How Should the Wrists Be in Overhead Presses?

Be aware of your wrist position during an overhead press.
i Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images

Strength-training exercises have pros and cons. Although you tone and strengthen muscles, you may hurt your back or your joints if you don't use proper form. The overhead press is no exception. The shoulder press is very effective for strengthening your shoulders, but if you do it wrong, it can also cause pain in your wrists.

Overhead Press

    The overhead press is also known as a shoulder press. Your elbows are bent with your hands near your shoulders. You hold onto your resistance tool in your hands, then straighten your arms overhead and press up the resistance. The movement repeats as you bend and straighten your arms. Your deltoids -- the shoulders -- contract as you press up the weight.

Resistance Types

    You can perform an overhead press with a variety of resistance types. You can use dumbbells, weight machines, resistance bands, barbells or kettlebells, just to name a few. Although you hold the resistance in one or both hands, the movement remains the same. To protect your wrists, your wrist position remains the same too.


    During an overhead press, keep your wrists in a neutral position. In other words, don't bend your wrists. Regardless of what resistance tool you use, your wrists should remain a natural extension of your forearms. If you were to place your forearm against a wall, your wrist would remain straight. Use this imagery as you perform your overhead press and keep your wrist straight out from your forearm.

Hand Positions

    Different overhead presses use different hand positions. The most common is to face your palms forward as if waving hello to someone. An acceptable alternative is to face your palms toward your head. Another variation is to begin with your palms toward your head and rotate as you press up to finish with your palms facing forward. It doesn't matter which hand position you use, just be sure to keep your wrists in a straight line with your forearms.

the nest