Pros And Cons Of Wrist Weights (+ Alternatives)

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There are many different ways to improve your current exercise routine. What about exercising with wrist weights, what are the pros, cons, and alternatives?

Wrist weights are simply straps with some extra weight that are attached to your wrists. They can be used in many exercises to add some extra resistance to your training.

Exercising with wrist weights can offer a few benefits over regular exercises but it is not for everyone. They can be both good and bad depending on what you use them for and your personal situation.

As a strength training beginner or for specific exercises it can make sense to invest in wrist weights.

If you plan to do a lot of strength training exercises it may be smarter to invest in equipment like dumbbells. These tend to require a bigger investment but they allow you to take your strength training further.

This article will go over who can consider using wrist weights, what benefits you can expect from it, what exercises are suited for wrist weights, how to avoid injuries when using wrist weights, and what alternatives may be better for achieving your workout goals.

Should you exercise with wrist weights?

Before going into the benefits you have to know that using wrist weights can also have a few downsides.

First of all, adding extra external weights to any exercise increases the injury risk. Even if the exercise is perfect for wrist weights. Make sure your technique is good before adding any extra weights.

Exercises like running can be hard on body parts like ankles, shins, knees, and back. Even though they are attached to your arms wearing wrist weights while running increases the pressure on these lower body parts and thus the injury risk even more.

Not all types of exercise are equally suited for wrist weights. Running with wrist weights can influence your gait. This can in turn cause issues in your daily life and other sports.

All in all wrist weights can be used in safe ways but you do need to keep the potential downsides in mind. Other workouts may also offer these extra benefits without the downsides. If you are injury-sensitive it may be smarter to not use wrist weights.

5 Pros of using wrist weights

If your body can handle them, wrist weights offer advantages compared to regular exercise.

1. Helps you burn more calories

A big factor in how many calories you burn during a workout is your weight. To move around your body needs energy, measured in calories. The more weight you carry, the more energy you need to fuel movement.

For example a 155-pound (70 kg) person doing lunges for 15 minutes burns around 110 calories.

On the other hand, a 185-pound (83 kg) person doing lunges for 15 minutes burns around 131 calories.

There will likely be a difference in how much wrist weights increase calorie-burning vs the same weight in body fat.

However, this does show how exercising with wrist weights can benefit calorie burning and in turn weight control. Even if it is just a small amount.

2. Helps you build more muscle

To grow and strengthen muscles you have to put them under enough pressure. This starts a variety of processes that can make them stronger in combination with the right nutrition and rest.

Resistance training wrist weight workouts can help you build more muscle than the same movements without any resistance. In turn, wrist weights can benefit muscle growth and strength progress.

3. Can improve cardiovascular health

Your cardiovascular system is the circulatory system inside of your body and includes heart and blood vessels. These transport many types of important nutrients, oxygen, and waste throughout your body.

When you move more intensely your body needs to transport these things, which means using your heart, at a higher rate.

Your heart is a muscle that can be trained by using it more intensely. Exercising with wrist weights makes your heart beat slightly faster and thus helps you strengthen your cardiovascular system more.

This in turn leads to a wide variety of other benefits (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).

Do keep in mind that muscles can get injured. If you have not done any physical activity in a long time you may want to start out with low-intensity movements without wrist weights and build up from there.

4. Improves bone density

Exercise can help improve, and prevent degeneration of, your bone density, basically the strength of your bones (6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11).

The way many parts of your body work is that by challenging them you set in motion processes that strengthen these body parts.

This includes your bones. By putting pressure on them in safe amounts you can make them stronger in the long term.

Exercising with wrist weights puts slightly more pressure on your bones than exercising without them. This in turn will benefit your bone density in the long term to some extent.

One thing to note is that you also should not expect crazy differences by using wrist weights. At the same time, they do work for this goal a certain amount.

5. Budget-friendly equipment

Another potential hurdle for many workouts is the budget required.

Some exercises require inexpensive equipment starting with a jumping rope to at-home workout machines of hundreds or thousands of dollars. Even the investment required for gym subscriptions adds up after a while.

Money put into improving your health is generally a great investment but sometimes you can get the same effects with less. Wrist weights are relatively inexpensive. This can be a great benefit depending on your personal situation.

Different exercises for wrist weights

Generally, wrist weights are less suited for exercises that involve running or walking. They can cause changes in your stride which in turn can cause issues. There are also just better alternatives for weighted running.

A type of exercise that wrist weights can be helpful for is strength training, exercises done with the goal of building muscle.

Wrist weights will not do much for exercises like pushups but there are a few exercises where wrist weights can benefit your workout.

Some examples of exercises for wrist weights include:

  • Lateral raises
  • Bench press
  • Lunges
  • Shoulder press
  • Bicep curl
  • Bent-over row

You can basically do exercises similar to exercises you can do with dumbbells. Wrist weights are essentially lower-weight, lower-investment, dumbbells you can not drop on the ground.

How heavy should wrist weights be

How heavy your wrist weights should be varies from person to person and exercise to exercise but there are some general recommendations.

If you decide to run or walk with wrist weights a maximum weight of 3 pounds (1.4 kg) is recommended.

For some of the strength training exercises above, like the lateral raises, you can use heavier wrist bands if your skill level allows it. You can find and use wrist weights from 0.5 pounds (0.23 kg) up to 20 pounds (9.1 kg).

Good wrist weights often allow you to adjust the weight you use. This can be extra helpful if you are not sure yet what weight would be right for you.

How to avoid injuries

Another important point when considering wrist weights is the injury risk involved. An injury can reduce the amount of time you can exercise to 0 in the worst case. Consistency is an important factor when improving your health.

That means that exercising without wrist weights may offer slightly fewer benefits today but more in the long term by avoiding periods of injury in which you do no exercise at all.

Especially if you are more of an exercise beginner you want to start with gentle exercising without wrist weights and build up from there. Many wrist weights allow you to change up the weight.

In that case, you can start with lower weights first and if that goes well go up to higher weights.

If you feel pain in any body parts it may be a sign you are overdoing it. In that case, you may need some rest, better lifestyle habits, a less intense workout schedule, or it may be a sign that exercising with wrist weights is not for you.

What is your goal with wrist weights?

It may also be smart to consider what your goal is with using wrist weights.

For example, ankle weights are unique in some situations since you can not really carry any weights with your feet in other ways.

Because of this, some people question how useful wrist weights are compared to dumbbells but there are some potentially relevant differences.

The first difference between dumbbells and wrist weights is that you can not lose your grip on wrist weights. This can be useful for workouts like running where dropping the weight would interrupt your training.

Do keep in mind that good weighted vests can do this too.

Another difference is that you can find wrist weights at a lower price than a dumbbell of the same weight.

As a strength training beginner or for specific exercises it can make sense to invest in wrist weights.

If you plan to do a lot of strength training exercises it may be smarter to invest in equipment like dumbbells, a barbell, or kettlebells (if you have the budget for these).

In short, wrist weights can be a helpful tool for some individuals and certain workouts but they are not essential to get in a good workout.


Some groups of people can benefit from adding wrist weights to the right types of exercises. For others, it may be smarter do the same exercises with body weight or to use other external weights.

As long as you don’t cross your limits making an exercise more intense is usually beneficial for your long term health.

The challenge is being able to do this without injuries. Wrist weights can be both safe and unsafe depending on how you use them.

The message is rather safe than sorry. Especially if you are an injury-sensitive and/or inactive individual you may want to start with soft workouts and from there build up the weight from your wrist weights slowly.

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Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.