seen in "shelfers" is bursitis of the wrist. Typically seen in people that close-grip bench press and shoulder press with a barbell. The pain will be subtle, and the trainee will usually "mask" the pain by wearing wrist wraps. The old adage is that wrapping the wrists may create a "cushioning" effect that may act as extra ligementeous tissue, but in the long run, it may simply "allocate" the pain.

How to correct this bad habit? Surprisingly, it doesn't take long, however, you do need to check your ego at the door. Why? Firstly, you'll need to lighten your pressing weight for the time being and get in the habit of wrapping the thumb around the bar. At first it may seem awkward and unstable, but if you begin with a lighter load, and keep the wrist straight--rather than cocked--the forearms and wrists flexors/extensors will get stronger. Give yourself roughly 3 weeks to get into this habit. I dropped my bench to 185 in order to get used to wrapping my thumb and keeping my wrists straight. It felt strange, but I'm weeks out and I feel much stronger under that bar.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the post, John...I have a feeling I make that same mistake...have to check myself next time I bench.

    Great website!
    [Read just about all of your articles]
    Like your blog...

    Fred

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