Wrist Straps vs Wrist Wraps - Everything There Is to Know!

If you have ever done lifting in your life, then you would know about two significant pieces of equipment lifters wear in the gym: wrist straps and wrist wraps. Both help in achieving better performance and offer protection from possible injuries. However, both aren’t used for the same purpose.

Wrist strap vs wrist wrap? Wrist wraps are wrapped around the wrist and offer joint support when doing any type of heavy pressing. Lifting straps, however, are also wrapped around the wrist but also around the bar you are supposed to lift. They support a weak grip when doing any type of heavy pulling

We have pointed out all the differences between wrist straps and wrist wraps, their pros and cons, when is the best time to use each of them and whether you need them or not. Continue reading to know our take on wrist strap vs wrist wrap:

Wrist Straps

Wrist straps being used to pull weight in the gym

Wrist straps, also called lifting straps, are straps, that are looped around the wrist and wrapped around the bar to make a hook-like system between the barbell and the lifter’s hand.

Their main function is to let the lifter grip more weight. As you excel in your lifting career, you eventually reach a point when your muscular strength develops beyond your grip’s capacity. At this point, wrist straps act as a helpful tool to let you keep building your strength. 

You’ll also find wrist straps benefiting other workouts where your grip is heavily involved, like barbell rows, chin-ups, and lat pulldowns.

What Are Wrist Straps Used For?

The reason why lifters use wrist straps is that grip strength often acts as a limiting factor during heavy pulling movements, including deadlifts or rowing variations. Strength potential is amazing, but often the grip, controlled by the smaller forearm muscles becomes the limiting factor. Though there are hand techniques to minimize this, like a mixed grip or hook grip, to prevent the bar from slipping, there is always a limitation.

This is also true for the strongest lifters, and it’s rare to see someone do a heavy deadlift without using lifting straps. They eliminate the demand for grip strength by locking the wrist to the bar. 

This is why wrist straps are used, by eliminating the possibility of grip failure, you can lift a max lift, with your only constraint being how much you can physically lift.

Wrist Strap Pros 

  • They enable you to quickly increase your ability to grip.
  • Easy to use.
  • They let you lift heavier in most exercises. 
  • Allow you to push yourself to lift more repetitions than normal.
  • Relatively inexpensive.
  • Can be used for multiple exercises.
  • One pair can last a lifetime.
  • Don’t occupy too much space in gym bags. 

Wrist Strap Cons 

  • You can develop an over-reliance, if you use them too much, stimulating a weaker overall grip.
  • Leather straps aren’t good at absorbing sweat well, thus they deteriorate faster.

Are Wrist Straps Worth It?

Do wrist straps help bench during a workout? Yes, they do. They make a significant difference for people with a weak grip. In fact, every serious lifter carries a pair of wrist straps in their gym bag. But that doesn’t mean you should use them to mask a weak grip.

Use wrist straps for the immediate benefit of being capable of lifting more weight without your grip failing. But, also think of ways to train your forearms and hands to build your natural gripping abilities.

Wrist Wraps

Fitness girl with the wrist wraps

Wrist wraps are wrapped around the wrist to keep it secure. They provide safety when pressing because of possible wrist overextending. Their purpose is to keep your wrist neutral. The goal is to keep the wrist from flexing back or forward when lifting by taking the wrap’s elastic material and stretching it around the wrist to make a cast-like structure.

Wrist wraps help prevent wrist injuries and keep the wrist pain-free. This is important for exercises like bench press and overhead press because, in these exercises, the barbell has to sit in the base of your palm with the load directly on a neutral wrist. But as the weights get heavier, your wrist can flex backwards uncontrollably. So, wrist wraps keep the barbell directly stacked on your wrist.

When Are Wrist Wraps Used?

Wrist wraps should only be worn, during heavy pressing exercises like bench press or overhead press because your wrist can get in a vulnerable position, and you can overextend it leading to injury. A wrist wrap will provide support around the joint to keep it in position and minimize the risk of injury. 

Use a wrist wrap only when going above 80% of the 1 rep max for a lift. If you wear wrist wraps frequently, you’ll never build up your smaller muscle groups around your wrist to support the joint, which will become your weakness. 

Wrist Wrap Pros 

  • They can quickly stabilise the wrist joint. 
  • Easy to use.
  • Let you push your wrist and forearm strength beyond natural capacities. 
  • They make weights feel lighter in hand.
  • Relatively inexpensive.
  • Can be used for multiple exercises.
  • One pair can last for 5 years.
  • Don’t occupy too much space in gym bags. 

Wrist Wrap Cons

  • You can develop an over-reliance, if you use them too much, stimulating more instability in the wrist.
  • They may feel uncomfortable in the start based on tightness around your arm. 
  • Cotton wrist wraps don’t give enough support and velcro ones fray if not treated properly.

Are Wrist Wraps Worth It?

Wrist wraps are excellent for lifting, especially for people with small/weak wrist joints. Buy wrist wraps if your wrists do not stay neutral when you lift. Besides, you should invest in wrist wraps if you’ve a history of wrist pain.

Another reason to buy wrist wraps is to make the weights feel lighter, when you lift, in your hand and to raise your confidence under heavier weights in general.

Beginner lifters, usually don’t need wrist wraps, but if you’ve strength training experience, then you should definitely consider them. Remember, they are not a magical cure for poor wrist stability. 

Related: A Step by Step Guide to Wrapping Hands for Boxing!

Bottom Line

The difference between wrist straps vs wrist wraps is that wrist straps increase the gripping ability, and wrist wraps stabilize the wrist joint when under load. While beginners don't really have to bother, with these types of equipment, at some point during a lifting career, a lifter will add both wrist wraps and straps, to their gym bag.

Don’t think about wrist straps cheating, or are wrist wraps wrong to use because there isn’t any cheating per se. But if you use them during a competition, then it is considered cheating. Just remember the difference between these two and when to use them.

Also read: 19 Gym Essentials Every Fitness Lover Needs