Wrist wraps support the wrist joint by limiting excessive bending when lifting heavy, so you may be wondering if the assistance they provide will weaken your wrist and forearms over time.
As a strength coach, here's my quick answer:
Wrist wraps do not weaken the muscles in your wrist and forearms and they have no negative impact on the muscle tissue in your wrist and forearm.
With that said, it’s important to understand how wrist wraps work, when to use them, and how to strengthen your wrists without wraps to ensure that you’re keeping your wrists healthy.
Benefits Of Using Wrist Wraps
To understand how wrist wraps influence the strength of your wrist it’s important to discuss their function and benefits.
Encourages Better Technique
The biggest benefit of wearing wrist wraps for any exercise is the wrist support that they provide which helps to encourage better technique by keeping your wrist in line, which can also reduce the risk of injury.
With wrist strains being one of the most common lifting injuries, the additional support that wrist wraps provide can be a great tool to reduce the risk of your form breaking down and causing injury.
Can Help Alleviate Pain
Wrist wraps provide additional stability to your wrist joint while you’re lifting heavier weights, which can help protect your wrist, reduce discomfort, and alleviate pain.
The added stability means that there is less of a chance for involuntary movement at your wrist, which can protect your wrist from strains or other injuries due to overextending or overworking your wrist muscles.
This can also help to alleviate pain because pain is often caused by instability at the wrist joint, so adding more stability (especially under heavier loads) can reduce discomfort.
This alleviation of pain along with reducing the risk of injury, will allow you to train harder and more consistently.
Lastly, wrist wraps can help enhance your performance by making heavy weights feel lighter in your hands (due to the enhanced stability and proper joint alignment).
Since the weights feel lighter and you can maintain better alignment for longer, your smaller wrist and forearm muscles are not going to be a limiting factor in your workouts.
Instead of these easily fatigued muscles leading to a decrease in performance, the cast-like effect of wrist wraps aids them in a way that will help you push through barriers and rely more on the bigger muscles that you are trying to target.
Do Wrist Wraps Weaken Your Wrists?
Wrist wraps do not weaken your wrists; instead, they complement the strength that you already have in your wrists by providing more stability and support to the wrist joint, allowing them to stay injury-free.
Even with the use of wrist wraps, you still have to support the weight in your wrist and exert force so you will still use the musculature surrounding the wrist joint, meaning you won’t lose strength in your wrists.
When used correctly, wrist wraps act to promote the natural alignment and stability of your wrist joint. This can help lifters by decreasing the risk of wrist and elbow pain and increasing their ability to lift heavier weights.
This added stability and alignment help is especially important for pressing exercises where the barbell should sit in the base of your palm, with the load being directly over a neutral wrist.
Some may think that you can develop a reliance on wrist wraps if you wear them too frequently, which may be true. However, this does not mean that wearing wraps will reduce your natural wrist strength.
That said, if your wrists are already weak then wearing wrist wraps will not make them stronger. If you’re already weak, then you will have to work to strengthen your wrists outside of wearing wraps (more on how to do this next).
Should You Wear Wrist Wraps If You Have Weak Wrists?
Although wrist wraps will not weaken your wrists, they also won’t strengthen your wrists so it’s important to address any weaknesses that you have so they don’t lead to more serious issues down the road.
Implementing some wrist strengthening outside of your wrist wrap usage is especially important for those who have had wrist injuries and/or are experiencing wrist pain.
Even if wearing wrist wraps seems to alleviate your pain, you should still strengthen your wrists to address the underlying issues that are causing you to have pain in the first place.
Wrist Strengthening Circuit
A great circuit for weak and unstable wrists includes:
- Weighted dumbbell wrist curls. This exercise strengthens your wrist flexors which are the muscles that help prevent your wrist from bending backward under load.
- Weighted reverse curls. This exercise strengthens the backside of your forearm and will aim to target your wrist extensors which are important for gripping.
- Forearm Rotations. This exercise targets pronation and supination which are the movements that describe the rotation of your forearms from an underhand to an overhand position.
- Knuckle Push Ups. Performing regular push-ups from your knuckles will require you to keep your wrist in a neutral position under load.
Check out a video tutorial of each of these exercises:
I recommend implementing these exercises into your program by first doing 2 sets of each per week, in the 8-12 rep range. Once you have built up a tolerance, work up to 4 sets of each exercise.
When Should You Wear Wrist Wraps?
There are times to wear wrist wraps and times when it’s best to practice without them so that you’re not becoming too reliant on them.
You should wear wrist wraps when:
- You are lifting in a competition
- You are getting ready to lift heavier weights in training that may challenge you
- You are experiencing aches and pains that are alleviated when using wrist wraps
You shouldn’t wear wrist wraps when:
- You are warming up
- You experience pain that is not alleviated by the use of wrist wraps
- They are banned in competition for your sport
- You notice that they are becoming a crutch for you and you are too scared to lift without them.
Wrist wraps are an excellent tool but you need to practice lifting with and without them so that you’re reaping their benefits but not becoming too reliant on them.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is It Bad To Always Use Wrist Wraps?
Yes, you should not be using your wrist wraps on every exercise because it can impact your ability and confidence to lift without them. I recommend using them only for pressing movements, or other challenging sets of compound movements that can strain your wrists.
Should You Wear Your Wrist Wraps During Warm-Up?
I don’t recommend using wrist wraps during your warm-ups. You should treat these warm-ups as an opportunity to train your natural wrist strength and stability, and keep your wraps for weights above 70% of your 1RM, or on the last warmup before your most challenging work.