The Benefits of Wrist Wraps
By: James R. Kearns
“A chain is only as strong as its weakest link” is a phrase that you usually hear being used to describe a sports team or any other process that involves different parts working together. This also rings true in our ability to train in individual sports like Crossfit, powerlifting, and Olympic lifting.
Unfortunately, for many of us, our weakest link will be our wrists and their ability to stabilize the resistance in our hands. Our wrists are very small and are asked to bear a lot of weight. For this reason, wrist wraps have become an essential piece of equipment for many athletes.
Recreational weightlifters, competitive powerlifters, Crossfit Games athletes and virtually anyone else can benefit from a quality set of wrist wraps. If you’re serious about your training, then you owe it to yourself to find out the benefits of wrist wraps.
The main goal of a good pair of wrist wraps is to support and stabilize the wrist. This provides several benefits, but the one that makes them so popular is the positive effect on the athlete’s performance.
The improved stability will result in the athlete to handle heavier weights and handle them more efficiently. In sports involving a barbell, you will commonly hear the term “bar path”. The goal is to keep that bar path as straight as possible because anything off of centerline is wasted energy.
This wasted energy may not seem like a big deal with lighter weights, but when the weights begin to get heavier and heavier, that wasted energy may cost you that final rep.
Wearing wrist wraps will provide your wrists with enough support and stabilization that you will be able to keep that bar path as straight as possible. This is particularly critical with lifts like cleans, snatches, and presses.
If you have ever done these lifts, then you know how important it is to keep the barbell traveling in a straight line. Wasted energy may end up being the difference between a PR and failed lift.
While wearing wrist wraps can improve our performance during training, staying injury free may be the most important benefit. A new PR might not be worth it if you have to miss 3 weeks of training because you sprained your wrist in the process.
Sprains, strains, tendentious, and even breaks in the wrist can sideline the most diehard athlete in the gym. The stabilization and support from wrist wraps can help prevent these injuring from happening by reducing the pressure being applied to them.
A good set of wraps will keep your forearm and hand in proper alignment. The top of the hand rolling back towards the forearm (wrist flexion) can not only reduce performance but lead to injury. Some lifts such as cleans and jerks will require that the hand is placed in this unnatural position. This makes good wrist support even more crucial.
When to Wear Them
It won’t be necessary to wear your wrist wraps during your entire workout. Since the wraps are used to support your wrists during heavy or unstable lifts, wrapping your wrists during warm-ups isn’t necessary.
You probably won’t need a lot of wrist support when training under 50% of your 1RM. When you begin working with heavier loads the wrist support will be essential to performance.
The most important time to wear wraps will be on lifts like snatches, jerks, presses, and other lifts that may require the use of very heavy weight. These lifts are going to require maximum wrist alignment and wrist stability. As we talked about earlier, bar path will be crucial during these exercises.
Unlike many lifts, cleans are often performed with heavy weights and will require your wrist to become unaligned with your forearm. When performing at a high percent of your 1RM, wraps can be very important in not only improved performance but injury prevention as well.
You can essentially wear wraps for any exercise in your workout. Just keep in mind that some movements will demand more wrist mobility (bodyweight exercises, gymnastics, rings, etc.). Unless you have an underlying wrist issue; wraps may not be imperative for performance for these types of movements.
How to Wear Them
A good pair of wrist wraps will be simple to use and should only require a brief learning curve before you’re wrapping like a pro.
After unrolling your wraps, simply put your thumb inside the thumb loop. Once your thumb is secure, begin wrapping them just above your wrist. Between the last knuckle on your thumb and your wrist is a good place to start the wrap.
The starting position is important. Too often you will see athletes in the gym or box who are wearing their wraps far too low. Remember, they are “wrist wraps” not forearm wraps. If they are too low they will not support your wrist effectively.
Continue tightly wrapping around your wrist to your upper forearm. Just make sure that there’s enough wrap left to finish back at the wrist. This will provide sufficient support and stability.
If it’s possible, take your wraps off between sets, intervals, etc. They will be tight and they’re not something that you want to leave on for an hour straight.
Maybe you have a bone crushing grip, 18’ forearms, and don’t think that it’s necessary to wear wrist wraps. If this is the case, then you are the envy of many athletes around the world, but you can still receive the benefits or wrist wraps.Wrist wraps have become an essential piece of equipment for athletes from all sports and backgrounds. If you’ve been struggling with injured wrists or missed lifts, wrist wraps may be your missing link.