I am doing a Starting Strength-like powerlifting routine and want to continue to improve my strength in the big lifts in the long run.

Two months ago, I had a wrist injury from which I apparently did not recover completely. I still have mild pain on some of the lifts, and heavy pain in the rack position of a clean.

To remedy this, I want to avoid any more damage to my wrist until it is fully healed. Thus, I realize I have to stop all powerlifting aside from deadlifts for some time. What are the best substitute exercises I can do that limit my strength loss within the big lifts while allowing for wrist recovery?


Nature of injury:

I acquired the injury doing low bar squats at a familiar weight back in April. If I recall correctly, the orthopedist I went to classified it as a non-serious sprain. It sharply hurts when applying force to the wrist with a lever, such as when pushing with the palm of the hand. It does not hurt at all at rest or when there is a pushing or pulling force on the wrist that is parallel to my forearm, i.e. if there is no leverage involved.

Accessible Equipment:

I am in a commercial gym, so I have the standard stuff available, but nothing too fancy:

  • Barbells
  • Weight plates
  • Squat / power racks
  • Dumbbells
  • EZ curl bars
  • Pull-up bars
  • Smith machines
  • Other machines

Not available:

  • Strongman equipment
  • Plyo boxes
  • Spider bars
  • Where are you training, what equipment do you have access to? A spider bar, for example, should allow you to squat, but most people don't have access to one...
    – user8119
    Jul 14, 2014 at 15:56
  • What's the nature of the injury? Is it a repetitive stress injury (tendinitis, carpal tunnel, etc), or an impact injury (sprain, break, bruising)? What movements cause pain, and what's the nature of the pain (dull and steady, sharp and intermitant) etc. Jul 14, 2014 at 16:13
  • 2
    Did you see a hand therapist already? It sounds like extending your wrist is causing the pain. Sometimes a simple maneuver can restore the joint position of the little bones of the wrist. Jul 15, 2014 at 0:12
  • @BackInShapeBuddy I didn't even know there was such a profession. Looking into it now, thanks! Jul 15, 2014 at 11:17
  • @Florian, they are usually a physical therapist or occupational therapist with specialized training. A good one should be able to help. Good luck. Jul 15, 2014 at 18:48

2 Answers 2


So if I get this straight you can perform pulling movements but not pushing movements with your hand/wrist?

This will be a perfect time to focus on some bodybuilding, especially back and posterior chain training. Basically all kinds of pulling movements. Deadlifts, shrugs, rows, pull ups/downs, just hit your back from all angles with high volume.

Lower body shouldn't be an issue, use the leg press machine keeping tension on the quads, get some hamstring and lower back work in with deadlifts or leg curls, etc.

If you can find a way to train your chest/arms/shoulders without pain then go for it. It's really a matter of trial and error when it comes to injury, see what feels good.

That kind of muscular base built with higher volume will really help you out once you return to your beginner strength routines, and you won't lose strength or anything like that. You are in a great position right now and get to really build up that back (something too many novice powerlifters don't give enough importance to), so don't despair!


We had a lady with a broken wrist who did front squats this way. If you add in clean pulls, then you're working two major phases of the clean without putting yourself in that painful position (although you mentioned powerlifting, not weightlifting, so perhaps you do not care about cleans).

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