Putting extra weights on your wrists may sound like a strange practice. However, it does offer a few helpful benefits in your workouts and potentially daily life.
One important thing to note first is that if you were relatively inactive until now, you don’t want to wear the heaviest wrist weights you can find every minute of every day. Start light with short sessions and build up from there.
Additionally, wrist weights are not the only way to get the positive effects below. There are a good amount of habits that can be more effective in these areas.
Lastly, like with any piece of fitness equipment or form of extra exercise, you have to keep increasing the challenge of your wrist weight workouts as you get stronger and fitter to keep seeing progress over time.
1. Wrist weights keep your hands free
Most fitness equipment options require you to hold something to start seeing extra health benefits. Something relatively unique to wrist weights is that don’t have to do this.
Having your hands free can be helpful for things like walking comfort, being able to hold other things, being able to drink water while walking, still being able to do your daily activities, etc.
Something to keep in mind is that a weighted vest and ankle weights also offer these benefits. You may prefer these other equipment options.
Additionally, if you are relatively new to any form of arm resistance training, you likely don’t want to go from 0 to wearing wrist weights all day.
You can start with wearing 0.5-pound (0.23 kg) wrist weights during 5 minutes of your daily walk/daily activities. If that goes well you can slowly increase the duration and then the weights in safe increments.
2. Wrist weights could help you build some muscle
While wrist weights can help many people with this next benefit, there are still conditions.
To build muscle you have to put them under pressure and do enough repetitions. The exact requirements will depend on how strong your muscles already are.
To get more specific, certain wrist weight exercises with heavy models can even be great for strengthening certain muscles.
For example, bicep curls and tricep extensions with wrist weights and enough repetitions could be enough to cause muscle growth.
Shoulder presses and bent-over rows typically require more resistance but for some individuals, heavy wrist weights could work.
Lastly, just wearing wrist weights and doing your typical daily activities will likely not be enough to actually grow your muscles a lot.
In short, wrist weights could help resistance training beginners grow and strengthen a few muscles. Fitter individuals will likely need more challenging exercise equipment options for these goals.
3. You can’t drop wrist weights
Besides keeping your hands free to do other things, strapping the weights to your wrists also offers the benefit of keeping the weights there during certain workouts and activities.
For example, in workouts like step aerobics, boxing, jumping jacks, and walking, choosing wrist weights instead of something like dumbbells can help you avoid dropping the weights.
In turn, this can help you avoid annoyance, spending time on exercise interruptions, and accidents with flying dumbbells.
4. Wrist weights can help you lose more weight
If you want to lose weight, you need to get to a point where you use up more energy than you absorb from food sources. At this point, you turn to energy stores like body fat to get the remaining needs.
One way to do this is by focusing on burning more energy aka calories.
Because moving heavier weights tends to require more energy, wrist weights can also make your activities burn slightly more calories. In that sense, you can say they help you lose weight.
On the flip side, while they do help to some extent, wrist weights are not magical tools.
How effective are they?
To put these weight loss effects into specific numbers you can take a look at walking with weights. This is usually done with wrist weights from 0.5 pounds (0.23 kg) up to 2 pounds (0.9 kg) per side.
A 155-pound (70 kg) person walking for 30 minutes at 3 mph (4.8 kmh) burns around 128 calories.
Someone who weighs 159 pounds (72.1 kg) will burn around 131 calories while walking at the same speed for the same duration.
Wearing wrist weights will likely have a slightly different effect. However, even with that in mind, it should become clear that wrist weights are not the most effective for losing weight either.
On top of that, any extra energy burning you get from wrist weights will “go away” as you lose weight. In turn, you have to increase the challenge to keep seeing a lot of progress.
Lastly, details like what you eat will also still influence your weight loss results from wrist weights a lot.
One study divided 138 participants into a dumbbell workout and an ankle and wrist weight group.
These ankle and wrist weight individuals were given a pair of 500-gram (1.1 lbs) ankle weights and a pair of 500-gram (1.1 lbs) wrist weights.
Additionally, they were told to wear these at least 20 minutes a day, 3 days a week, for 6 months. 89 participants completed this study (including dumbbell training participants).
They observed that the remaining ankle and wrist weight group participants had significant improvements in waist circumference, waist-to-hip ratios, and body fat percentages (1).
This is definitely not the best study ever but this would not be a surprise either. Especially in combination with another study that measured increases in energy consumption when walking with weights (2).
In simpler words, wrist weights help you burn at least a few extra calories.
5. Wrist weights improve cardiovascular health somewhat
Even if you sit still, your cardiovascular system extracts oxygen from the air and moves this oxygen, nutrients, and waste products throughout your body.
When you start moving and the more intensely you do so, the more these things need to happen to function well.
Another consequence of working your cardiovascular system hard enough (but not too hard) is that you can actually strengthen it.
Because movements with extra weights make this happen, you can say that wrist weights in combination with certain activities can potentially help improve your cardiovascular health just a bit more.
At the same time, it is worth mentioning that just wearing wrist weights will not be enough to get a cardiovascular system that is considered to be healthy.
6. Wrist weights can often be used as ankle weights
Not all but many wrist weights can also be strapped around your ankles. This can be helpful for certain training goals and exercises on top of your wrist weight workouts and sessions.
For example, ankle weights can be helpful for weighted core exercises and isolation exercises for leg muscles like your glutes (butt), outer thigh muscles, inner thigh muscles, hip flexors, and potentially quadriceps and hamstrings.
Additionally, you may sometimes simply prefer the feel of ankle weights over wrist weights in your daily walk.
7. Wrist weights could improve your bone density
Your bones are actually “living” tissues that you can strengthen by pressuring them in safe amounts (3).
Exercises and movements with wrist weights put more pressure on the bones in your arms than the same activities without any weight. In turn, this could improve bone density by a small amount.
This is a benefit since having stronger bones reduces your risk of breaking them.
Older people tend to be more concerned about this aspect of their health than younger people.
However, you need to know that strengthening your bones tends to become harder as you age. That means even if you are young, it could be worth paying attention to this.
Something important to note is that while wrist weights are better than nothing, people who want to strengthen their bones want to turn to other equipment options instead.
The difference in pressure between a weighted barbell and wrist weights and in turn, bone strengthening potential is just so much.