How to choose a wrist wrap

The choice of personal equipment has a huge amount of imponderable subjective factors. I always tell people who ask me what “the best” wrap is, that there is no answer to this question. Each person will choose their best wrist wrap according to those subjective factors. That doesn’t mean that there are no objective factors at play, or that there are no guidelines to help you navigate the choice and acquisition of this amazing piece of equipment: the wrist wrap.

Length and fabric material

Wrist wraps differ according to two factors: length and fabric material. These two factors determine how the wrist wrap will work on your wrists, for the motor task you chose to engage in. The number of possible outcomes with only these two variables is potentially infinite. One way of looking at this is the optimistic approach: out there, my perfect wrist wrap waits for me. Since infinite variations are possible, one will be perfect for me. The other way of looking at this is how these two factors can vary to satisfy the tasks they are being recruited for. That’s where you come in.

Sex

Given the same task, according to the same specifications, men and women vary in their optimal wrist wrap distribution. As a category, “men” contains a higher proportion of larger individuals, while “woman” is the set containing the smaller adult members of a population. The class “men” also tends to be characterized by a higher proportion of individuals with less joint mobility, while the individuals with more joint mobility are predominant among “women”.

Still considering the same motor task, women will benefit from fabric materials that are more malleable, more elastic, and with better inter-layer grip. Men will require tougher materials for the same task. Tougher materials tend to be less elastic. They still have to be plenty elastic, of course, but comparatively less than the wraps that satisfy the female class. There are spongy, tougher fabrics today with a great inter-layer grip as well. 

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Finally, still for the same task, length will vary. For tougher materials, a longer wrap works better. For the more elastic and malleable wraps, a shorter length is enough to provide support and still be manageable during wrapping.

Motor task

The motor task is a determinant factor: whether you will use it for Olympic weightlifting, for powerlifting, for strongman, or for random strength training at a gym weight room makes all the difference. 

I’ll start with powerlifting because it has the most restrictive rulebooks concerning personal equipment. Powerlifting wrist wraps come in 12”, 18”, 24”, and 36” long wraps. While they are used in all three lifts, they are critical on the bench press. The 12” long wraps don’t offer much support for the bench press. Women (except for the SHW) probably benefit more from a 18” long wrap, or maybe a 24” long wrap. Men (except for the light classes) probably do better with the longer wraps.

Tougher wraps are popular in powerlifting and in strongman. But Olympic weightlifting represents very different motor tasks and the wraps best suited for them should be more malleable, softer and elastic. The “cast” effect that helps the more accomplished benchers is something to be avoided in Olympic weightlifting. 

Me, using an APT ProWristStraps EZX wrap (2011)
Male competitor, same event (2011)

Inter-layer grip

Inter-layer grip is another important factor. So much so that one of the best strength training gear manufacturers, Inzer, created a special set of wraps (both knee and wrist wraps) with silicon threads on one side that increase the inter-layer grip. This model is called – surprise, surprise – the gripper. Today they have two silicon-based gripping wraps.

Silky, tight knit, elastic materials make horrible wraps because they have no inter-layer grip. They slide and it’s very hard to get the wraps into the desired wrapping design. 

What’s available out there

I have tested most of the well known and more traditional brands, as well as a few with no known brand name, or even just medical wraps. There are some pretty interesting materials out there.

Tough, spongy wraps 

The first line of these tough, spangy wraps to become popular, as I remember it, was a model called “strangulator” by the now defunct brand APT ProWristStraps. It was gray with black stripes, thick and very light. It was the wrap of choice for lifters like Andrei Malanichev. I owned both knee and wrist wraps in this model and they were just too tough and at the same time too light to wrap small joints like mine: they would just unroll as if they were made of cardboard. There is a reason why they were chosen by big, thick men.

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Less extreme fabrics were employed by several manufacturers with good results. Here is a pair by elitefts (ELITFTS Krait Wrist Wrap):

This is the thickness of another spongy wrap:

Fabric with velvety stripes

The first “good wraps” that reached the market were Inzer’s and Titan’s “velvety striped” wraps (both wrist and knee wraps). If I recall well, Inzer’s was red and black, and Titan’s was blue and black. They replaced the thinner, less elastic wraps that everyone used before, regardless of which sport they practiced. These, in turn, replaced the medical wraps that were used before.

Inzer still commercializes that early model:

Iron Wrist Wraps Z

That’s a very decent class of wrapping fabric that still makes great wraps of varying toughness and elasticity.

Gripper fabric

These are the two gripper wrap models manufactured by Inzer: the Gripper wrist wrap and the Atomic wrist wrap. The Atomic wrap is tougher than the gripper but the technology is the same.

Stretchy material with some inter-layer grip

These are two old models of amazing wrist wraps that combine stretchiness, malleability, and inter-layer grip due to the fabric’s knit and composition. The red and black one is an old APT WristStraps ERZ wrap, out of line for years, and the second is Inzer’s True Black, still manufactured and commercialized.

True Black Wrist Wraps

Medical or alternative wraps

I still collect “different” wraps that I find on Ebay, Aliexpress, or any other less conventional outlet. I’m usually hunting for softer, more elastic bands and how they could benefit a lifter. I selected a few wraps that go well in Olympic weightlifting training.

Three different wrist wrap models, the first two medical wraps, the third a very soft and elastic fabric which I tested with Olympic Weightlifters and they liked it (so did I).