All You Need To Know About Forearm Strains With Deadlifts
April 9th 2019
Throughout your lifting career, this advice has been passed on through decades of training experience - “Develop a strong grip.”
I have yet to see this advice backfire as it really does not hurt you to develop a strong grip.
Having a strong grip also means that you increase your deadlifting potential, something all lifters strive for.
However, have you ever experienced forearm strains when deadlifting?
They suck but what should you do about them?
Forearm strains with deadlifts
It is common to get a sick forearm pump from deadlifting. However, pulls, tweaks, strains, twinges, pops, which are followed up by pain, tenderness and restrictions are not normal and should be consulted with a medical professional.
If pain and immobility still persist after days of rest, you should consider getting yourself evaluated.
While this is not normal, you need to make sure you take care of your body.
Deadlifts are a great exercise to help you develop your strength if you are healthy enough to do so.
However, what if you are feeling “forearm pain” from deadlifting because there is so much blood pumped into your forearms?
Your grip and forearm feel extremely fatigued.
You will feel your forearms feel very tight and almost unbearably tender.
This is a normal reaction since you are training your grip strength by deadlifting.
And if you are using a challenging load for your forearms, they will swell and be pumped up with blood.
At this point, there is nothing much you can do as you have reached close to the limits of your grip strength.
Healing your forearms
There are several methods in which you can do to reduce tightness and to get ready for the next session:
i) Foam rolling your forearms
If you are huge forearms, you can try to foam roll your forearms to relax your muscles.
Spend about 5-10 minutes post workout since this is when you may still have a big forearm pump.
If you are not able to hit certain spots, using a tennis ball can be a great substitute as you can hit a small area on your forearm.
ii) Myofascial release
If your symptoms do not improve, you may want to invest in going to a physical or massage therapist and having them evaluate you on whether or not a myofascial release would be beneficial.
If you are a competitor and a serious athlete, you know you need the best treatment to treat your body.
Breaking up adhesions and scar tissues in your muscles can be very effective in helping you recover better and more effectively.
Training your forearms
Your forearm strength and endurance will always be tested when you do deadlifts.
This is a norm all lifters need to accept. In addition to adding more working sets for the deadlift, here are some other exercises you can do in order to strengthen your grip strength:
i) Dead Hangs
This exercise involves you hanging from an overhead bar.
This is usually the precursor of pullups, right before you start the movement.
One way to continuously train your grip is to do more dead hangs and for longer periods of time.
See if you can do a dead hang for 30 seconds.
Keep on going and watch your grip strength surge.
ii) Farmer’s Carries
Sometimes, this powerful, yet simple exercise can be overlooked when looking for great exercises to do.
Grab a pair of heavy dumbbells and walk around your gym.
You will be shocked by how effective this exercise is.
If you have the equipment for it, load up barbells and kegs and also walk around with those weights.
How to know if you strained your forearms when deadlifting?
Strained forearms can be painful.
Rated from grade 1-3, a more mild forearm strain would not involve any loss of strength where a more serious forearm strain has swelling, pain, loss of strength and may require surgery to repair.
For most deadlifters, they have not experienced serious forearm strain, where pain, swelling, and loss of strength all occurred days after deadlifting.
What you are probably experiencing is a forearm pump where a lot more blood is rushing into your forearm than usual.
This usually causes tension and limits your ability to grip objects (or deadlift).
You will also notice after about a couple of hours, your grip strength has somewhat returned but your grip is still slightly fatigued.
This is not something to worry about as all lifters who need to train their grip will experience these symptoms.
What you should focus on is whether or not your grip is limiting your deadlift.
Forearms giving out fast during deadlifts
Forearms giving out quickly during deadlifts are a common sign for weak grip strength.
This is especially prevalent for newbies in the gym.
This issue is usually only common for beginners in strength training.
For lifters with a few years of training experience under their belt, they will not notice their grip failing until near the end of their workouts, if ever.
Factors that limit grip strength in deadlifts
So, let us examine several reasons why grip strength is limited in deadlifts.
Why do our forearms cry and strain themselves whenever we do heavy deadlifts?
With more moisture in between you and the bar, your hands will want to slip off the bar.
ii) Weak fingers
One of the biggest factors that impact a grip strength is your fingers’ ability to hold onto the object.
If your fingers are weak, your grip will be weak.
iii) Bar thickness
If the barbell is a thicker variation, your hand will not be able to fully wrap around and cover a lot of surface area.
As a result, your grip will be limited.
iv) Grip technique
Overhand grip is considered the weakest grip. Using a hook grip or mixed grip is generally more stable and can lift a lot more weight.
v) Time under tension
As you do more sets and reps, your grip strength fatigues.
Your muscles are working hard and do not have enough time to recover and hit another couple of sets.
What not to do if I want to limit forearm strains in deadlifts?
Deciding to do grip training is one thing. Emphasizing and making it a priority will take your grip strength to another level.
I am confident you are aware of some strategies to increase your grip strength.
So, here is a list of what you should not do if you want to limit forearm strains in future deadlifts:
i) Using straps
If you are a powerlifter, using straps may not be a great idea as you can spend that time developing your grip strength.
While some powerlifters do include deadlifting with straps as a main movement, they also make sure that grip will not be a limiting factor during competition and have also programmed many compound lifts and accessories in order to strengthen their grip.
ii) Avoiding grip training
You want to skip out on grip training? Your forearms are too pumped and you do not see any immediate results?
Making sure grip training is done properly will ensure that you prevent any future forearm strains from holding you back in training.
Some lifters might only do deadlifts as their only exercise for grip training.
For some lifters with a naturally strong grip, this can be enough training stimulus.
However, a lot more lifters will need additional exercises and guidance in order to compensate for their lack of grip strength.
iii) Relying on mixed grip only
You should spend as much time as you can do the double overhand grips.
If a mixed grip is your gripping choice, doing them for your working sets only is the proper way to effectively warm up for the deadlift.
Otherwise, you will leave a lot of untapped grip training potential on the table.
Overall, you will continue to experience intense forearm pumps if you always challenge yourself in the deadlift.
If your grip is a weak link, you may always experience forearm pumps after your deadlift sessions.
At least you know that your training is benefiting you.
In general, forearm strains are nothing to be alarmed about if you are doing deadlifts.
For the most part, lifters are just training their bodies and their grip just happened to reach near its limit for that workout session.
Treat your forearms to a nice massage and make sure they are taken care of before the next session.
After all, we would not want any lingering soreness to impact our next heavy deadlift session.
If your forearm strain is persistently giving you pain and limiting your range of motion, it may be time to call a specialist and to have yourself be analyzed.