Strapping on weights around your wrists may sound like a strange practice. You may wonder if wrist weights actually do anything and if so, what.
From a high-level view, wrist weights can add resistance to many workouts and activities while keeping your hands free. In turn, these workouts and activities become just a bit more challenging.
As long as you do this in safe amounts, this can lead to getting more health benefits to a very small extent.
At the same time, you need to keep in mind that wrist weights are no miracle tools. Other exercise modifications, fitness equipment options, and lifestyle areas often offer more health improvements in a shorter amount of time.
Things wrist weights do
Even if these are not the biggest, wrist weights do offer benefits to some extent. Find out some of the most important effects you can expect from this type of fitness equipment.
1. Get your heart beating faster
If everything is going right, your heart is beating throughout every minute of the day to transport nutrients, oxygen, and waste throughout your body.
The more intensely you move and the more weight you have to move around, the harder this system has the work to move enough of these substances around.
Something like walking with wrist weights instead of regular walking should not be the difference between being out of breath and being a walk in the park (something easy). However, it does get your heart beating just a bit faster.
Many people can use more sessions of increasing their heart rate since the heart can be trained by using it more intensely as long as you do this in a safe range.
If you are not used to working out you don’t want to go straight to wearing wrist weights all day. Start with wearing light wrist weights for short sessions and build up from there.
Additionally, you can also increase your heart rate by doing other things like simply moving at a faster pace.
2. Can help certain people build muscle
To grow and strengthen muscles you have to challenge them enough relative to their current strength. That means wrist weights could tone your arms and other body parts if your workout is heavy enough.
Since wrist weights tend to be on the lighter side, this will mostly apply to resistance training beginners.
Additionally, weaker muscles like the ones in your arms need less resistance to get a good workout compared to the bigger leg muscles.
Keep in mind that you will need to increase the resistance as you get stronger to keep seeing progress. For this, a pair of adjustable wrist weights can be useful.
3. Can help certain people improve bone density
Similar to many other areas of your body, putting your bones under safe amounts of extra pressure can help you strengthen them (1). This is helpful for avoiding things like broken bones.
If your arms currently do not have to move a lot of weight in your daily life, wrist weight workouts can improve bone density. This will mostly apply to the resistance training exercises with relatively heavy wrist weights.
Something to note is that if improving bone density is a high priority, heavier fitness tools could be a better choice.
Things wrist weights don’t do
While wrist weights can be helpful, many people also overestimate what they can do.
Below you can find a few areas where wrist weights are somewhat lacking. That way you can make other necessary adjustments on top of your wrist weight sessions to get to these goals anyway.
1. (Likely) not enough for your weight loss goals
Unless you have tiny weight loss goals, wearing wrist weights throughout the day will not be enough to reach your goals.
As an example, let’s say you are considering adding two 2-pound (0.91 kg) wrist weights to your walking routine.
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 in the same duration at the same speed.
Wrist weights should have a somewhat bigger effect than the same weight in extra body weight due to the extra swinging. However, there are definitely more effective ways to burn more calories.
Additionally, other lifestyle areas like nutrition play an important role in weight loss no matter what exercise you do.
2. Not enough for optimal health
Similar to weight loss, wrist weights do help a tiny amount with improving your health. However, you should see them as a way to get just a bit more out of your other positive changes instead of the only means to a goal.
To improve cardiovascular health, lose weight, and get all of the other benefits of exercise in significant amounts, you need to make other lifestyle changes too.
3. Not great for every workout
Because you can simply strap on wrist weights, still use your hands, and not drop them, some people conclude that they can and should wear wrist weights in every workout.
While you can do this, there are many workouts where wrist weights do nothing or even hinder progress.
More specifically, for things like cardio workouts like cycling or rowing where your arms don’t move on their own, wrist weights offer close to no benefits.
Additionally, in heavy compound lifts like squats and deadlifts, most people need more than wrist weights to see significant effects.
In short, wrist weights are mainly good for resistance training beginners who want to work out a few arm muscles and good to make light cardiovascular movements a tiny bit more challenging.
For other types of workouts, you generally want to leave the wrist weights aside.