5 Ways to Protect Your Wrists While Weight Lifting

woman stretching wrist

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Your wrists are an important but often overlooked complex joint. They provide mobility for daily movements using your hands and stability to carry and lift objects safely.

When performing daily tasks or lifting weights, your wrists play a prominent role in providing the necessary stability and mobility. Protecting your wrists by keeping them strong and healthy is key to avoiding strains and injuries. Keep reading for more information and tips for healthy, functional wrists.

The Importance of Wrist Strength

Your wrist joints are set between the five bones of the hand and the bones of the forearm. Wrists are aligned in two rows of eight or nine total small bones (carpal bones) and are connected to your arm and hand bones by ligaments, while tendons connect the surrounding muscles to the bones.

Wrist joints are condyloid joints, which are modified ball and socket joints that assist with flexion, extension, abduction, and adduction movements. This means your wrists can move in all planes of motion—side to side, up and down, and they can rotate.

While this provides a wide range of motion, it can also mean a lot of wear and tear and a higher risk of strain and injury in the tendons and ligaments. Strengthening your wrists and keeping them mobile will help prevent injuries.

Strong wrists also play a significant role in grip strength, a vital aspect of weightlifting success. There are 35 muscles in your forearm and hand that control finger movement necessary for gripping. These muscles and the tendons and ligaments involved run through your wrist.

In a research review on weightlifters and powerlifters that examined the incidence of injuries among these groups, wrist injuries were among the most common. Muscle and tendon injuries were the most common forms among weightlifters.

How to Protect Your Wrists

To protect your wrists, you can use a multi-faceted approach that works to improve the health of your wrists and prevent injuries. This includes increasing the strength, mobility, and flexibility of your wrists consistently.

Before lifting sessions, use wraps if you have wrist issues, and switch up your workouts to avoid overuse injuries. Here are five ways to protect your wrists while weightlifting.

Increase Wrist Mobility

A lack of mobility in your wrist joint can cause stiffness and pain. Mobility allows your wrists (and any joints) to have a full range of motion while retaining the stability necessary to be strong and durable. While flexibility is an aspect of mobility, it is not enough to protect your wrists since stability is vital, and being overly flexible without stability can lead to injuries.

To increase wrist mobility, perform exercises at least two to three times per week that improve your range of motion with control and stability. Here is a couple to try.

Kneeling Active Wrist Stretch

  1. Kneel on the floor or yoga mat, and sit back, resting your bum on your heels.
  2. Place your hands on the ground, your fingers pointing toward your knees, and your arms extended.
  3. Lean forward, placing your weight onto your hands to feel a stretch, then lean back.
  4. Continue leaning forward and back for 20 to 30 repetitions.

Resisted Wrist Rotations

  1. Sit on a bench or chair with your feet firmly on the floor, and hold two light dumbbells with an overhand grip.
  2. Lean forward to place your forearms on your thighs and the top of your wrists on top of your knees, palms facing up.
  3. Rotate your hands in toward the other as the underside of your forearm slightly rolls inward simultaneously.
  4. Rotate until your wrists have nearly rotated 180 degrees, then reverse slowly back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat 10 to 20 times.

Simply taking frequent breaks throughout the day to rotate and circle your wrists and gently pull back on your fingers to stretch them will go a long way toward relieving and preventing tension and stiffness that can cause mobility loss.

Warm-Up Your Wrists

Before your workouts, warm up your wrists along with the rest of your body. Start with some light cardiovascular work to get the synovial fluid in your joints moving. This fluid helps lubricate your joints to allow for better movement.

Try the mobility exercises described above, along with flexing and extending your wrists, using your other hand to gently pull back your fingers. You can also try making fists and rotating your wrists in circles.

Keep in mind, approximately 25% of sports-related injuries involve the hand or wrist, including hyperextension injury, ligament tears, front-inside (thumb side) wrist pain from overuse injuries, extensor injuries, and more.

Perform Wrist Strengthening Exercises

Strengthening your wrists can protect them from injuries since strong wrists are more stable. Exercises that improve your grip strength will serve to protect your wrists. Common weightlifting exercises that increase wrist strength you may already be doing include pull-ups, deadlifts, loaded carries, and Zottman curls.

Grip strength also is vital for healthy aging and continued success with weightlifting and performing daily tasks. For instance, if you have trouble increasing the weight on your deadlift due to the bar slipping from your hands, this could be due to insufficient wrist and grip strength.

Consider Wraps

Wrist wraps or grip-assisting products are worth considering if you have wrist issues or concerns. They can provide some external stability while lifting and reduce grip fatigue and strain on your ligaments and tendons.

A study on CrossFit athletes with wrist injuries, however, revealed that despite wraps being worn 34.5% of the time prior to their injury, the injuries still occurred. Because most of the athletes who were injured did not use wraps, this points to potential preventative effects, but more research is needed, according to experts.

It is wise not to rely on wraps to prevent injuries as a stand-alone measure, since overuse injuries can still occur despite their use. What's more, relying on external assistance rather than improving your own strength, mobility, and stability is not typically considered the best choice overall.

Avoid Overuse Injuries

Overuse injuries occur when an area of the body becomes worn, strained, or inflamed from too many repetitive motions without proper intervention. The reasons for overuse injuries are varied but include not switching up your workouts often enough to prevent strain.

In the previously mentioned research review on the prevalence of injuries in weightlifters, 25% were due to overuse injuries of tendons. Limiting overuse injuries can help prevent a large portion of potential wrist problems.

CrossFit and Wrist Injuries

Some types of weightlifting, such as CrossFit, can increase your risk of wrist injuries. Studies show a 62.2% injury rate while CrossFit training, with 20.4% specific to the hand or wrist. Most reported initial injuries occurred to the wrist (75.4%), with 29.1% reinjuring the same region.

The Importance of Proper Form

Proper form when lifting weights is vital for preventing injuries of any kind. Be sure you know how to correctly perform any of the movements you plan to do and pay attention to your form each time you train.

If you are unsure how to perform any of the exercises you plan to do (or currently do), seek the guidance of a personal trainer. A sport's physiotherapist or a physical therapist can also show you how to adjust your grip or form if you are experiencing pain.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

If your wrist pain persists or is severe, see a healthcare provider. You could be suffering from an injury. If you return to lifting weights before your injury is healed, you are likely to re-injure yourself so be sure to see your provider to gain clearance before lifting again.

A sport's physiotherapist or physical therapist can give you exercises to do at home to prevent. These movements can treat wrist pain and strain if this is a problem for you.

A Word From Verywell

Wrist injuries are fairly common but there are many ways you can prevent them and protect your wrists during weightlifting. In fact, lifting weights is itself a protective activity since many of the exercises commonly performed also strengthen and stabilize your wrists. Just be sure you have the correct form.

If you experience pain or discomfort, talk to a healthcare provider about your symptoms. They can assess your complaints and offer a treatment plan or make a referral if one is needed.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Should you wrap your wrists when lifting weights?

    You do not need to wrap your wrists when lifting weights. Powerlifters primarily use wrist wraps to increase their performance when trying to obtain a personal best or record at a competition or in training. Many people believe that when particular athletes use equipment, this means it is best practice for everyone. That is not always the case. Using some types of gear when you haven't developed your own strength and stability yet can be detrimental.

  • Why do your wrists hurt when you do push ups?

    If your wrists hurt when you do push ups, you may have limited mobility or an overuse injury. It's wise to see a healthcare provider about your pain. Avoid pushups until the pain is better. You can also perform pushups on your fists if this relieves the pain in your wrists, but only if you have been cleared to do so by a medical professional.

5 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Library of Medicine. Anatomy, shoulder and upper limb, wrist joint.

  2. Aasa U, Svartholm I, Andersson F, Berglund L. Injuries among weightlifters and powerlifters: A systematic review. Br J Sports Med. 2017;51(4):211-219.

  3. Avery DM, Rodner CM, Edgar CM. Sports-related wrist and hand injuries: a review. J Orthop Surg Res. 2016;11(1):99. doi:10.1186/s13018-016-0432-8

  4. Bohannon RW. Grip strength: An indispensable biomarker for older adults. Clin Interv Aging. 2019;14:1681-1691. doi:10.2147/CIA.S194543. doi:10.2147/CIA.S194543

  5. Tawfik A, Katt BM, Sirch F, et al. A study on the incidence of hand or wrist injuries in CrossFit athletes. Cureus. Published online March 11, 2021. doi:10.7759%2Fcureus.13818

By Rachel MacPherson, BA, CPT
Rachel MacPherson is a health writer, certified personal trainer, and exercise nutrition coach based in Montreal.