What Do Wrist Wraps Do? Purpose & Benefits Of Wrist Wraps

Whether you’re a seasoned weightlifter or completely new to building muscle, wrist wraps provide greater support and can even improve your form for a safer, more effective workout.  

In this guide, you’ll learn how wrist wraps work, the benefits of adding quality wrist wraps to your workout routines, and the times not to use them—as well as answers to the most frequently asked questions regarding wrist wraps.  

Wrist wraps are nylon or cotton strips that stabilize your wrists while lifting weights. They also keep your wrists aligned correctly, such as during bench presses, which improves form and thus prevents injury or strain.  

Even professional weightlifters incorporate wraps into their bodybuilding routines. However, take note that formal competitions do not allow wrist wraps due to the advantage in lifting they provide.  

Some lifters do not like using wrist wraps, arguing that they discourage building strength in your wrists naturally and can lead to overdependence. By contrast, others say these tools enhance your abilities and allow you to reach new goals and lift more than you otherwise could.  

This is especially true if you’ve suffered from wrist injuries in the past. Although most people can achieve full recovery from wrist injuries with the right care, others notice lingering weakness and pain for years afterward.  

What’s more, wrist wraps can mitigate pain in other joints besides just your wrists. During weightlifting, you may instinctually overcorrect when a lift lacks proper form. For example, if your wrist isn’t placed correctly, the shoulder might engage just a little more to stabilize that barbell.  

The issue with this, of course, is that your shoulder can become strained. Using wrist wraps when weightlifting will stabilize your wrist to prevent hyperextension and ensure your other muscles do not overwork themselves to compensate.  

What Do Wrist Wraps Do

Different Types of Wrist Wraps 

  • Stiff Wrist Wraps 
    As their name might suggest, stiff wrist wraps are those that provide stiffness—and, therefore, greater support—around your wrists when you lift weights. They may also offer some level of compression, which can alleviate strain during particularly strenuous lifts. 
  • Velcro Wrist Wraps 
    Many wrist wraps of any strength use Velcro to secure them. Some very thick, stiff varieties are beneficial to powerlifters since they’re working with extremely heavy loads. Additionally, some softer, more flexible varieties are available for those new to lifting who may not be pressing much weight yet still want that extra wrist support. 
  • Strength Wrist Wraps 
    These wraps tend to be associated with the CrossFit movement. They’re often not as thick as other wraps and tie closed rather than utilizing Velcro. Because they aren’t as thick, your range of motion in the wrist is greater, allowing you to perform different exercises without much or any adjustment. 

Benefits of Using Wrist Wraps  

If you’ve been weightlifting for some time already, you might be wondering what purpose wrist wraps serve and if using them is right for you. While not all weightlifters need or want to use wrist wraps, they do provide several benefits worth considering.  

Stabilize Your Wrists During Heavy Lifts

The heavier weights you lift, the greater your risk of improper form and injury or strain. Stabilizing all those tendons and muscles with a wrist wrap can encourage better form and prevent those issues when lifting.

Support For High Volume Movements

When engaged in varied or complicated routines—such as CrossFit or rapid-transition HIIT programs—it’s all too easy to let your form diminish as the workout progresses. Simply put, your focus wanders, or your muscles grow weary. Wrist wraps combat this, so you don’t have to actively focus on proper wrist placement when focus or stamina starts to slip. 

Higher Rate of Successful Lifts

When you lift the maximum your body’s capable of supporting, every single body part involved has to perform just right. Sometimes a failed lift boils down to one tiny moment of wrist instability. 

Recover Faster From Injuries

While it's crucial to take a break and immobilize any injured joint, after a certain time period, that lack of activity can actually weaken the muscles around it. When recovering from a wrist injury, you can use wraps to return to your routines sooner without sacrificing your healing progress. 

What Are Wrist Wraps For

When To Use Wrist Wraps  

Wrist wraps are not always appropriate, as discussed in greater detail below—but other times, they’re invaluable to your lifting routine. Here are some examples of exercises where using wrist wraps is not only highly useful but very wise, as well. 

  • High Repetitions Of Overhead Lifts 
    These workouts focus on HIIT principles: performing many intense reps in short bursts of time. With every high-intensity interval you do, your wrists will experience more fatigue and strain. Stabilizing them with wrist wraps can help you push yourself to go longer. 
  • Handstand Push-Ups And Walks 
    Even though you're not lifting weights during these exercises, you are lifting something—yourself! Wrist wraps not only prevent injury to your wrists during handstand push-ups or walks but also protect the rest of your body by making it easier to hold yourself up. An unstable wrist might cause you to lose balance and fall.
  • Heavy, Low Reps Overhead Lifts 
    When lifting anything overhead, it’s not just your wrists and arms getting the workout. Your shoulders, abs, back muscles, and even legs are engaged to maintain balance and help you lift correctly. Safeguarding your wrists with wraps means one less body part to worry about. 

When Not To Use Wrist Wraps  

Wrist wraps are not always necessary when exercising. In fact, using them at inappropriate times can hinder your workout and delay your progress.  

  • Cardio Exercises 
    Due to the wrist compression wraps provided, using them during cardio can prove wildly uncomfortable. 
  • Lifts That Are Not Overhead 
    Wraps are fairly useless during non-overhead weightlifting. Maintaining proper form in the wrists is easier when performing bodyweight exercises. Additionally, they can limit mobility during certain routines where wrist movement is a key component. 
  • Low Weight Overhead Strength Exercises 
    When lifting lower weights, it’s helpful to ditch wrist wraps so you can increase how much effort your wrists have to put forth on their own. This improves their strength and stability overall. 

Do’s & Don’ts When Using Wrist Wraps (Tips & Techniques)

Don't Use Wrist Wraps To Compensate for Mobility or Flexibility Limitations 

Pain and strain serve as cues from your body that the wrist has become overworked or injured. Think of it like walking on a sprained ankle with a boot when you really should be using crutches or resting. You’re not doing yourself any favors by forcing mobility before you’re truly ready.  

Similarly, wrist wraps shouldn’t be used to stabilize poor or improper form. You still need to ensure the rest of your body is aligned and engaged correctly during exercise.  

Don't Tie Your Wrist Wraps Too Low 

Wrist wraps that are secured too far down your arm—even by as little as half an inch—will provide subpar to no support during lifts. This renders them useless and might even provide a false sense of security that can lead to strain or injury.  

Don’t Use Wrist Wraps for Everything 

With overuse, it is possible that wrist wraps can make your wrists too dependent on them. They’re an extremely helpful tool if you’re training with very heavy lifts and pushing yourself, of course, but they don’t need to be used in instances where you know you’re capable of lifting without them.  

Wear The Correct Wraps 

Strength wraps or CrossFit wraps are best when you need support with flexibility, while stiffer wraps with Velcro are excellent for heavy lifts where your wrists don’t need a high range of motion.  

Wearing the wrong kind of wrist wraps means you won’t get stability when you need it and can’t perform certain exercises correctly when you don’t.  

Why Wear Wrist Wraps When Lifting

People Also Ask (FAQs)

Do wrist wraps help you bench? 

By increasing stability in the wrists, you can more effectively bench press heavier weights that might prove too difficult without support. Wraps also provide the increased grip strength of gloves, helping you lift more efficiently.  

Do wrist wraps help lift more weight? 

Wrist wraps can help you lift heavier weights, within reason. They don’t increase inherent strength and ability, but rather help you harness the strength you do have so that increasing your weight load is easier.  

Should you use wrist wraps during CrossFit?  

While some CrossFit athletes don’t like using wraps, a study shows that wrist injuries are common in CrossFit—particularly for male participants. In general, using wrist wraps during your CrossFit training will allow you to exercise more effectively and safely.  

Should you use wrist wraps if you have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?  

Excessive pressure on the median nerve in your wrist (which runs through the carpal tunnel in your hand) can increase pain or numbness often associated with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. One way to avoid exacerbating CTS while weightlifting is to ensure good form, which wrist wraps help accomplish.  

Other ways to alleviate wrist pain after lifting include icing the area, stretching and warming up the wrists before exercise, and adding more antioxidant-rich foods to your diet, such as pecans, blueberries, or kale. These reduce inflammation in the body and can vastly improve CTS symptoms.  

As always, do not begin or increase a weightlifting routine until your doctor gives you the green light to do so.  

How often should you use wrist wraps to avoid dependency?  

There’s some debate in the weightlifting community as to how much is too much when it comes to wrist wrap usage. Overall, the consensus seems to be: use wrist wraps when you need them—and ditch them when you don’t.

This means reserving your wrist wraps for only your heaviest sets. Warm-ups and maintenance routines don’t require extra support since you already know you're capable of correctly lifting those weight capacities without sacrificing technique.  

Some weightlifters only use wrist wraps when recovering from injuries or strain, so they can return to their exercise programs faster. Others advise against even that much, arguing that wraps disguise flaws in your form. 

Ultimately, the decision to use wrist wraps rests with you. If you feel they improve your performance and form, use them whenever you need extra support in your wrists. 

Are wrist wraps the same thing as wrist straps?  

Wraps are quite different from straps, although both can improve your lifting routine with correct usage. While wraps stabilize the wrist, straps help you lift more weight by wrapping around the barbell, so it’s easier to grip. Note that straps do not protect the wrists.  


Conclusion

Wrist wraps are very beneficial during certain weightlifting exercises due to the increased stabilization of your wrists. Wraps ensure the correct form, reduce strain, and can mitigate injury rates, all of which can then allow you to lift heavier weights for building strength and muscle more quickly and safely.