How to Optimize Gaming Keyboard Hand Placement to Enhance Comfort and Performance
Keyboard hand placement is an important aspect of optimal gaming and success. While players tend to develop their own styles over time, incorrect hand placement can pose risks beyond just poor performance. It’s important for every gamer to consider the potential dangers and make necessary adjustments to minimize risks and ensure their well-being.
Being mindful of keyboard hand placement is a small but significant step towards better gaming. Therefore, the G and H keys should be in line with the belly button, and the left hand should be placed on the WASD keys. Leaning the left palm on the keyboard allows the left-hand fingers to float above and be parallel with the gaming keyboard. The middle finger operates keys W and S, the ring finger operates key A, and the index finger operates key D. For the right hand, position the fingers over the J, K, L and ; keys and the thumb slightly over the spacebar for a faster and more comfortable gaming experience.
In this article, we shall discuss every aspect of hand positioning when using a keyboard for gaming. We cover the importance of correct hand positioning, the different hand placement positions for different types of keyboards, and the factors that determine correct hand positioning when using a keyboard.
Does Correct Gaming Keyboard Hand Position Matter When Gaming
We have established that gamers often position their hands on the keyboard with a focus on winning a game. They rarely consider or are not aware of, the long-term effects of wrong hand positioning. Unfortunately, adopting the wrong hand position when using a keyboard can lead to various health concerns.
Proper keyboard hand placement is crucial for preventing strain injuries, fatigue, numbness, and other problems associated with wrist rotation and bending. Correct hand positioning can also improve gaming performance and reduce the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. Therefore it is important to learn and apply the proper techniques for keyboard hand placement while gaming.
This article by Kinesis Gaming explains a bit more about keyboard ergonomics.
Below are a few incorrect hand positioning and the risks they pose:
1. Gaming with Wrists Bending Toward the Keyboard Can Lead to Muscle Strain, Fatigue, and Injuries
A common hand position among gamers when they use the keyboard is with their wrists facing downwards, towards the desktop. This is often a result of too much height difference between the keyboard and the elbow. In these positions, the ulna and the radius bones rotate, leading to pressure on the forearm muscles and reducing blood circulation. This article by the NHS explains how fatigue and repetitive strain injuries can eventually occur, leading to difficulty in using the keyboard and potentially forcing a professional gamer to stop gaming altogether. You may want to check out our article on how to reduce and treat arm, wrist, and hand pain while gaming.
2. Gaming with Wrists Bending Towards the Pinky Fingers or Thumbs Can Lead to a Strain on Blood Flow
Playing with the wrists bent either in the direction of the thumb, inwards, or towards the pinky finger outwards is often a result of the width of the home row keys in relation to the shoulders. It is also caused by the distance between the wrists in relation to the home row. It constricts blood flow through the wrists with side effects including static muscle tension and pressure on the carpal tunnel, which puts pressure on the meridian nerve.
3. Gaming with Palms Bent Upwards Can Lead to Overstretching of Digits, Resulting in Discomfort
Bending your palms upwards while gaming can lead to overstretching your fingers, causing discomfort. This position can put a strain on your fingers and hands, making it difficult to maintain proper control and accuracy while playing. This strain can lead to conditions such as tendonitis, which is an inflammation of the tendons and can cause pain and difficulty moving the affected fingers. To avoid this problem, it’s important to keep the palms flat and parallel to the keyboard. This article from The Journal of Hand Surgery discusses the common tendon disorders of the hand and wrist and provides evidence-based guidelines for management.
4. Gaming with Wrists Bent for Prolonged Hours Can Lead to the Compression of the Median Nerve, Causing the Development of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that results from pressure on the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the hand. When the wrist is bent repeatedly or for extended periods, the pressure on the median nerve increases, leading to carpal tunnel syndrome. Symptoms include numbness, tingling, and weakness in the hand and wrist, which can impact the gamer’s ability to play effectively. This article from the American Journal of Epidemiology highlights the risk factors associated with carpal tunnel syndrome, which include activities that involve flexing or extending the wrist.
The Factors Affecting Gaming Keyboard Hand Placement Positions for Different Types of Keyboards - Best Hand Placement for Keyboard Gaming
It must be noted that irrespective of the type of keyboard, certain factors determine the appropriate hand placement for a gaming keyboard.
Gaming keyboard hand placement can be influenced by various factors such as the position of the keyboard, posture, elbow angle, and wrist angle.
The factors are discussed below, along with suggestions on how to manage them as a gamer for effective play, while minimizing health consequences.
Factor 1. Keyboard Position
The position of the keyboard relative to the gamer’s body can affect hand placement. Ideally, the keyboard should be placed to allow the player’s shoulders to remain relaxed and the elbows to be at a comfortable angle. If the keyboard is too far away or too close, it can cause strain on the hands and arms, leading to discomfort and decreased performance.
The keyboard should be aligned with the body, with the keys G and H in line with the belly button. The left hand should be placed on the WASD keys, and left-hand digits floating above and parallel to the gaming keyboard. For further finger placement, let the middle figure operate keys W and S, the ring figure key A, and the index figure key D. The right-hand digits should be placed right over the J, K, L, and ; keys, and the thumb figure slightly over the spacebar for faster and better gaming performance.
Factor 2. Posture
Maintaining good posture is important for effective keyboard gaming. As explained in this article by Alberta, good posture involves sitting upright with feet flat on the floor, relaxed shoulders, and arms at a comfortable angle without arching the back. Hunching over the keyboard can cause strain on the back, neck, and shoulders, leading to discomfort and decreased performance.
Factor 3: Elbow Angle
This article by Gold Touch explains how the angle of the elbows affects keyboard hand placement during gaming. An angle of 90-110 degrees is ideal for reducing strain on the wrists and forearms. If the elbows are too close together or too far apart, it can cause discomfort and decreased performance.
Factor 4: Wrist Angle
The wrist angle is extremely important when using a keyboard, as bending the wrists too much in either direction can cause discomfort and decreased performance. The ideal wrist position, according to this article by MSD Manual, is neutral, with neither upward nor downward bending, and the hand should not be bent above or below the wrist. Additionally, the wrists should not bend inwards towards the thumb nor outward towards the pinky fingers. Maintaining the appropriate wrist angle can help prevent injuries such as repetitive strain injury and carpal tunnel syndrome.
How Do These Factors Affect Hand Placement on Different Types of Gaming Keyboards?
Based on the factors discussed above, we explain hand placement techniques for different types of keyboards:
Type 1. Low-Profile Gaming Keyboard
A low-profile keyboard like this is a keyboard that is shorter in height, with switches that have shorter travel for actuation. For a low-profile gaming keyboard, ensure the keyboard is placed at a height that would make it easy for you to easily align your elbow at a right angle and not wider because of the height of the keyboard. This can be done by adjusting your chair accordingly.
You may also find interest in learning more about gaming keyboard hot-swappable switches. If so, be sure to check out our related article.
Type 2. High-Profile Gaming Keyboard
A high-profile keyboard has keycaps projecting from it. The height of the keyboard case is often at the base of the keycap. To use a high-profile keyboard, ensure your wrists are not tilted up to make up for reaching the keys. Adjust the height of your chair or desk appropriately to position your wrists to be parallel to the keyboard.
Type 3. Split Gaming Keyboard
As explained in this article by Kinesis, split keyboards are split, with each half having half the keys of a gaming keyboard, as the name implies, and can be used as a whole. The purpose of a split keyboard is to reduce ulnar deviation by placing their hands at the required right angle and horizontally, with each hand hovering over their respective halves. Split keyboards like these also allow for tenting, which means elevating the keyboard at a 0, 5, 10, 14, or 15-degree angle.
As explained in this article on ergonomic keyboards by Gold Touch, to use a split keyboard, first adjust the horizontal plane of the keyboard to straighten your wrist and make sure your elbows are comfortable at a right angle by your sides. Hold your hands with your palms downward. and slowly rotate your palms to a comfortable angle in relation to your shoulder and forearm. Adjust the split keyboard to fit your comfortable hand-tenting position.
You may also be interested in learning more about gaming keyboard trainer software and using trainers for better gaming. Be sure to read our related article to find out more.
Type 4. Full-Size Gaming Keyboard
A full-sized keyboard like this has up to 108 keys. Gaming keyboards come with extra programmable keys and full-sized gaming keyboards have all the features a gamer would ever need in a gaming keyboard. However, they also come with their challenges. These include their width, which predominantly takes up a good amount of space in front of the monitor, making it hard for users to reach other controls like the mouse. There is also the constant need to move the hands to reach keys that are far apart. Finally, there is the need to stretch the fingers to reach keys that would naturally be reachable on a compact keyboard.
Factors that Determine the Right Keyboard Hand Position
We have addressed the correct hand positions when using specific types of keyboards. There are other factors that determine the right keyboard hand position. These include the keyboard size, the type of keyboard, the keyboard ergonomics, and the keyboard height.
The right keyboard hand position is determined by several factors. Factors include keyboard size, which affects how far the wrists bend towards the thumb or little finger, and keyboard type, such as full-size, tenkeyless, or split, which determines hand placement. Keyboard ergonomics and keyboard height also affect how the hands are angled during gaming.
The following factors determine the right keyboard hand placement:
Factor 1. Gaming Keyboard Size
There are several types of gaming keyboard sizes, as explained in this article by Keychron; however, the most common include the full-size keyboard, the tenkeyless keyboard, the mini keyboard, and the one-hand keyboard. Speaking of one-handed keyboards, make sure to check out our article that introduces you to the 8 best one-handed keyboards.
Our guide on how many keys are on a gaming keyboard explains the different sizes and layouts of gaming keyboards. The larger the keyboard, the further apart the keys are spaced, the larger the keycaps, and the larger the overall geometry of the keyboard. All of these come together to determine how a gamer would adjust the wrist and extend his fingers to reach the necessary keys.
Factor 2. Gaming Keyboard Type
Beyond sizes, keyboards come in various types, including split keyboards like this, mechanical keyboards like this, membrane keyboards like this, QWERTY keyboards like this, AZERTY keyboards like this, wired keyboards like this, and wireless keyboards like this. Each of these keyboards requires gamers to adjust accordingly for optimal use. As a matter of interest, check out our article that compares wireless vs. wired gaming keyboards to find out more about these two different keyboards.
Factor 3. Gaming Keyboard Ergonomics
Gaming keyboard ergonomics refers to the design and layout of keyboards intended for use in gaming, with the aim of reducing the risk of discomfort, injury, or fatigue for the user. Gaming keyboard ergonomics involve key placement optimized for gaming, sculpted keycap design, adjustable angle and height, programmable keys, backlighting, and durability, all of which aim to reduce discomfort and injury during long gaming sessions. This study by Texas State talks about innovative keyboard designs whose ergonomics are focused on reducing musculoskeletal problems or enhancing comfort or productivity.
Factor 4. Gaming Keyboard Height
The height of a keyboard is determined by the type of keyboard case and by the type of keycaps installed on the keyboard. Keycaps come in different shapes and heights, and each of these characteristics is suited to fit users' unique needs. A low-profile keyboard has short keycaps that are almost at the same height as the keyboard case. A high-profile keyboard has keycaps that extend over the keyboard case. These features would have to be taken into consideration when adjusting the hands and wrists for a comfortable position for the respective keycap sizes.