Lifting heavy weights in the gym isn’t for the faint-hearted. You’ll often be pushing yourself to the physical limit, so therefore it’s important to do everything you can to ease the burden on your body.
Irrespective of whether you’ve been lifting weights for numerous years or you’re relatively new to the discipline, it’s likely that you’ll have come across two popular and helpful pieces of equipment: wrist straps and wrist wraps.
Both are essential for reducing the risk of injury and helping improve your performance - especially if you’re lifting very heavy weights.
Despite providing many of the same benefits, the two aren’t used for the same purpose. So, what’s the difference between wrist straps and wrist wraps?
To provide the short answer, wrist straps are mainly used to help increase the amount of weight you can securely grip as you lift. So, if your grip ever fails during a heavy lift, wrist straps are often the port of call.
On the other hand, wraps offer far more protection to your wrists, and are used to create solid support around the joints while lifting. They do this by keeping the wrist neutral and preventing it from either bending or flexing.
Having provided a brief description of the two above, the rest of this guide will take a further in-depth look at some of the main strengths and weaknesses of using wrist straps and wrist wraps in the gym. We’ll also look to explain which piece of equipment is best for which athletes.
Wrist Straps: What Are They?
Wrist straps are a piece of lifting equipment used by almost every type of strength athlete. From powerlifters and bodybuilders to Olympic weightlifters and Strongmen, wrist straps are a popular addition to any gym bag.
Their primary objective is to help a lifter grip heavier weights. To achieve this, simply attach the strap around your wrist and then loop the excess material around the barbell. This creates a hook-like system between the barbell and your hand.
As you gain more experience and confidence with your lifting, it’s likely that you’ll reach a point where your muscular strength has improved beyond your natural grip capacity.
If this is the case, lifting wrist straps can be an extremely helpful tool to continue those all-important strength gains in the gym.
Furthermore, you may also find that wrist straps are beneficial to performance in other exercises where grip is essential such as chin-ups, barbell rows. and lat pulldowns.
If you’re certain that you’ve got a grip issue and you’re desperate to rectify the issue, using wrist straps isn’t going to magically solve the problem. It’s equally important to work on getting your forearms and hands stronger.
Using lifting straps and performing these specific hand and forearm exercises will ensure that you’ll continue to maximize your strength gains while also developing a naturally stronger grip.
Pros Of Using Wrist Straps
- They’re incredibly easy to use
- They’ll allow you to lift heavier weights in most pulling exercises
- You can improve your gripping ability
- You can increase the number of reps you’re able to perform
- They can be used for a wide range of exercises
- One pair will last you for the duration of your life
- They’re relatively cheap ($20-$30)
- They’re not the biggest or bulkiest so won’t take up too much space in your gym bag
Cons Of Using Wrist Straps
- If used too often in your workouts, there’s a chance you may become over-reliant on them, leading to a weaker overall grip
- Leather straps tend to deteriorate faster due to the fact that they’re not as efficient at absorbing sweat
Who Should Use Wrist Straps?
As mentioned previously, the vast majority of serious lifters will have a wrist strap in their gym bag. Despite this, it isn’t necessarily essential for lifters of all ability levels and experience to wear a wrist strap during lifts.
In fact, the popular piece of equipment is only really required if you’ve identified that you’ve got a grip that’s failing on certain exercises and costing you extra weight and reps.
Using a wrist strap will allow you to increase the weight and reps, but it shouldn’t be seen as a way to cover up a weak grip. For lifters of all experience, it’s imperative to also consider the exercises you’re going to use to strengthen your gripping abilities in a natural sense.
For example, a similar thought process applies to wearing a lifting belt. Even though many lifters use a lifting belt on some of their heavier sets to stabilize and engage their core, this doesn’t mean they should stop specifically training their core muscles.
Best Wrist Straps
If you’re looking for a high quality and durable wrist strap, you’ll find plenty of good options on the market. These will help you in a range of lifting exercises such as the barbell row, deadlift, and chin-up. Listed below are four of the best wrist straps available on Amazon.
Wrist Wraps: What Are They?
Wrist wraps are a popular piece of gym equipment that you’ll often see lifters and athletes wear in the gym while they’re working out. As is the case with wrist straps, wrist wraps are used by pretty much every type of strength athlete.
The main function of a wrist wrap is to keep a lifter’s wrist neutral throughout various strength exercises. In other words, their aim is to prevent the wrist joint from either flexing forward or backward while lifting.
To achieve this, all you need to do is take the elastic material of the wrap and stretch it (as tight or loose as you like) around your wrist, creating a cast-like structure.
Keeping a neutral wrist while lifting is essential because any kind of movement of the wrist under a heavy load will increase the stress on the joint. Therefore, a wrist wrap is important as it can help to keep the wrist pain-free and prevent any potential injuries.
There are certain exercises such as the overhead press and bench press where this is particularly important. With these exercises, the barbell should rest in the base of the palm with the load supported by a neutral wrist.
As you gradually begin to increase the weight of your lifts, it’s not unusual for your wrist to flex backward. To offset this problematic movement, wrist wraps can help to keep the barbell stacked directly over the wrist.
In addition to the prevention of injury and wrist pain, a neutral wrist position is also important in making the movement more efficient. For example, if your wrist flexes backward when lifting a heavy weight, it’s usually because the forearm muscles which work to stabilize the movement have started to fatigue.
To prevent this extra strain on the wrist joints, other muscles such as the shoulders, pecs, and back have to work a little bit harder to control the safe movement of the barbell.
Ideally, you’ll be able to keep your wrist stabilized at all times as this will ensure that each part of the body is working in unison and not constantly having to compensate for certain muscle groups that may be a little weaker.
Pros Of Using Wrist Wraps
- They’re incredibly straightforward to use
- You can use them for a variety of exercises
- They’re durable and long-lasting (one pair should last at least five years)
- They allow you to feel comfortable and in control under heavy weight
- They’re great for quickly stabilizing the wrist joint
- You can wrap the wrist as tightly or as loosely as you like depending on personal preference
- They allow you to push your wrist and forearm strength beyond natural capacities
- They usually help you to return to lifting quicker after an injury
- They’re relatively small so don’t take up too much room in your bag
- They’re affordable ($20-$30)
Cons Of Using Wrist Wraps
- Using them too frequently can lead to you developing an over-reliance on them, which in turn causes greater instability in your wrist
- Wrist wraps made of cotton don’t offer sufficient support
- Depending on how tight you have them around your arm, they can often feel a little uncomfortable to start with
- If not looked after properly, the velcro may be liable to fray
Who Should Use Wrist Wraps?
For lifters who find that their wrists are unable to stay in a neutral position while lifting, it’s a good idea to invest in a pair of high quality wrist wraps.
Almost every powerlifter, crossfitter, weightlifter, and bodybuilder who takes their training seriously will have a set of wrist wraps on hand in their gym bag.
While they may not be used for every exercise in the gym, they’re an ideal piece of equipment for max effort reps, whether that’s working towards a heavy set or working near the edge of your fatigue limit.
Furthermore, wrist wraps are recommended for athletes who have a history of wrist pain and injury. While it’s always advisable to receive medical advice from a healthcare professional, wrist wraps are understood to help people return to lifting at a much quicker rate.
Another common reason lifters use wrist wraps is to make the weight feel slightly lighter in their hands. While this is only marginal, it’s an effective way to increase confidence under heavier weights.
Generally, beginner lifters don’t need wrist wraps as the weights they’ll be lifting should be pretty manageable. However, lifters that have some experience in strength training and are gradually getting stronger in the gym, wrist wraps are definitely something worth considering.
Just keep in mind that wrist wraps aren’t going to magically cure your poor wrist stability overnight. At the same time as using them, you’ll also need to work on increasing wrist stability through specific strengthening exercises.
It’s always beneficial to work on improving your natural strength and stability alongside using tools such as wrist wraps to assist.
Best Wrist Wraps
If you’re looking for a high quality and efficient wrist wrap, you’ll find a number of good options on the market. These will help to stabilize your wrist while lifting in a range of exercises such as the overhead press or bench press. Listed below are four of the best wrist wraps available on Amazon.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it true that wrist wraps weaken your wrist?
No, wrist wraps don’t weaken your wrist. They work to support the natural stability of your wrists while lifting to make sure they remain neutral at all times. However, it’s important to note that just using wrist wraps isn’t going to strengthen your wrist joints.
You’ll also need to work on some specific wrist strengthening exercises to improve your strength and stability in a natural sense.
When should you not use wrist wraps?
For pure strength work, it’s generally recommended to avoid wearing wrist wraps if you’re lifting anything below 50% of your one rep max. The only exception to this rule is if you have an injury that would become worse without the assistance of wrist wraps.
Just be mindful that this general rule doesn’t mean it’s essential to wear wrist wraps for any lifts over 50% of your one rep max. The last thing you want to do is become over-reliant on the piece of equipment.
Are wrist straps and wrist wraps considered cheating?
Given that wrist straps often allow you to lift heavier weights while wrist wraps keep the wrist joint secure and neutral, it’s not uncommon for people to question the legality of these pieces of equipment.
While neither are cheating per se, using them in competition is another matter. For example, wrist straps are never allowed in any powerlifting competitions.
Do Olympic lifters use wrist wraps?
There are different rules when it comes to training and competing in Olympic weightlifting. While lifters are allowed to use whatever equipment they want in training (including wrist straps), competition rules state that they’re only allowed to compete with a belt, tape, weightlifting shoes, wrist wraps and knee sleeves. Wrist straps are forbidden in competition.
Can you bench more while wearing wrist wraps?
Wearing wrist wraps when performing the bench press can provide a number of key benefits.
The main ones include increased joint stability, injury prevention, and allowing you to push yourself beyond your normal limits of fatigue. Furthermore, wrist wraps also make the load feel lighter in your hands and give you the capacity to grip the bar tighter and more securely.
Do wrist straps help calisthenics?
Good quality wrist straps offer excellent support for your wrist joints when first performing calisthenics. Whether you’re looking to do a frog stand or a handstand, wearing wrist straps is a great way to help your wrists get used to the load of your body weight on your hands.
How tight should wrist wraps be?
Wrist wraps are at their most effective when they limit the range of motion of your wrists as much as possible to keep them immobile and neutral. They need to be super tight which may feel a little unpleasant - especially for heavier loads - and is often why many lifters decide to loosen the wrap.
Despite the discomfort, it’s important not to lift with a loose wrap as this effectively defeats the purpose of wearing the equipment in the first place. You’ll be able to lift considerably more weight if you have the wrap tight around your wrist.
Are wrist straps worth the money?
Taking into account the fact that you’ll immediately be able to lift more weight, it’s pretty reasonable to say that wrist straps are indeed worth the money. What’s more, a good quality wrist strap should last you a lifetime, so an investment of around $10-$20 seems like a pretty good deal.
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