Seeing positive effects from simply strapping weights onto your wrist may sound too good to be true. Find out if wrist weights actually work and if they are good compared to other alternatives.
Wearing wrist weights while walking or around the house does work in the sense that you burn just a few more calories, get your heart beating just a bit faster, and potentially improve bone density and muscle endurance a small amount.
On the other hand, if you actually want to grow and strengthen your muscles with wrist weights, you will have to do specific resistance training exercises with a pair that is heavy enough.
Stronger individuals likely need heavier weights like dumbbells to build muscle in many arm muscles.
Additionally, other workouts and equipment options are often more effective for getting similar benefits as walking with wrist weights.
Lastly, you can also overdo it with wrist weights. Start light and with short sessions and gradually build up from there. Even then, keep in mind that your hand coordination may be off when you stop wearing the wrist weights.
What do wrist weights do?
Before finding out about whether they work, you need to know what wrist weights are supposed to do. This also helps you understand in what situations you may benefit more from other alternatives.
Some of the main positive effects people expect from wrist weights include toning arms, burning more calories, improving bone density, and improving cardiovascular health to small extents.
Can you build muscle with wrist weights?
There are some common myths about what does and doesn’t build muscle. Wrist weights can help you build muscle if you approach them right but most people do not use them this way.
To grow and strengthen muscles you have to work them with enough weight, repetitions, and sets and give your body the right nutrients and rest after.
There is a rough guideline to figure out whether something can help you grow and strengthen muscles. If you can do a movement more than 30 times in a row without your muscles fatiguing, you are likely not growing them.
For most people, walking around with 2-pound (0.91 kg) wrist weights will not tone their arms. You still engage your muscles which can improve endurance and offer other benefits but you will likely not see any growth.
On the other hand, there are also wrist weight movements you can do with somewhat heavier pairs.
These can actually be effective for muscle growth and strength progress depending on your strength level and the weights you use.
Are wrist weights as good as dumbbells?
Dumbbells are a popular piece of fitness equipment that many people consider instead of wrist weights. In some situations they can be better, in others worse.
First of all, if your wrist weights are too light to grow and strengthen muscles and this is your goal, dumbbells of heavier weights will be better.
Next, if a pair of adjustable wrist weights is inside of the right weight range, it is typically better than one pair of dumbbells of a static, the same, weight.
Being adjustable offers the benefits of being able to use different weights for different muscles and to progress as you get stronger. Adjustable dumbbells exist too. These are more durable but also typically pricier.
Additionally, for some people, wrist weights offer advantages that make them better than dumbbells. If you struggle with holding weights due to grip but still want to do arm exercises, a weighted arm strap could be the solution.
In terms of walking, the choice between wrist weights and dumbbells is mostly a case of personal preference and how easily you drop the dumbbells.
Do wrist weights work when walking?
Many people also consider wearing wrist weights while walking around the house or as a separate workout to burn more calories, tone their arms, improve bone density, and improve cardiovascular health.
First of all, as explained before, just walking with light wrist weights will not be enough to grow and strengthen arm muscles if you can take more than 30 steps without muscle fatigue.
On the other hand, wearing wrist weights while walking does work in terms of slightly increasing the calories you burn, getting your heart beating just a bit faster, and potentially increasing muscle endurance and bone density a small amount.
Can you wear wrist weights all day?
Besides in separate exercise sessions, some people also consider wearing wrist weights throughout the entire day.
First of all, you would likely have to gradually increase the duration. Going straight to longer sessions could cause issues.
Secondly, even then you would potentially have worse hand coordination when taking the weights off. This could lead to other issues during things like driving a car.
Additionally, other workouts and habits will likely have more positive effects than wearing wrist weights all day.
So while it can be done and works to some extent, it is generally not recommended for most people.
The information above is based on the fundamental principles of the human body but you may also want to see how these things translate into wrist weight studies.
This type of equipment is not the most studied but there are two worthwhile mentions. The first study divided 138 participants into 2 groups.
One group did dumbbell exercises 3 times a week with a pair of 1-kilogram (2.21 pounds) dumbbells.
The individuals in the other group were given 500-gram (1.1 lbs) ankle weights and 500-gram (1.1 lbs) wrist weights. They were told to wear these during their daily activities for at least 20 minutes 3 days a week.
A variety of indicators of physical health were measured at baseline, week 6, month 3, and month 6. Including the dumbbell training participants, 89 participants completed this study.
Both groups had significant improvements in waist circumference, waist-to-hip ratios, and body fat percentages but no significant difference in BMI after 6 months (1).
Another study measured an average increase in O2 uptake of 1.3% during walking and running with hand weights (2). The researchers even measured that the intensity of walking at 4 mph with ankle and hand weights was comparable to running at 5 mph.
Are wrist weights good?
It is clear that adding wrist weights to other movements and doing specific wrist weight exercises can be good for certain goals. Whether you should ultimately wear wrist weights also depends on other factors.
If you can do so safely, you can wear wrist weights during walking and other household chores. Do give your hand coordination some time to recover after taking the weights off before you do things like drive a car.
Do keep in mind that there are other fitness tools and exercises that offer similar and better effects.
If you don’t mind spending some extra time and budget and your body can deal with them, a weighted vest and cardiovascular workouts are typically recommended over wrist weights.
Besides these things, depending on your strength level, wrist weights can work well to train certain muscles. Mostly some of the weaker ones in your arms.