Weight training's not meant to be pleasant -- if you're not in some form of discomfort, you're doing something wrong and not training hard enough. Making your muscles hurt and your lungs scream is one thing, but having sore joints is far from desirable. Due to having smaller joint and bone structures than men, women often find that lifting weights can put pressure on their wrists. If you find this, don't suffer in silence. Support your wrists with wrist braces to relieve pain while still lifting heavy and getting a great workout.
Wrist braces, or wrist wraps as they're more commonly referred to, could be your weightlifting savior. Wraps are thick pieces of material usually made from a mixture of neoprene and cotton with an elastic loop that you wrap around your thumb. The length of the material is long enough to go around your wrist three to four times and then secure with a fabric fastening. While usually associated with powerlifters, anyone suffering from wrist pain can use wrist wraps to alleviate soreness and joint strain.
The main exercises you should use wrist wraps on are pressing movements, such as bench presses, overhead presses and dips. Wrist wraps can also be useful for squats, where your wrists are often pushed back slightly to accommodate the position of the bar on your back. It may also be wise to invest in wrist wraps if you've previously suffered from tendinitis. According to Brigham and Women's Hospital in Massachusetts, tendinitis can occur through repetition of stressful movement. Wrist wraps reduce wrist strain and may help to prevent inflammation and irritation of the tendons.
As with any good thing, wrist wraps have a few drawbacks. The only downside to using weightlifting straps is that you can become dependent on them. The muscles and tendons don't get stronger when they're heavily supported, writes personal trainer David Knowles on Bodybuilding.com. If you forget your wrist braces for a bench press workout, shoulder session or squat day, you could be in trouble.
The best alternative to braces is to spend time working on your grip and wrist strength. To increase your grip and wrist endurance, female powerlifter and grip champion Amy Wattles advises using a thick bar in your training. If you don't have access to a thick bar, try wrapping a towel around a regular bar when performing your deadlifts and presses -- the increased strain on your gripping muscles will strengthen your wrists in no time. Hand grippers are also useful tools that are inexpensive to buy and easy to use at home. A few sets each evening in front of the TV will take your wrist strength from dire to dynamic.
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.