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It’s no secret that serious lifters love their gear. This is because proper equipment will increase performance, offset fatigue, and prevent injury.
So, what about wrist wraps? Are they an essential part of a lifter’s gym bag? Whether you ask a powerlifter, weightlifter, Crossfitter, or bodybuilder their answer will most certainly be: YES!
The 5 benefits of wearing wrist wraps for lifting are:
- Provides joint stability
- Gives you the ability to push beyond your fatigue limits
- Allows you to return to lifting post-injury quicker
- Forces you to grip more weight
- Makes the weight feel lighter in your hand
In this article, I’ll cover these benefits in more detail. In addition, I will show you how to properly wear wrist wraps in order to get the most out of them. There’s definitely a right and wrong way to wear wrist wraps while lifting. So read on and let’s get started!
If you want to know my absolute best recommendation for wrist wraps, I would not look further than 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.
What Is The Purpose of Wrist Wraps?
The main purpose of wearing wrist wraps while lifting is to stabilize the wrist joint under load.
Depending on the exercise, if you cannot keep your wrist in a neutral position, i.e. stacked directly over the forearm, then the load can cause unwarranted stress at the level of the joint.
If you continue to train with your wrist in a less-than-desirable position then you’ll find you won’t be able to lift as much weight, or worse, it can lead to pain, inflammation, and injury.
Do You Need Wrist Wraps While Lifting?
Most beginners who go to the gym actually don’t need wrist wraps.
It’s the same stance I take when someone asks me whether they need a lifting belt, squat shoes, or knee sleeves.
You don’t technically need any of this equipment to start learning how to perform exercises in the gym or to get stronger.
However, at a certain point, you’ll want to start acquiring this equipment because it will enhance your performance and allow you to optimize your technique beyond what you’re capable of without the gear.
If you have any serious lifting goals, then wrist wraps should one of the first pieces of equipment you add to your arsenal. They’re actually a fairly cheap investment compared with other lifting equipment, and considering the benefit you’ll get by using them.
There’s a wide choice of wrist wraps to choose from, and I’ve tried almost every brand and model over my 15-year powerlifting career. My top recommendation is the Inzer True Gripper Wrist Wraps (click for description and today’s price on Amazon).
They come in 20-inch and 36-inch, which refers to the length. The 36-inch will be a bit overkill for most people, which is why I suggest the 20-inch. No matter what your sport of choice is these wrist wraps will suit your activity.
Check out my full review of the Best Wrist Wraps For Powerlifting.
5 Benefits of Wrist Wraps
These are the 5 benefits you’ll get from wearing wrist wraps while lifting.
Make sure to check out my other article on How To Use Wrist Wraps, which provides 13 tips to getting the most out of them.
1. Provides Joint Stability
Your wrists take quite the beating when lifting weights.
For most exercises, you will have a barbell or dumbbell placed in your hand. Any slight deviation of the wrist either forward, back, or side-to-side, will cause additional stress at the level of the joint.
What you want to limit as much as possible are these wrist movements under load.
When you wear wrist wraps you create wrist stability and any movement of the wrist will be much more difficult.
For example, in the bench press, you want to ensure that the barbell sits in your palm directly over your wrist joint. As the load gets heavier, the wrist might cock backward, which will increase the stress for the entire kinetic chain, from your wrist, elbow, and shoulder.
By wearing wrist wraps in this scenario, you have a better chance to keep the barbell stacked directly over the wrist without it flexing backward.
2. Gives You The Ability To Push Beyond Your Fatigue Limits
When you’re training hard, you will push your muscles to their fatigue limit.
Not all muscles fail at the same rate though.
There is generally a cascading effect where your smaller stabilizing muscles will fatigue first, followed by your larger prime movers.
If you wear wrist wraps, you can protect your smaller muscle groups from fatiguing quicker.
For example, in the bench press, let’s say you want to do an AMRAP set at 70% load (as many reps as possible).
You’ll start the set with your wrist directly stacked over your wrist; however, as the set goes on, the smaller muscles in your forearm that help stabilize the wrist begin to fatigue. As such, your wrist starts to cock backward. Once those stabilizing muscle groups fatigue, other muscle groups need to work harder to pick up the slack.
Therefore, if you can keep your wrist stabilized longer throughout the set, you will likely be able to rep out an additional couple of reps because your system as a whole is working in unison with each other, not overcompensating for weaker muscle groups.
3. Allows You To Return To Lifting Post-Injury Quicker
If you already have a pre-existing wrist injury, then wrist wraps might help you return to lifting a bit quicker.
Obviously, you’ll want to heed the advice of your medical doctor, as wrist wraps aren’t a magic cure to fixing injuries.
However, wrist wraps are a tool in helping people lift weights while experiencing some level of wrist pain or discomfort.
This is because pain is often caused by bending or flexing the wrist, and wraps can provide the rigidity necessary to keep the joint neutral.
Wrist wraps also may help you low bar squat without elbow pain.
4. Forces You To Grip More Weight
Wrist wraps can make your hands stronger for any exercise that involves gripping, such as deadlifts, rows, chin-ups, etc.
Try this right now:
- Take your right hand and place the palm on the wrist of the left arm
- Your right thumb and fingers should wrap around the left wrist
- Squeeze your right hand as hard as possible
- Observe what happens to the fingers of your left hand
You should notice that your fingers on the left hand start to close.
This is the effect that tight wrist wraps have on your grip.
When you wear wrist wraps your fingers will squeeze harder around the bar. This is why you see some top-level powerlifters wear wrist wraps while deadlifting.
5. Makes The Weight Feel Lighter In Your Hand
If your hands are tight around the barbell the load will feel lighter in your hands, which will build your confidence under heavier weight.
This happens because of the idea of proprioception, which is your body’s sense of the world, including the sense of muscle force and effort.
Our proprioception is activated by receptors in our skin, muscles, tendons, and joints. So, when a barbell sits in our hands, it’s constantly providing feedback to our central nervous system to how the weight feels and where our body is in space.
You can increase your proprioceptive ability by creating rigidity in your muscles.
Therefore, if your hands are tight, the more proception you have and the lighter the weight feels.
However, if your hands are relaxed, the less proprioception you have, and the heavier the weight feels.
Because wrist wraps ensure the muscles in your forearm don’t fatigue as quick and helps grip the barbell tighter, it will help make the weight feel lighter in your hand while lifting.
You can test this for yourself: try a max set with and without wrist wraps and you’ll notice the weight will feel lighter with the wrist wraps even though it’s the same bar load.
Types of Wrist Wraps: What Kind Should You Get?
There are generally two types of wrist wraps that are available:
- Elastic, Polyester, and Cotton Blend
I would stay away from cotton wrist wraps altogether because they simply won’t provide enough support to reap the benefits previously discussed. They might offer some warmth to the joint, but it won’t create joint stability.
With the elastic, polyester, and cotton blend, you will be able to stretch the wrap tighter around your wrist. The materials in these blends are usually thicker as well, which will be more durable under heavier weight.
Most wrist wraps made from blends are about $5-$10 more expensive compared with the cotton wraps. The additional cost is absolutely necessary if you want a high-quality wrap that will provide you with the needed support.
Like I said, my go-to wrist wraps are the Inzer True Gripper Wrist Wraps, which are made from 40% elastic, 10% polyester, and 50% cotton. There’s also a strip of rubber down the middle of the wrap, which grips your skin, ensuring that the wrap does not move once it’s secured by the velcro.
Wrist wraps come in 20-inch or 36-inch sizes (click to read my guide on how to size your wraps).
How To Wear Wrist Wraps (Important)
There are several ways that you can wear wrist wraps depending on the benefit you’re trying to leverage the most.
For example, if you want to increase joint stability and increase your gripping strength, you’ll be required to wrap your wrist differently for these seperate purposes.
Take a look at Lee Haywood’s instruction on how to wrap you wrists for lifting:
There are several benefits to wearing wrist wraps for bench press, 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 tighter, and making the weight feel lighter in your hands.
Beginner lifters don’t need to wear wrist wraps to start working out. However, if you already have strength training experience and want to increase performance then wrist wraps should be an integral part of your lifting gear.
I compared two of the most popular lifting wrist wraps: Gangsta vs SBD Wrist Wraps. Check out my full review of which wrap is better.