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OKAY, SO you're starting to lift heavier. Much, much heavier. Good work. But before celebrating, take note of how your wrists respond under heavier loads. If you're struggling to maintain a neutral wrist position while benching or pressing overhead, for example, it may be time to integrate wrist wraps.
This is where wraps come into play to provide extra support to keep wrists in check. That's right—they're not just for show. For some, they provide the stability to tackle heavy lifts without compromising form. At their core, wrist wraps are built to help you avoid wrist hyperextension, which occurs when the wrist joint extends beyond its normal range of motion.
"You should be fighting to maintain a neutral wrist on many lifts (think bench presses, snatches, and jerks, anyway)," explains Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., MH Fitness Director. "But wrist wraps assist in this process, thanks to a thumb loop that pulls your wrists into near-flexion, preventing them from shifting into extension."
From budget-friendly Amazon options to International Powerlifting Federation-approved cult favorites, we've spent hours testing and researching the best wrist wraps out there. Men's Health fitness editors, in collaboration with fitness experts including Former CrossFit athlete and functional bodybuilder Marcus Filly, have compared testing notes on dozens of the best wrist wraps to identify which ones are worthy of a recommendation. Throughout our meticulous evaluation process, we've carefully considered all the essentials: support, durability, comfort, length, and price.
Now, we're not saying wrist wraps are a magic solution. Especially for those early on in their lifting journey, understanding how to maintain a neutral wrist position without the aid of these accessories is crucial.
"My general feeling about supportive equipment like wrists wraps is that we should use them only when absolutely necessary," explains Filly. "Save the use of these tools for your top sets in an effort to keep you safe, feeling good, and being consistent in the gym."
Keep reading for our list of the best 7 wrist wraps to keep your wrists locked and loaded with every rep.
What to Look for When Choosing Wrist Wraps
When it comes to shopping for wrist wraps, there are a few key factors you gotta keep in mind. We're not talking about some flimsy wristbands here, we're talking about serious support for your heavy lifts. Let's break it down.
Material: First thing's first—quality is key. You need wraps made from durable, elastic material that can withstand the intense pressure you're gonna put on them. Look for a blend of cotton and elastic, something that strikes the right balance between comfort and support. You don't want your wrists feeling like they're trapped in a straightjacket, but you also don't want them flopping around like a wet noodle.
Length: You have to find your sweet spot. Too short and you won't get the support you need; too long and you'll be wrapping your wrists like a mummy. Aim for a length that allows you to wrap around your wrists a couple of times without restricting movement. This can vary a ton based on your wrist size and preferences.
Closure system: You want something secure, something that's gonna keep those wraps locked in place. Ain't nobody got time for readjusting mid-lift. Look for wraps with a strong, durable hook and loop closure that won't let you down. Trust me, you'll appreciate the peace of mind knowing your wraps aren't gonna come undone when you're pushing your limits.
Style: Yeah, we're talking aesthetics here. Function comes first, of course, but you'll be more inclined to wear them if you like the way they look (or at least don't hate the look). Find wraps that match your personal style and make you feel like a beast in the gym. From bold colors to badass designs, there's something out there that'll make you feel unstoppable.
Price: Even the very best wraps certainly don't need to break the bank, with most ringing in at around $15-20. Remember, you don't wanna sacrifice quality for a lower price, but you also don't wanna empty your wallet for a fancy brand name when more affordable options may offer the same quality.
Difference Between Wrist Wraps and Wrist Straps
Understanding the differences between wrist wraps and wrist straps is absolutely key. While wraps are mostly about stabilizing the wrist, straps help you actually grip an item.
"Wrist wraps create compression around the wrist," explains Filly. "Much like a weightlifting belt, this compression protects the tissue underneath and can add stability to a joint so you can express more force and power."
Wrist straps, on the other hand, go around the wrist and a grip/handle/bar to facilitate a more secure grip and connection between your hand and the implement you are pulling on, he says.
"Wrist straps are great tools for pulling exercises like rows and deadlifts, but they don’t provide much support for the wrist itself."
For movements where the wrist might overextend/hyperextend, wraps are more useful, and can help maintain proper wrist position.
Who Should Use Wrist Wraps?
Wrist wraps are not just for any Tom, Dick, or Harry who casually strolls into the weight room. They're not only unnecessary for novice lifters, they also get in the way of beginners learning how to maintain an optimal and safe wrist position naturally.
However, if you're working with weights that exceed your body weight or have a history of wrist issues, wrist wraps might be a smart investment, explains Samuel. "In general, if you aren’t in those categories, you probably don’t need these."
According to Filly, intermediate and advanced lifters that have progressed their strength quite far may be suitable candidates for wrist wraps when they are training with heavier weights. "To get the intensity some athletes want from their lifts, they need to use heavier weights. Wrist wraps can help keep them safe, avoid injuries or nagging pains, and stay consistent in their fitness program."
They won't transform your lifts, but they can help to prevent hyperextension and keep your wrists supported in a strong, neutral position so you can go for heavy reps with little extra support.
Benefits of Wrist Wraps
Now, I know what you're thinking—do I really need these things? And the answer is, you might not. But for those who do need a little extra support, wrist wraps can be a comforting reinforcement.
When you're cranking out those heavy reps, your wrists can sometimes take a beating. Wraps help to keep your wrists locked and loaded with support and stability, preventing any unwanted hyperextension or wobbly movements. When lifting near-max and max. loads, they can help things feel a little more solid.
But with the added support of wrist wraps, you can keep your wrists in a neutral position, reducing the risk of injury and allowing you to focus on the muscles you're working instead of worrying about your joints.
Best Exercises to Use Wrist Wraps For
By securing the wrists in a neutral position, wraps help maintain proper form and prevent excessive bending or hyperextension during heavy lifts. However, their primary utility lies in supporting movements where the wrists bear a significant load.
Broadly—and although you'll often see them get used for many other exercises—wraps are best reserved for those doing motions with barbells. More specifically, for bench press, Olympic lift, overhead press and overhead press variation movements.
When it comes to the bench press, wrist wraps provide support by stabilizing the wrists and reducing range of motion in the extended position.
In Olympic lifts, such as the clean and jerk, wrist wraps play a role in supporting and stabilizing as well. These dynamic movements put substantial stress on the wrists, and using wraps can alleviate discomfort and promote optimal wrist position.
Similarly, for a military press or clean grip front squat, wraps can serve a purpose. "The front rack position is a difficult place to hold a barbell for many people. It demands great mobility in the thoracic spine and shoulders," explains Filly. "If you lack good range of motion here, then the wrists will often take a lot of the pressure of the bar." When wrist flexibility is limited, wraps serve as a valuable aid by minimizing wrist strain and allowing individuals to focus on improving their technique and overall performance.
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How We Selected the Best Wrist Wraps
For this story, we thoroughly researched and tested dozens of the best wrist wraps on the market. We carefully evaluated every major feature, including size, durability, comfort, and, of course, price. We even looped in strength trainers and CrossFit coaches to compare notes and diverse perspectives on the best wrist wraps available today. The list above represents our honest picks for the best wrist wraps worthy of our recommendation in 2023.
Talene Appleton is the Fitness and Commerce Editor at Men’s Health, where she covers fitness, nutrition, health, and wellness. She was previously the Associate Editor of General Surgery News, and a nutrition writer for The Food Institute. Talene is a retired professional dancer, and loves to spend her free time cooking elaborate meals for her friends and family.
Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., is the fitness director of Men's Health and a certified trainer with more than 10 years of training experience. He's logged training time with NFL athletes and track athletes and his current training regimen includes weight training, HIIT conditioning, and yoga. Before joining Men's Health in 2017, he served as a sports columnist and tech columnist for the New York Daily News.
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