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Fixing Your Overhead Wrist Position

Zach displaying proper extended wrist position overhead

Article written by Brandon Morrison
When putting a bar or other implement overhead, there are many things that need to simultaneously occur in order for it to be a successful. Little things like bar path, getting the head through, proper foot positioning, and fixing the position of the wrists during lockout. This article will focus fixing the overhead wrist position.

When the bar is overhead, the wrists can be in one of three positions as pictured above: Extended, Neutral, and Flexed. To achieve maximal weight in our lifts, we want to keep our wrists in the extended position whenever possible (This is not really possible when holding a log overhead). My mentor Weightlifting Coach Dave Miller

“In the extended position the head of the ulna and ulnar notch of the radius articulate with carpal bones the scaphoid, lunate and pisiform. In extension, the lunate, scaphoid and pisiform bones seem to sit nicely into the distal concave notches of the ulna and radius. The extension of the wrist also helps us complete the extension at the elbow and external rotation at the Glenohumeral joint (show me your arm pits!)….”: Stacking the Bones.”’

In order to properly “stack our bones”, it is important to think about what constitutes the most stable overhead position. We use the extended wrist position because it is MOST stable overhead position. It is the same position that is used if you were to stand on your hands. The bones that make up the hand and wrist slide into place when in an extended position, allowing us to hold maximal weight overhead.

Extending our wrists also allows our elbows and shoulders to lock into place and assume the correction. Getting away from the outdated and misinterpreted “active shoulders” cue, we instead want to think about “screwing a light bulb in with your right hand, and unscrewing a light bulb with your left hand” (try it now). By locking the shoulder into the back of the socket, extending our wrists, and stacking our elbows, we can prevent the soft elbows that occur on so many lifts due to a lack of stacking (We call these “jelly elbows” or “jellbows”. 

By combining extended wrists with stacked arms elbows, a strong and powerful dip, and driving the head through as quickly as possible, you should be able to save many of the overhead lifts you may have been missing. What’s more, you should be able to increase your maxes. Did changing your wrist position work for you? Let us know in the comments.   


6 thoughts on “Fixing Your Overhead Wrist Position

  1. Great article and Help. Thanks

  2. My only question would be, how do I get rid of pain in one of my wrists when in the extended position with any kind of weight? Whether it’s overhead, or benching, or doing hand stands.

  3. Wrist straps.

  4. Wrist Straps are a crutch. Often times, wrist pain is a problem upstream, generally originating with a problem in the shoulder. Problems in the shoulders for most people are lacking external rotation due to a plethora of factors. Most commonly tight T-Spine, lats, triceps and pec minor

  5. Brandoy; would you say this wrist position would be best for bench as well? I am not a big bencher but I have benched competivley and it was suggested to me to keep more of a neutral grip but i am more comfortable and feel stronger with the extended grip.

  6. I broke my wrist a couple times when I was a kid and could not “extend” it as you say in the article. But, over time… I have found that working the OHS position has helped break up the junk preventing the extension. Yep, hurt like hell initially, but now it’s coming along nicely.

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