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Wrap It Up! A Guide to Wrist Wraps

Some CrossFitters could take a piece of advice from the fashion world: When it comes to accessorizing, less is more.

Good workout shoes will always fall into the “mandatory” category. Everything else is, to varying degrees, elective. But there’s so much out there to consider — straps, gloves, belts, socks, braces. What’s an athlete to do ?

Of the elective accessories, wrist wraps are highly regarded when it comes to barbell training. Wraps, along with weight belts, are two pieces of equipment you’ll see most lifters employ at some point.

Nicole Wrist Wraps
Nicole is rocking some wrist wraps during her overhead squats.

Why Use Wrist Wraps?

Wraps help create rigidity around the wrist to support it during lifting. This is helpful for athletes who are recovering from injury or who have chronic wrist mobility/strength issues. The wraps intentionally limit flexibility in the wrist to keep the joint from overextending or bending in a way that may cause pain or re-injury. If you are injured, you should still go light; wrist wraps are never an excuse to power through at inappropriate loads.

Wraps can also be helpful for those who lack the wrist strength to support a load. An athlete may be able to front squat or snatch more than her wrist can comfortably bear. In an instance like this, where the wrist is the limiting factor in a lift, wrist wraps can provide the necessary support to continue at the desired load.

When to Use Wraps (and When Not To)

Wraps can be used for any barbell lift, but there are two scenarios in which they are most helpful. First, when a lifter is attempting a heavy load. The more weight in a lift, the more stress will be placed on the wrist. Second, when a particular lift challenges an athlete’s wrist strength or flexibility. Snatches, overhead squats and front squats are examples of lifts that put a particularly great strain on the wrist.

That doesn’t mean you should use wrist wraps all the time. Wraps are, both literally and metaphorically, a crutch. They’ll support you when you need it, but you shouldn’t rely on them all the time. You wouldn’t keep using crutches after your sprained ankle had healed, would you? The concept is the same.

Before turning to the wrist wraps, first ask yourself whether the particular lift or the load justifies the extra support. If it doesn’t, you may be better served going without wraps and focusing on building better wrist strength and flexibility. Don’t neglect exercising your wrists. You can focus on building wrist strength through isolated movements such as wrist curls with a light dumbbell or five-pound plate.

Which Wraps to Buy?

There are two main types of wraps: the first are thin cotton ones, with straps on the end to secure them. The thin wraps contour better to the wrist and provide a bit more control over the tightness of the wrap. They also come in a variety of colors and patterns, if your fashion sense requires you to match your wraps to your shorts.

The second kind are heavier wraps, made of a thick, semi-elastic cotton. These have Velcro to secure them in place and a thumb loop to keep them from slipping. These wraps go on easily and provide better rigidity for the wrist (which is really what we’re looking for).

Ultimately, it’s a matter of personal choice. Try them both and see what you like. If you want to buy a pair, CFCOA carries Schiek Wrist Wraps – the heavier kind of wrap – in the store. Give them a try!

Schiek Wrist Wraps, available in the CFCOA store. Photo courtesy Schiek, Inc.


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