Trying to get bigger wrists? Maybe you don’t feel confident about your skinny wrists. Maybe some people noticed them and made fun of you (sad people, really). Or you have an average wrist size, but you would rather have thicker wrists anyway. Whatever the case, welcome. I tried a lot of methods and exercises, in this is what I learned over the years.
To get bigger wrists, you can do curls and extensions, knuckle pushups, any exercise asking to squeeze your wrist hard (pull ups, chin ups and, deadlifts) or using hand grips.
Don’t overtrain, as it will impair your everyday life and set you back weeks in your progress. And beware that your wrists can’t actually grow much in size. In the rest of this article, I’ll go more in depth about these exercises, and why you have small wrists in the first place.
Do you have small wrists?
You know you have small wrists when pretty much every modern watch you try on seems huge or out of place on you. Most men watches are 40mm in size or above, and a big part of them are 42mm and above – especially in fashion brands.
Those watches appear very big, or the lugs of the watch case may overhang your wrist or forearm. Same goes when you’re trying men bracelets (like beads, rope and leather bracelets): they are too loose.
The easiest way to measure your wrist circumference is to take a soft ruler and wrap it around your wrist, just above your wrist bone. You will have a reading in inches or centimeters, depending on where you’re from.
Most men with wrists smaller than 7 inches (17.8cm) consider having small wrists. I certainly can relate: mine are 5.9 inches or 15 cm. (Click here if you want to know exactly what is the average wrist size for a man.)
Check out the in-depth guide that I wrote on how to measure your wrist size, with uses cases and gotchas.
Anyway, the actual measurement of your wrists doesn’t matter that much. It’s all about perception. If you feel your wrists are too small or skinny and want to have bigger wrists, here is what I learned. But first and foremost…
Why are your wrists so small?
Because your body is the way it is: your bone structure defines the size of your wrists.
If you were active before adulthood and practiced a physical activity involving an average or heavy use of your arms, then chances are you have average or big wrists. If you didn’t, then your radius and cubitus bones and ends solidified closer together, resulting in smaller-than-average wrists.
Now, having small wrists is not a bad thing. It’s not unhealthy. It doesn’t mean you’re in a bad shape. It doesn’t mean you’re a lesser man. It’s just the way things are. We’re all different.
I actually like mine. I never thought of them really until I became a watch enthusiast and noticed that most watches are just too big for me. But if that bothers you, here are some tips.
Can you actually get thicker wrists?
The short answer to this question is: not really. It’s very hard to get thicker wrists. It takes time and effort, and the results are minimal.
Your wrist is a joint where some muscles are attached to. But unlike your arm – where you can train your biceps and triceps – no actual muscle is present in your wrist. This is why its almost impossible for your wrists to grow in size.
To get really bigger wrists, you would need to have thicker bones or change the structure of your forearm and hand. Which, of course, is not an option.
So, what can you do?
You could gain weight, since fat is stored all around your body, including in your wrists. But since it’s not very healthy, and probably not what you’re after anyway, I really wouldn’t advise you to go that route. Stay healthy, please.
What you can do is to get thicker forearms. By training your forearms, you will get thicker wrists (to a small extent, though). This is it, really.
Just bear in mind that your forearms will actually grow quite a lot if you train them properly, so the actual size ratio between for your forearms and your wrists will get bigger! This might give the impression that your wrists are smaller than they actually are.
But if you want to get thicker wrists no matter what, then read on.
How to get bigger wrists
At some point, I trained my forearms and wrists to wear bigger watches. I went from 5.9 inches to 6.1 inches – a 0.2 inch or 5mm increase. It’s not much of a difference on the paper by any means, but they felt a bit thicker. Your mileage may vary, depending on where you start.
There are many ways to get bigger forearms, and therefore wrists. Just bear in mind that there is no way to increase your wrists size fast. It just won’t happen, sorry. It takes time and dedication. But if you’re up to try it, then here are the 4 simple exercise types I did.
1. Curls and extensions
These are your typical exercises to grow any part of your body; your forearms and wrists are no exception.
Since we are looking for hypertrophy, aim for 3 to 5 sets of 8 to 12 reps. I like to do 3×12, but 5×8 works as well. Check for 4 to 6 weeks with one and then try the other and see if there are any changes in your gains.
Wrists extensions exercises work well since they work the outer part of the forearm.
You can grab any weight and rest your forearms flat on a surface, with your hands hanging and your palms facing down. I like to rest my forearms on my thighs. From that position, you lift your hands towards the ceiling without moving anything else. A bit like you would turn a bike’s throttle handle.
Wrist curls are kind of the opposite of that.
The position is the same as the extensions, but now your palms face up. Grab a weight and lift those hands towards the ceiling without moving any other part of your arm. It’s a bit like a mini version of your typical biceps curls.
To do those curls and extensions, you can work with dumbbells, kettlebells or barbells, they all serve the same purpose: asking your arms and wrist to grab something heavy and lift it. Even if it’s totally possible to increase your wrist size without weights, they will always get you there quicker. And probably better, since it very hard to match the kind of mass you can gain with weights.
That being said, I really like to work with resistance bands.
They are small, which makes it easy to put them away when you’re done. They are cheap, so you can have many of them for different “weights” (you will use the lighter ones though, there is not much strength in forearms of most people). You can train at home, anytime: a real no-brainer in my book.
No gym membership hassle. And they work your forearms just as hard as regular weights.
I prefer to get loop bands since they are easier to grab.
I recommend getting this set of 5 resistance loop bands with a carrying pouch (on Amazon). These are the kind I use, and I love them a lot. But if the only resistance band you have lying around is a thin regular band, this will work as well. You’ll have to grab it even harder so that it doesn’t slip: an added bonus for your goal
2. Knuckle push-ups
This is another great way to make your wrists stronger at home: push-ups. But not the regular ones; we want knuckle push-ups.
A knuckle pushup is a pushup that you do with your fists closed. Unlike a regular push up where your hand is open and your palm is resting on the floor, now your fist is closed and your knuckles rest on the floor.
Because you have to squeeze your fists hard to stay balanced, this exercise will work your forearms and wrists a lot more. As soon as you begin the bring your chest closer to the ground, you will feel that lateral movement that will work your forearms.
Keep those thumbs outside your wrists though; you don’t want to hurt yourself.
If you can’t do full body push ups, that’s okay. You can still do knee push ups (but still on your knuckles) and work your way up to 20 to 30 reps sets. When you can consistently hit that target, you’re ready to transition to full knuckle push-ups.
Most of the time, push-ups are done with your wrists shoulder width apart.
For added difficulty, you can push your hands further apart or bring them closer together. Also, you can also rest your wrists on the floor in two different ways: the traditional way (like pictured in the photo above) or rotated 90° outward. Both will make your forearm work so it’s up to you and what exercise you can actually do.
When I do knuckle push ups, my knuckles hurt. Not because the exercise hurts per se, but because the floor is so hard and you have your all weight resting on your two innocent fists. This is when I use pushup handles, it makes knuckle push ups almost a pleasure (almost). This set of 2 push ups handles (Amazon link) is the one I recommend. I used them and my wrists thanked me for not hurting.
3. Pull ups, chin ups and deadlifts
On to the heavy stuff. Pull ups, chin ups and deadlifts are great exercises for wrist thickening as well.
Any heavy lift or exercise that involves squeezing a bar really hard with a lot of weight attached to it (weight plates or, well, yourself) will make your forearms work and grow. It’s that simple.
These are my 3 favorite exercises to do at the gym.
- Pull ups work your upper back a lot, and enhances your standing position.
- Chin ups work those biceps more.
- Deadlift is a go-to exercise that works pretty much every major muscle group in your body, including glutes, thighs, abdominal muscles and back muscles.
Of course, you will need to have a gym membership (or a home gym, lucky you), but squeezing those bars really hard will help in your quest of getting bigger wrists.
4. Hand grips
There are many other devices out there to help you work your forearms and wrists but I think these hand grips are the most useful of them.
They allow you to – again – squeeze something really hard to get those muscles working. It’s pretty much the same mechanics than the previous exercise types, with the added benefit of being able to work your forearms anytime, anywhere (I like to do it in front of some YouTube videos).
Here is a set of 2 hand grips on Amazon that look exactly like the ones I use. They’re cheap and small, so if looking for a forearm workout at home with no equipment, this might be for you.
Don’t overtrain with these! It’s really easy to get excited the first day and use them like 20 times, and then having sore muscles – or worse, joint injuries – 24 hours later. Be patient!
Disclaimer and precautions
I’m not a personal trainer or doctor, so always get proper advice or help from professionals, if you decide to train.
Some precautions before you get started:
- Check with your doctor if you don’t have any condition preventing you to work your arms, forearms, and wrists (problems with your carpal tunnel comes to mind here). You don’t want to get injured.
- Before and after each session: stretch, stretch, stretch. You don’t want sore muscles.
- Always use your full range of motion: you want to go as far as you can in both directions. Really small movements around the middle of your motion range won’t get you anywhere.
- Work slowly: I tend to use a 1-3 timing, which means 1 second to go from the rest position to the full extension / curl position and 3 seconds to go back to the rest position, without any pause.
- Work 3 times a week maximum. Yes, you read that right. Overtraining will hurt you and set you weeks or months back. What’s the point?
- Stop if it hurts: training should be hard but not painful. If it hurts, stop immediately and check with your doctor promptly.
In any case, go slowly. Slow and steady wins the race, remember? Same goes here.
And be patient, as your gains will take weeks or months to be measurable, let alone show. It’s just the way it is: wrists can’t gain that much volume.
And you know what? Some bodybuilders actually find that having small wrists is a blessing. Because they are so thin, their forearms appear to be bigger than they actually are.
There are actually ways to deal with your small wrists when you love watches that don’t actually require you to train or exercise.
Or even better, you can just accept your wrists the way they are. This will save you a lot of emotional and cognitive stress: you just won’t think about your wrists in a negative way anymore… or at all. This is the path I chose after a few months.
See, there’s always a way to see things from a positive perspective 🙂