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Wrist wraps are used to help keep the wrist straight while lifting, most commonly during the bench press and overhead press.
There are several benefits to wearing wrist wraps, including increasing joint stability, allowing you to push beyond your normal fatigue limits, keeping your wrist injury-free, giving you the capacity to grip the bar stronger, and making the weight feel lighter in your hands.
However, to get the most out of your wrist wraps, you need to have some basic understandings of how they work and how to wear them properly. Otherwise, you'll be wasting your time by wearing them.
Therefore, in this article, I'll discuss the 13 tips you need to know to make sure your wrist wraps are contributing to stronger lifts.
If you don't already have a set of wrist wraps my absolute best recommendation is the Inzer True Gripper Wrist Wraps (click for today’s price on Amazon). These will provide the greatest stability no matter what exercises you do in the gym.
Table of Contents
1. Know That Wrist Wraps Are Not Made To Feel Comfortable
Wrist wraps are meant to put your wrist in a cast.
The goal is to limit the range of motion of the wrist while lifting. In other words, your wrist should be as immobile as possible in order to stay neutral.
As such, the wrap should be tight around the wrist. This is not going to feel pleasant.
A lot of people might feel a sense of discomfort when the wrap is tight around their wrist, so they choose to loosen the wrap as a result.
I would encourage you not to lift with a loose wrap, as it would defeat the purpose of wearing such equipment. You want to have it tight enough where the wrist is rigid under the specific load you’re lifting.
So for heavier weights, this means a tighter wrap, which is not going to feel comfortable until you take the wrap off. Don’t be surprised.
Just know, that you’ll be able to lift more weight with the wrap tight versus loose.
2. Start Wrapping With Your Wrist Bent Slightly Forward
A common fault while lifting is when the wrist cocks backward. This is especially the case in movements like the bench press and overhead press.
This is a detrimental position for the wrist to be in because it will increase stress at the level of the joint, which may lead to pain or injury.
In addition, when the wrist cocks backward, the barbell will then be more prone to moving in the hand, which might throw off other parts of your technique.
To avoid your wrist bending backward, one trick that I’ve found to work great is to start wrapping your wrist with a slightly forward wrist position.
After you have completed the wrap, you will find it near impossible to bend your wrist backward.
By wrapping your wrist in this way, you will create more tension through the back of your wrist, which is where you need the most support in most pressing movements.
Give this a try and you’ll see what I mean!
3. Wrap The Bottom of Your Palm
One of the newbie mistakes for wrapping your wrists is not placing the wrap high enough on the wrist.
In other words, you want some of the wrap to actually be at the base of your palm.
When you have the wrap at the bottom of your palm, you will increase the stability of your wrist joint even further, making it less likely that your wrist bends or flexes while lifting.
There is one caveat to this though.
If you’re a competitive powerlifter, one of the rules is that the wrist wrap cannot extend beyond 2cm above the wrist joint.
While this is still a lot of room to play with when it comes to wrapping the base of your palm, it’s worth noting that you can’t continue to wrap the entirety of your hand.
Check out my full review of the Best Wrist Wraps For Powerlifting.
4. Avoid Wrapping Too Low
Similar to my previous tip on wrapping slightly higher on the wrist, you want to avoid wrapping too low on the wrist as well.
You’ll know you’re wrapping too low if you begin to wrap more of your forearm versus your wrist.
If the wrap is lower on the arm then you won’t be providing any stability to the wrist and it will be much easier for the joint to flex forward or backward while lifting.
If you’re a competitive powerlifter, there’s a rule that says you can’t wrap your wrist lower than 10cm below the wrist joint.
Whether you’re a powerlifter or not, use that 10cm rule as your hard boundary of not to cross when you’re wrapping your wrists.
Wrist wraps can help prevent wrist pain while squatting. Check out my article How To Fix Wrist Pain While Squatting for more details.
5. Gradually Increase The Tightness As You Are Wrapping
When you wrap your wrist, you’ll probably have 3 revolutions around your wrist.
Each revolution that you wrap should progressively get tighter. This is made possible through the elastic material of the wrap.
Here’s how each revolution should feel in terms of level of tightness:
- The first revolution should be about 60% tight.
- The second revolution should be about 80% tight.
- The final revolution should be 100% tight.
A 100% tight wrap would be like pulling as much elastic tension out of the material as possible before rotating it around your wrist and closing it with the velcro.
This style of wrapping will ensure you are getting the maximum amount of stability while also maintaining a level of comfort.
As I said before, you’ll still probably feel some slight discomfort with a tight wrap, but you shouldn’t have the blood supply being cut off to your hand where your fingers start to tingle.
6. To Increase Grip Start With Your Hand Clenched In a Fist
One of the main reasons why lifters wear wrist wraps is to increase their grip on pulling exercises, such as deadlifts and chin-ups.
If your goal is to increase your grip strength, then your wrapping technique will change slightly.
This is because it doesn’t matter so much that your wrists are immobile, but rather, that your fingers and hands maintain the strongest connection possible to the barbell.
In order to maximize your grip, start with your hand clenched as hard as possible. Then, wrap your wrist as you normally would.
What you’ll notice when you finish your wrap is that your fingers curl toward the palm. It’s much harder to straighten your fingers.
Essentially, your hand and fingers are now primed to grip the barbell more effectively.
7. Take Off Wrist Wraps In Between Sets
Another common mistake of using wrap wraps is wearing them for the entire duration of your workout.
Wrist wraps are not like knee sleeves where you put them on at the start of your workout and then leave them on.
Wrist wraps are meant to be put on and taken off on a set-by-set basis. There are also going to be some exercises where you simply aren’t required to wear wrist wraps.
Knowing this, it’s okay that you feel a slight discomfort while your wrists are wrapped like a cast because it’s only temporary and lasts for one set at a time.
8. Use Wraps Made From Elastic, Polyester, and Cotton If You Want More Rigidity
If you want the most rigid wrist wraps possible, you will need a wrap made from a blend of elastic, polyester, and cotton.
The key material here is elastic. This is what allows you to pull the material tighter around your wrist.
The tighter the wrap, the more rigid it will become, and the more stable your wrist joint.
If you want a rigid wrap, you’re probably a powerlifter who is handling heavier weights in movements like the squat, bench press, deadlift, and overhead press.
My go-to wrist wraps for powerlifters is the Inzer True Gripper Wrist Wraps (click for description and today’s price on Amazon).
One of the key features of this wrist wrap is a synthetic rubber strip down the center of the wrap, which prevents the material from sliding on your skin. Therefore, once the wrap is set, it won’t move or slide whatsoever while lifting.
9. Use Wraps Made From Only Cotton If You Want More Flexibility
If you want a more flexible wrist wrap that doesn’t provide as much rigidity, you will need a wrap made from cotton.
The cotton material will provide some support, but it won’t allow you to stretch the material for a tighter wrap. Therefore, you’ll still get some wrist movement under load.
While I think that most lifters should be using a rigid wrap, there are some reasons why you would want a more flexible wrap.
If you are an Olympic weightlifter or Crossfitter who does movements like the snatch and clean & jerk, you will need slightly more movement in the wrist to ‘catch’ those exercises overhead properly.
So unless you specialize in those types of exercises, I would opt for a more rigid wrap, which is more versatile in the gym.
However, if you are someone who needs a more flexible wrap, my recommendation is the RockTape Wrist Wraps For Weightlifting (click for description and today’s price on Amazon).
10. Most People Should Use a 20- inch Wrist Wrap
There are typically three sizes that you can get wrist wraps: 12-inches, 20-inches, and 36-inches.
Most people should be using a 20-inch wrist wrap.
A 12-inch wrist wrap isn’t going to provide you with enough elastic stretch to make the wrap tight.
I would only recommend a 12-inch wrist wrap if you have extremely small wrists or you’re a teenager. However, even if you’re a teenager, you can expect to out-grow a 12-inch wrap. So most teenagers should size up to the 20-inch so that they last longer.
A 36-inch wrist wrap is a bit overkill. While you will most certainly get a tighter wrap because it will allow for more revolutions around the wrist, the extra tightness beyond a 20-inch wrap is not necessary.
I would only recommend a 36-inch wrap if you’re a bench press specialist who has already been competing in bench press competitions for 5 years. For these individuals, any extra advantage they can get from their gear will likely make a meaningful impact on their performance.
Check out my full breakdown of the 20-inch vs 36-inch wrist wrap.
11. Warm-Up Without Your Wrist Wraps
Wrist wraps are not meant to be used for every set.
If you do wear your wrist wraps for every set, you’ll start to depend on them more.
You’ll fail to build the natural stability of your wrist that is generated from loading the joint.
Therefore, a general rule of thumb is not to wear your wrist wraps during your warm-up sets.
You should only consider wearing your wrist wraps for your work sets, and even then, probably only the heaviest sets that you do.
The strongest athletes in the world wear wrist wraps. But you’ll notice that they only use their wrist wraps sparingly.
12. Work on Wrist Mobility and Stability
Similar to my previous tip, you don’t want to make wrist wraps your crutch.
You want them to aid in your performance when it matters, but you don’t want to rely on them for every set and movement in the gym.
As such, you should program a structured wrist mobility and stability program to ensure that your wrist are strong and healthy regardless of wearing wrist wraps.
Note: I would only suggest implementing the first 4:30 minutes of this 10-min routine.
Note: While this routine is geared for climbing athletes, each of these exercises is highly applicable to general weight training, powerlifting, weightlifting, and Crossfit.
13. Remove The Thumb Loop on The Wrist Wrap
All lifting wrist wraps have a thumb loop attached.
The thumb loop is meant to make it easier to start wrapping your wrist.
However, the thumb should not remain in the thumb loop while you lift. You want to remove the loop from your thumb after you finish wrapping your wrist and before starting your lift.
The reason why you don’t want to have the loop around your thumb while you lift is for two reasons:
First, depending on how tight you wrap your wrists, the thumb loop can actually pull your thumb sideways, making it harder for your thumb to grip the bar effectively.
Second, if you’re a competitive powerlifter, it’s against the rules to have the loop around your thumb while lifting.
Want to check out no-thumb loop wrist wraps? TuffWraps Villian Sidekick Wrist Wraps have no-thumb loops. Check out all of TuffWraps options to see if one will fit your routine. Use the code POWERLIFTING to get 10% off!
Making sure you follow these basic tips will ensure that you use your wrist wraps properly.
When using your wrist wraps effectively you can increase both the strength and technique of your movements because your wrist is able to stay in a neutral position under load.
If you haven’t already checked out the Inzer True Gripper Wrist Wraps on Amazon they are my favorite wrist wraps for any strength athlete.
Looking for workout gloves? Check out my reviews of the best women's workout gloves.