The Wrist wrap as a protective and performance
enhancing device in powerlifting
Marilia Coutinho, Ph.D.*
Wrist wraps come in all sorts of designs, from simple slings to complex devices combining
glove parts, thumb sleeves and grip aid elements. They are usually made of an elastic
material that restricts backward and forward wrist bending without totally immobilizing the
joint, plus any other desired effect such as aiding in grip, restricting thumb or whole hand
movement. Most wrist support and wrap devices on the market are designed for treatment
of hand, wrist and forearm injuries, or their prevention. More recently, wrist devices have
been developed as sports equipment, either as protection against injury during training or
competition, or, more controversially, as performance enhancing aids.
Most powerlifters use wrist wraps for lifting. Wrist wraps are standard equipment in the
bench press and deadlift, but many lifters will not squat without it either. Wrist wraps are
also popular among olympic lifters and other strength sports.
Let us have a look at the fascinating history of our modern wrist wraps before moving on to
its protective and performance enhancing action.
The first wrist protection and support device patented at the United States Patent Office was
filed and granted in 1901 (table 1). The device is described by its inventor, Vitold Drosness,
a Russian citizen living in New York, as an improvement over the traditional leather
wristband used by workers. Drosness’ invention introduced a double buckle system that
supposedly provides a more uniform pressure around the wrist (figures 1 and 2). This
innovation is claimed to provide better support and added strength to its users, allegedly
workers. Therefore, wristbands, the precursors of modern wrist wraps, have been in use by
manual workers for much longer than we thought in the form of traditional apparatuses not
properly protected by intellectual rights.
Figures 1 and 2 show that the device’s restrictive effect was limited compared to modern
equipment and the rigid material (leather) did not allow for constriction modulation along
This early wristband is the origin of the technological routes that resulted both in modern
weightlifting wrist wraps and orthopedic devices, as table 1 demonstrates, but not before
many other ramifications and innovative applications appeared.
Patent Number Title Issue date
5324244 Wrist assist device for weightlifting Jun 28, 1994
5599283 Orthopedic appliance retainer Feb 4, 1997
5980476 Non-compressive, distracting wrist brace Nov 9, 1999
Patent: WRISTBAND; Patent number: 680477; Filing date: Jun 14, 1901; Issue date: Aug
1901; Inventor: VITOLD DROSNESS
Figure 1: 1901 wristband invention in use. From Drosness 1901.
Figure 2: 1901 wristband invention in detail. From Drosness 1901.
The next step in the technological routes of sports and orthopedic wrist wraps is James
Tyrrell’s wrist support invention (table 2). This new device displays an anatomic
sophistication: the material is still rigid, but it contains a small orifice to accommodate the
pisiform bone (figure 3).
Patent Number Title Issue date
5324244 Wrist assist device for weightlifting Jun 28, 1994
6120472 Forearm splint system for treatment
and prevention of carpal tunnel
syndrome and other cumulative trauma
Sep 19, 2000
6807680 Adjustable band to be worn by a
person or animal Oct 26, 2004
Patent: WRIST-SUPPORTER; Patent number: 923217; Filing date: Jun 16, 1908; Issue
date: Jun 1909; Inventor: JAMES TYRRELL
Figure 3: Patent: WRIST-SUPPORTER; Patent number: 923217; Filing date: Jun 16, 1908;
Issue date: Jun 1909; Inventor: JAMES TYRRELL
In 1923 we have the first wrist support invention namely introduced for athletic use (table
3). Hansard’s invention is an early “sports glove” with inside rigid elements to prevent
backward and forward bending of the wrist, as shown in figure 4. It was developed for the
use in golf, billiards “and other games”.
Patent Number Title Issue date
3990709 Golfer's elbow stiffener Nov 9, 1976
4103897 Golfer's stance correcting device Aug 1, 1978
4138108 Athletic hand/wrist positioner Feb 6, 1979
4198709 Bowling glove Apr 22, 1980
4384571 Adjustable digital/metacarpal splint May 24, 1983
4502688 Wrist and hand support device Mar 5, 1985
4575089 Golf pronation device Mar 11, 1986
RE32566 Bowler's glove and wrist support Dec 29, 1987
4873968 Adjustable hand splint Oct 17, 1989
4899763 Therapeutic appliance for the wrist Feb 13, 1990
D331042 Wrist brace for use with computer keyboards Nov 17, 1992
5180169 Golf swing aid Jan 19, 1993
5193771 Typist's wrist support Mar 16, 1993
5339465 Palm guard for sports Aug 23, 1994
5350345 Exercise apparatus for the upper arm Sep 27, 1994
5476439 Remedial hand wear article Dec 19, 1995
5499820 Golf swing training device and method Mar 19, 1996
D374314 Hand and wrist support for bowlers Oct 1, 1996
5593353 Putting stroke training apparatus Jan 14, 1997
5634854 Golf swing training device and method Jun 3, 1997
5685809 Hand appliance for quadriplegic kinestherapy Nov 11, 1997
5725490 Elastic wrist brace with support and
longitudinally extending fastener Mar 10, 1998
5823980 Collapsible tactile support for body joints Oct 20, 1998
5846168 Hand appliance for quadriplegic kinestherapy Dec 8, 1998
5898936 Protective wrist guard assembly May 4, 1999
6001049 Light weight exercise apparatus Dec 14, 1999
6010473 Remedial hand wear article for preventing
hyperextension with full distal knuckle flexure Jan 4, 2000
6213921 Light weight exercise apparatus Apr 10, 2001
6716185 Wrist angle brace Apr 6, 2004
Patent: WRIST SUPPORT; Patent number: 1469315; Filing date: Aug 25, 1921; Issue date:
Oct 1923; Inventor: H. H. HANSARD
As can be seen in table 3, from this point several different innovation routes follow, both in
sports - distinct sports, involving different wrist and hand movements - and orthopedic
therapeutic applications. Later applications such as the Athletic hand/wrist positioner
(Robinson 1979) and the Combined workout glove and wrist wrap (Walunga 1990) are the
culmination of the sports branch of this route. Walunga’s invention (table 4) is the first
patented device namely mentioning weightlifting in its claims. Table 4 shows that from this
point on different weightlifting devices related to the wrist wrap were invented and
patented, suggesting that there was a mature market for this kind of equipment around the
Patent Number Title Issue date
4958384 Safety glove Sep 25, 1990
5004231 Exercise glove Apr 2, 1991
5033119 Glove for enhancing athletic performance Jul 23, 1991
5182814 Weight supporting glove Feb 2, 1993
D335368 Support glove May 4, 1993
5298001 Gymnastics safety grip apparatus Mar 29, 1994
5370606 Hand and wrist support Dec 6, 1994
D356203 Ski glove Mar 14, 1995
D360059 Wrist guard Jul 4, 1995
5435007 Wrist guard Jul 25, 1995
5435273 Animal leash Jul 25, 1995
5453064 Exercise glove incorporating rods which
offer resistance to movement of fingers,
hands, or wrists
Sep 26, 1995
D362927 Athletic glove Oct 3, 1995
5456650 Ergonomic exercising and bracing device Oct 10, 1995
5498234 Hand and arm support Mar 12, 1996
D368351 Glove Apr 2, 1996
D369453 Combined glove and deterrent spray May 7, 1996
5517694 Weightlifting glove May 21, 1996
5555561 Cuff seal for anti-contamination protective
garments Sep 17, 1996
5557806 Weight-lifting glove having a securing strap
and sleeve Sep 24, 1996
5592694 Wrap type hand glove Jan 14, 1997
D380874 Aerobic glove Jul 8, 1997
D381128 Weight lifting glove Jul 15, 1997
5682611 Thumbguard Nov 4, 1997
5778449 Wrist guard Jul 14, 1998
5781928 Multi-purpose hand protector Jul 21, 1998
5813050 Wrist guard Sep 29, 1998
D410956 Convertible glove-mitts Jun 15, 1999
6317938 Safety accessories for an elastic/hook
combination fastener Nov 20, 2001
6505350 Glove with removable fastener material Jan 14, 2003
7041032 Wrist band workout display May 9, 2006
Patent: Combined workout glove and wrist wrap; Patent number: 4905321; Filing date: Apr
7, 1988; Issue date: Mar 6, 1990; Inventor: Allen R. Walunga; Assignee: Allen R.
Walunga; Primary Examiner: Jeanette E. Chapman
Wrist wraps and powerlifting injuries
Wrist wraps were developed as protective devices for strenuous work involving arms and
hands and today are still employed for this purpose. In sports in general, wrist wraps protect
the athlete from elbow and wrist injuries by restricting forced or voluntary backward and
sideways wrist movement.
Upper body injuries are common in sports, involving the shoulder, the elbow and the
wrists. Two classes of injury may be distinguished: overuse (chronic) injuries and acute
injuries. Elbow overuse injuries include musculotendinous injuries, ulnar nerve injuries and
ligamentous injuries. Osteochondrol lesions of the capitellum and posterior impingement
injuries in the joint are frequently seen in athletes as well. Acute traumatic injuries to the
elbow include tendon ruptures, elbow dislocations and intra-articular fractures. Forearm
overuse injuries in athletes include fracture of the carpal scaphold, fracture of the hook of
the hamate, Kienbock's syndrome and pisoquetral syndromes. Ligamentous injuries include
scapholunate, lunotriquetral and midcarpal instability injuries. Injuries to the distal radio-
ulnar joint and triangular fibrocartilage are also quite common in athletes (Rettig 1998).
(from Yale-New Haven Hospital Health Library, http://www.ynhh-
(from University of Pennsylvania Health Systems – Penn Orthopaedics -
In a 2005 study carried out by the Institute of Sport and Recreation Research at New
Zealand (Keogh et al 2005), 36% of all reported injuries in powerlifting involved the
shoulder and 11% involved the elbow. Wrists were not included in the questionnaire closed
question item where the respondent should indicate the part of the body affected by the
injury. Many elbow injuries, though, are a later consequence of wrist overuse or trauma.
Field and Savoie (1998) reported that lateral epicondylitis occurs among 50% of athletes
that use overhead arm motions. In spite of being an elbow injury, the onset of lateral
epicondylitis begins with the excessive use of the wrist extensor musculature. Most elbow
injuries are chronic, overuse injuries (Safran 1995).
Restriction of wrist backward, forward and sideways flexion may contribute to prevent
such wrist originated injuries. The wrist wrap effectively serves this purpose.
Bellow is a table of common elbow injuries for different sports, according to Frostick et al
(1999). Weight training in general is associated to ulnar nerve disorders.
From: Frostick, S.P., Mohammad, M. and Ritchie, D.A. 1999. “Sport injuries of the
elbow”. J. Sports Med. 33;301-311, p. 301.
In their review, Frostick et all (1999) present several versions for the onset of ulnar nerve
injuries. Elbow flexion reduces cubital tunnel area and may therefore contribute to the
entrapment syndrome if inflammation and repetitive stress is also present. Chronic elbow
instability seems to be frequently associated to ulnar nerve injuries.
Both conditions are present at Bench Press training and competition. I have myself suffered
from ulnar nerve entrapment syndrome and have only been symptom free after adopting the
regular use of wrist wraps for the Bench Press.
Apparently, wrist wraps not only restrict wrist flexion, but also help to stabilize the elbow
Wrist wraps as performance enhancing equipment
Do wrist wraps actually aid in performance for weightlifting, particularly for powerlifting?
There is no published research to support a definite answer to this. I will therefore rely on
my own experience and that of other lifters I have questioned. In this manner, the answer is
a positive YES!
The most frequent use of wrist wraps in powerlifting is in the Bench Press. Fellow benchers
have reported to me what could be interpreted as a carry-over effect, since they have
observed an increased maximal effort load with the wrist wrap as compared to the raw lift.
The mechanism for the observed effect is not clear. Whether it is a result of the stabilizing
action over the involved joints (wrist and elbow) or some other effect directly related to the
movement, remains to be studied. Since the success of a maximum effort lift is critically
dependent on technique precision, stability is possibly the main source of wrist wrap
performance enhancing effect.
Powerlifters also use wrist wraps for squatting and deadlifting. In the squat, the wrist wrap
is clearly a stabilizing device, used to prevent joint movements of the arm that might affect
bar stability during the lift. In the deadlift, the wrist wrap is used chiefly as a device to
strengthen the bar grip. Most lifters use this equipment and claim they feel a much tighter
grip with the wrist wrap than without it.
Since the early precursors of modern wrist wraps, support, injury prevention and “added
strength” have been their purpose. Today, variants of the sports wrist wraps are also used
for therapeutic reasons. There is no doubt that athletes find this device useful both for
injury prevention and performance enhancement, although the exact mechanism for the
observed increased performance may not be understood.
Wrist wraps come in different materials and lengths. Each material offers a unique
combination of elasticity, support and comfort for the lifter. I have myself tested six
different APT wrist wraps, some of which are no longer commercialized. I have recently
used the Blue Mamba, the Blood Stripe, the Blue Power, the ZRV-Pro wrist wraps and
settled for the Blue Mamba and the Blue Power. Both wrist wraps have a perfect
combination of toughness, flexibility and support. The Blue Mamba feels slightly more
comfortable, while the Blue Power feels more supportive. The ZRV-Pro was somewhat
tougher than I thought optimal for my lifts. However, a heavy lifter (308 lbs) that tried it
felt it was the right toughness and support for his needs. Should it be a function of
bodyweight and lifted weight? I guess not: another lifter – male, 198 lbs, on a 440 lbs
lifting range – tried the Blue Power and felt it was tougher than he liked, while the Blue
Mamba felt right. As APTProWristStraps owner Alan Thomas pointed out to me once, the
choice is very personal.
Besides the technical aspect, the relationship between lifter and equipment has a
psychological and emotional component. A lifter’s equipment is the warrior’s sword, a
weapon, no doubt, but also the symbol of his quest, his victory and his honor. Do not
underestimate the ritual aspect of equipment choice and use. All the wrist wraps I listed
above will grant a lifter the necessary support. The increased performance, though, depends
on that subtle psychological aspect as well. My advice is that you try as many models as
you can and let the wrist wrap choose you!
Drosness, V. 1901. Patent: WRISTBAND; Patent number: 680477. Filing date: Jun 14,
1901. Issue date: Aug 1901. Inventor: VITOLD DROSNESS
Field LD, Savoie FH. 1998. “Common elbow injuries in sport”. Sports Med. 1998
Frostick, S.P., Mohammad, M. and Ritchie, D.A. 1999. “Sport injuries of the elbow”. J.
Sports Med. 33;301-311
Hansard, H.H. 1923. Patent: WRIST SUPPORT. Patent number: 1469315. Filing date: Aug
25, 1921. Issue date: Oct 1923; Inventor: H. H. HANSARD
Keogh, J. Hume, P. and Pearson, S. 2005. “Retrospective injury survey of competitive
Oceania powerlifters - A technical report for the Oceania Powerlifting Federation and
their member federations”. Institute of Sport and Recreation Research New Zealand,
Division of Sport and Recreation, Auckland University of Technology.
Rettig A.C. 1998. Elbow, forearm and wrist injuries in the athlete. Sports Med. 1998 Feb;
Robinson. C.H. 1975. Patent: Athletic hand/wrist positioner
(http://www.google.com/patents?vid=USPAT4138108). Patent number: 4138108.
Filing date: Aug 15, 1975. Issue date: Feb 6, 1979. Inventor: Charles H. Robinson.
Safran, M.R. 1995. Elbow injuries in athletes. A review. Clin Orthop Relat Res.
Tyrrell, J. 1909. Patent: WRIST-SUPPORTER. Patent number: 923217. Filing date: Jun
16, 1908.Issue date: Jun 1909. Inventor: JAMES TYRRELL
Walunga, A.R. 1990. Patent: Combined workout glove and wrist wrap. Patent number:
4905321. Filing date: Apr 7, 1988. Issue date: Mar 6, 1990. Inventor: Allen R.
Walunga. Assignee: Allen R. Walunga. Primary Examiner: Jeanette E. Chapman.
* Marilia Coutinho is a 121lbs APTProWristStraps sponsored powerlifter.