Do You Get Forearm Pain From The Bench Press?
April 14th 2019
The bench press is one of the most alpha chest exercises on the planet.
In practically any facility that calls itself a “gym”, at least one bench press station must be present.
If the gym has any respect for itself, it will have 3-4 bench press stations, along with other bench press variations to meet with market demand.
With that said, what happens if you are having forearm pain while bench pressing?
Should you stop?
All these questions and more will be addressed later on in this article.
Forearm pain from bench press
Forearm pain from the bench press can be traced back to the following reasons:
- Weak forearms
- Tight forearms
- Forearm tendonitis
- Unracking the bench press
- Bad bench press form
i) Weak forearms
Weak forearms will impede your ability to bench press heavy weight.
Muscles help stabilize your joints, tendons, and ligaments so that they absorb a lot of the heavy pressure from bench pressing.
Without solid forearm strength, your tendons can get inflamed more easily.
Weak forearms are usually common in novice lifters since a lot of newer lifters have not trained their forearms and grip at all throughout life.
This can be partially due to how the lifter grew up.
A lot of lifters who grew up in rural areas tend to be much stronger and have more built forearms since they were working and lifting heavy household chores at a young age.
With that said, it is never too late to start training your forearms.
It is usually a good idea to start training your forearms at the end of your workout.
We do not want to fatigue your forearms prior to any big compound exercises.
So, here is a list of exercises you can do that will train your forearms specifically.
Every exercise that requires you to grip a barbell will train your forearms - the bench press, deadlifts, rows, etc are some of the most common examples.
However, to do specific forearm training, you will want to dedicate another set of exercises to do:
-dead hangs from an overhead bar
-wrist curls, standard and reverse
-dumbbell/ plate static grips
ii) Tight forearms
When your forearms get very tight, it will hurt to squeeze your hands.
Especially in the bench press, lifters are instructed to squeeze as hard as they can (white knuckle the bar) and to try to bend the bar.
If you have pre-existing tight forearms, this will cause you a moderate or great deal of pain.
So, take some time to stretch your forearms.
You can focus on trying to massage the tight areas.
Next, stretch your wrist and fingers.
If you have tight forearms, the range of motion of your wrist and fingers are also impaired.
Relax, breathe and your forearms will be relieved.
iii) Forearm tendonitis
If you have been bench pressing for a long time with rest, you have exerted a lot of force when using your forearm muscles.
This can result in tendonitis, where tendons near your forearm and/or wrist are inflamed.
Swelling, pain and weakness are some symptoms of tendonitis.
According to medical researchers, RICE is frequently used in order to treat tendonitis.
It will naturally heal on its own but not if more damage is being done before the body heals itself.
Athletes today have discovered several tactics in order to continue training for longer periods of time to achieve their desired goals.
At the heart of every problem, pain has occurred.
However, have you ever thought about doing exercises that do not cause you any pain?
This fresh perspective in training is important because it focuses on the activities you can do, not by what you are limited by.
What does this mean?
If you are feeling forearm pain when doing barbell bench presses, can you do dumbbell bench presses?
Are push-ups any good?
What about dips?
You do not have to halt all exercises because you are experiencing pain.
As lifters always striving to improve your health and strength, we figure out solutions to problems we have.
So, substitute your bench press with an alternative exercise for 2-3 weeks.
Do a routine check-up and see if you still have forearm pain afterward.
Notice if symptoms and conditions are improving or not.
Though healing may not always be linear, you should be progressing forward.
Obviously, lifters know their body best and will immediately be aware if something is seriously wrong.
We all have this instinct, some of us are more intuned with it than others.
Regardless, your body will notify you if something is wrong and needs to be evaluated.
iv) Unracking the bench press
I have been strength training for over six years and all my programs had me bench pressing at least once a week.
There was never a program where I did not bench press in.
With that said, my bench press form was not “perfect” when I started out. I will admit that.
However, things did get progressively worse during the first few years of strength training.
I was running through linear progression strength training programs that had me bench press 3 sets of 5 reps all the time.
Naturally, the lighter weights were a breeze to get through.
Whenever I got up to 170lbs-185lbs, I would get an intense forearm pain in either one of my forearms or both of my forearms.
Sometimes, I even felt pain during unracking weights over 135lbs.
It was a very bizarre experience for me.
I felt the forearm pain the most when I unracked the weight.
The pain would still be there, sometimes just as intense but sometimes it would decrease a bit.
But it would still be there - my forearms would feel tight and sometimes the pain would go down to my elbows.
My wrists were not really affected.
I got better at unracking the weight
Now, I can say that I have no forearm pains at all for the last couple of years now.
I have improved how to unrack the bench press weight by getting my face closer to the j-hooks.
I used to just keep my eyes in level with the bar. A lot of articles will tell you that this is the “right” way to bench press.
However, I was trying that for over 3 years and it caused me a lot of bench press forearm pain.
If my eyes were at bar level, I noticed that whenever I tried to unrack heavy weights, the barbell still had to travel a couple of inches to the starting position.
When I was first lifting weights, I did not think too much about this since I assumed this was how all lifters started to do their bench press.
No one else complained about pain so I thought that I would just get used to it.
It wasn’t until I saw a few videos and read a few articles about optimizing your unracking position - that one of the most efficient things you can do for your bench press is to have the bar travel the least amount of distance prior to starting.
With that new information, I experimented with my bench press unracks.
Now, I would say that the barbell is around my nose or mouth area prior to unracking the bar.
I found that this position allowed me to travel less distance to the starting position and to not hit the hooks when locking out the reps.
Ironically, I suffered a few major injuries around the time I had forearm pain when bench pressing.
Due to the extent of those injuries, I was forced to take months off from the gym in order to make sure I was properly healed, mentally and physically.
When I came back from those injuries, I noticed that my forearm pain went away.
So, it is possible that I was overworking my forearms and that they needed a break.
Though you do not need to take months off, a deload should be scheduled if you have been strength training for a long time.
v) Bad bench press form
Bench pressing with bad form can also be another reason why you are experiencing forearm pain.
If you bench press with bent-wrists or use wrist wraps frequently, you are just compounding the issue.
Having a sub-optimal wrist position will place more strain on your forearm muscles to stabilize both your wrist and elbows.
Using wrist wraps frequently will not allow your forearm muscles to strengthen in order to handle heavy bench press weights.
Especially as a beginner and intermediate lifter, do not use any wrist wraps yet since you are still learning the movement and experiencing how a bench press should be done.
Once you have accumulated a decent amount of training experience, learning how to use wrist wraps will be another topic on its own.
Forearm pain can be easily mitigated through careful analysis and a well-thought-out program.
Bench pressing should not cause you any sort of pain, let alone forearm pain.
It does serve as a great exercise in order to identify weak areas in our body so that we can further work to correct the weaknesses.