Some people are genetically blessed with bigger wrists and masculine forearms. Others have to work hard for years to increase their wrist size. The good news is that it can be done.
Today I will explain why people have skinny wrists, and most importantly, how to increase wrist size with exercise and diet.
Overall, you can increase your wrist size by doing strength training exercises like deadlifts, chin-ups, and farmer’s walks. These compound movements not only help to strengthen your grip, and forearms but also increase the cortical thickness of the wrists.
In the first part of this article I will explain the reasons why people have different wrist sizes circumference. The the second part describes proven ways to make the wrists bigger.
How To Know If You Have Small Wrists?
The size of the wrists is mainly determined by genetic makeup, bone mass, and physical activity (especially during childhood and adolescence).
The easiest way to know if you have a small, average, or big wrist size is by wrapping your thumb and index finger around your wrist.
See the picture below.
In the picture above you can see I’m grabbing my left hand with my index finger and thumb.
The distance between the tip of my thumb and the tip of my index finger determines if the wrists are skinny, average, or massive.
Here’s how it works:
- Small wrist size – You know if you have a small wrist size if the thumb and index finger can overlap with each other.
- Average wrist size – You know if you have an average wrist size if the thumb and index finger meet each other.
- Large wrist size – You know if you have a large wrist size if the thumb and index finger cannot touch or meet each other.
More Ways To Know If You Have Small Wrists
You need to remember that the wrist size doesn’t come with a universal chart or ranges like BMI or body weight. Wrist size is subjective and means nothing if you don’t provide additional context.
Let me give you a couple of the examples:
- A female who has 7 inch wrist circumference and her height is under 5’1″ is considered to have a large wrist size.
- A male who has 7 inch wrist circumference and a height above 5’11” is considered to have a small wrist size.
What’s the difference?
The difference between one person’s wrist size and another sits in the body frame. To know whenever your wrists is small or big will be terminated by the shape of your body (also known as the bone structure) and your height.
Body frame size is calculated by dividing your height by wrist circumference. The result shows if you have a large, medium, or small frame.
Do Small Wrists Mean Small Frame?
You know if you have a small, large, or average wrist size by measuring your body frame size index.
In general, people who have a small body frame also happen to have a small wrist. A small wrist is nothing to worry about.
In fact, some studies have shown that a small size wrist is a good indicator of lower body fat percentage, whereas a high wrist circumference is a novel predictor of hypertension.
According to Reza Mohebi MD from Harvard Medical University, an increase in wrist circumference is independently associated with both hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
Does Wrist Size Really Matter?
Personally, I don’t think too much about the wrist size, unless I’m about to get a new watch.
However, when you look at the global trends, strong forearms and big wrists are in style. According to a Cosmopolitan article, forearms ate the second hottest male body parts.
Nothing looks more attractive for women than powerful forearms with thick wrists and popping veins. It shows that you’re in athletic shape, you are able to fight, and you can protect them in case of danger.
You may have heard about the famous study conducted by Dr.Felix, an online healthcare service based in the UK. They surveyed hundreds of women and concluded that arms were the 3rd most attractive male body part.
Going further, I did a small survey where I interviewed several people and asked them how attractive they find guys and gals with small wrists. You can learn more about that in my article “are small wrists attractive“.
Plus, wrist size can affect strength. People who have smaller wrists (and smaller frames) may be weaker than their fellow peers who have more bony structures.
Reasons For Thin Wrists
One of the reasons why people have skinny wrists is genes. The size of your wrists is mainly predicated on the DNA.
According to Dr. Hong-Wen Deng from the Tulane School of Medicine, the heritability of bone size at the spine, hip, and wrist is over 50% (source).
This means that if your patterns had small wrists, there are 50 percent chances that you will have small wrists, too.
Skinny Wrists And Genetics
Another factor that predisposes people to have a small wrist is bone mineral mass and bone density, which is also influenced by genetics.
Some studies have shown that familial resemblance for bone mineral mass is expressed before puberty and as much as 18-37% of bone traits were directly determined by maternal descent.
What does it mean?
This literally means that the size of your wrists and bone structure is mostly embedded in your DNA, even before you’re born.
(That is also the reason why some people’s wrist bone is very thin).
Do Small Wrists Mean Low Testosterone?
One of the key factors that help to grow and maintain bigger wrists is your levels of testosterone. Having a low testosterone level can contribute to having a slim wrist because testosterone does significantly influence bone growth and bone maintenance.
Both testosterone and estrogen are important in the maintenance of bone health in men and women.
For example, according to Dr. Lawrence Riggs from the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, the major cause of osteoporosis in women is estrogen deficiency due to menopause, while in men, age-related testosterone deficiency (source).
Is It Possible To Increase Wrist Size?
Does wrist size change? Absolutely. But it takes time.
It is possible to increase wrist size and make them bigger due to bony hypertrophy and a phenomenon called Wolff’s law.
The law developed by German anatomist and surgeon states that performing activities (e.g strength training) that increases load-bearing on the natural healthy bones are known to cause bone remodeling.
Bone remodeling leads to adaptive changes where bone becomes stronger to resist this loading in the future.
The evidence of Wolff’s law is seen in sports that like:
- Tennis players – The hand of the tennis player that is used to hold the racquet is usually stronger and bigger than others.
- Baseball players – A pitcher throwing a baseball have usually one arm stronger and bigger than the other.
- Rodeo athletes – A very recent study showed that bony hypertrophy in the ulna of the grip arm of bareback rodeo riders was 42.3% greater on average when compared to the non-grip arm (Douthit et al. 2022).
In other words, people who constantly use one hand over the other will likely develop stronger but asymmetrical arms.
Also, guys who are doing judo, grappling, or any form of martial arts where you use your grip to fight with the opponent usually have larger wrists and forearms.
How Long Does It Take To Increase Wrist Size?
Growing your wrists will take months, sometimes even years. Bone remodeling and bony hypertrophy is completely different than muscle hypertrophy.
For example, some data suggest that optimal muscle hypertrophy is 0.5 to 2 pounds of muscle per month.
You cannot build muscle in your wrists. Wrists are made of bones, tendons, ligaments, and other soft tissue. Bone growth it’s much slower than muscle growth.
Things that will determine how much time it takes to increase wrist size are gender, age, genes, type of physical activity, diet, and other environmental factors.
Here is the good news.
If you want to get rid of skinny wrists, mechanical stress caused by weight-bearing exercise helps to increase the rate of bone remodeling.
Does Wrist Size Increase With Age?
Age impact the wrist’s size, but not as you may think.
The wrist size does increase as we get older. However, this only applies to children and adolescents. Between the ages of 17 and 25 years, normal wrist growth stops.
After the age of 25 years old, people who want to make their wrists bigger need to use load-bearing exercises.
On the other hand, gradual and progressive decline in bone mineral density and thickness happens to people who do not perform a regular form of resistance exercise (especially in older age).
Can Wrist Size Be Increased With Exercise?
You wanna know how I get rid of skinny wrists? Simple. Lift heavy weights.
After a certain age, exercise and diet are the only way to grow and or maintain wrist size. If you want to maximize your wrist circumference but you haven’t won the genetic lottery, the best exercises to increase the size of the wrists include heavy compound movements.
Not only that.
You can increase your wrist size by doing heavy compound exercises that do not even involve using your wrists.
Here’s how it works:
- Doing heavy squats will lead to an acute increase in your testosterone level (keep in mind that the spike is only temporary).
- A temporary increase in testosterone, IGF-1, and growth hormone triggers positive changes and facilitates muscle and bone growth.
- Those positive effects work on the whole body (not only on the muscles that have been worked during squats).
The bad news is that most of the exercises have to be done in the gym (unless you have a badass garage gym with a squat rack and plenty of bumper plates).
Food To Increase Wrist Size
In general, there is no food that will somehow make your wrists bigger. Wrist size is terminated by bone mass and bone mineral density. When it comes to nutrition, bone mineral density is regulated by Calcium, Vitamin K2, and Vitamin D.
The only thing you can do is to ensure your body is getting enough nutrients and vitamins that all play a role in healthy bone remodeling.
Eating things that are rich in protein, calcium and (optional) supplement with Vitamin D will help not only to keep your bones strong but also prevent future problems.
How To Increase Wrist Size Fast
You can increase wrist size in the gym by doing heavy resistance training exercises like deadlifts, chin-ups, pull-ups, farmers’ walks, push-ups, and kettlebell swings. These exercises will trigger hypertrophy and strength gains in the grip, forearms, arms, and wrists.
Also, to get bigger wrists, you can use direct forearm training (e.g. wrist roller, towel pull-up, fat grip biceps curl, or knuckle push-ups) if you don’t have access to a well-equipped gym.
These exercises are perfect to do at home, and because they do not require lifting a bunch of weight, you can perform them almost every day.
#1 Wrist Mobility Exercises
Wrist mobility exercises should be the first thing you start when preparing to train your wrists. These exercises are usually gentle and do not require a lot of strength.
The mobility program should train pronation, supination, ulnar deviation, radial deviation, and a host of circumduction patterns.
Wrist mobility is very common, especially among climbers, gymnasts, and martial artists.
You can think of wrists mobility as a way to improve range of motion and prevent injury, rather than to build stronger forearms.
#2 Use Regular or Trap Bar Deadlifts
Lifting heavy weights not only stimulate bone growth but also leads to acute testosterone increase (which affects the whole body, not just the wrist and forearms). This means that increase in bone density occurs in the entire body, not just your wrists.
You can increase wrist size with exercises by doing conventional or trap bar deadlifts (as long as you use optimal load). Studies have shown that doing deadlifts at 60 to 90% of 1RM (3 days per week) for 24 weeks was enough to increase bone mineral density by 2.7 to 7.7%.
You can read more about this study in the PubMed article here.
Be aware that deadlifts are one of the most complex movements in strength training which requires good mobility and correct technique. If you never tried deadlifts with the barbell, I recommend either hiring a trainer or using a trap bar instead.
How To Do Deadlift Properly
Here you can see a video tutorial from Christian Thibaudeau about how to do many varieties of deadlifts.
#3 Use Ring Pull-Ups Instead of The Bar
One of the best ways to grow your wrists is by doing pull exercises like chin-ups and pull-ups. Pulling compound movements requires strength in the grip and forearms. If you want big wrists, you’ve should be doing pull more than once per week.
For your safety, I recommend using the gymnastic rings because they allow you a greater range of motion, compared to a straight bar.
Take a look at the picture collage below.
Unlike doing pull-ups on the straight bar, rings allow you to externally rotate your shoulders on the way up. Plus, holding rings means less strain on your wrists.
#4 Do Farmers Walks With Dumbbells
You can get rid of skinny wrists by doing strongman training exercises like farmers’ walk or loaded carries. The goal of this exercise is to pick up heavy dumbbells and carry them for a distance which is usually described in the number of meters.
On the surface, this may seem easy. However, make no mistake. This exercise is not a joke. Every time when I do farmers walk with dumbbells it makes my forearms scream.
There are several ways to make this exercise more challenging. You can add more weight, go a further distance, or both. You can also reduce rest time between sets.
For beginners, I recommend using a weight that you can hold for 20-30 seconds. The best time to do loaded carries is either instead of your cardio (after your strength training session) or as a part of your metabolic conditioning.
How To Do Farmers Walk
#5 Do Kettlebell Swings For Reps
You wanna know how to increase wrist size at home without a gym? Do kettlebell swings.
At the beginning of the pandemic (when all the gyms were closed), I bought a 24-kg kettlebell and started doing swings. Kettlebell swings require gigantic grip strength, epically when you do many reps.
Kettlebell swings are like doing deadlifts but faster. It’s the same hip hinge movement, but it is a little more complicated. It requires you to keep your back in a straight line, feet shoulder width apart, and head in a neutral position.
Are you ready to get bigger wrists? I’ve already written a number of articles where I explain how to use kettlebell swings.
Here is the sample program for increasing your wrist size with 3 rounds of doing kettlebell swings in just 6 minutes.
|Kettlebell Swings||10 reps|
|Kettlebell Swings||20 reps|
|Kettlebell Swings||25 reps|
Learn more: You can learn more about this type of workout in my article “kettlebell swings and Hindu pushups” here.
To be honest, if I were to choose one exercise to increase my wrists (without having access to a gym) I would go for the swings.
#6 Do Dips Instead of Push-ups
Push-ups are great bodyweight exercises that help to strengthen wrists. Some people like to do knuckle push-ups variations because they increase the pressure on the wrists. Knuckle push-ups are to go-to exercise for many gymnasts to make strengthen their forearms.
Doing knuckle pushups may be too difficult for beginners because they require having a narrower stance, directly under your wrists. Instead of doing knuckle push-ups, do dips.
Dips it’s a go-to exercise for building triceps, shoulders, pecs, and forearms. Dips are better than push-ups because they allow you to add more load, without adding unnecessary stress on your wrists.
Plus, this exercise can be done either in the gym or outside in the park.
#7 Use Drop Sets and Super Sets
How can I increase my wrist thickness? Include supersets, drop sets, and pyramids which facilitate continuous tension on your forearms.
Mechanical tension is the most effective way to enhance bone remodeling and to grow your wrists. However, you cannot focus all of your workouts on the heavyweights. You also need to add metabolic stress to increase time under tension.
Time under tension means the time when the muscles are under load. Increasing that time stimulates anabolic hormone response and triggers bone growth.
Here’s the example of the drop set and how it works:
- Pick up any exercise that targets arms (e.g. biceps curl).
- Perform 8 to 12 reps (or until muscle failure).
- Once you reach muscle failure, quickly reduce the weight and continue with the exercise until you reach that point again.
- Repeat the process for 2-5 rounds.
How To Measure Your Wrist Size?
One of my favorite quotes (I think it was from Paul Chek) says that “if you’re not measuring, you’re guessing”.
What does it mean?
This means that one of the most effective ways to know if you’re making progress or not is by measuring the results. Measuring your wrist size not only provides you with a baseline of where are you right now but also shows how fast are you making progress.
One of the easiest ways to measure your wrist size is by using a measuring tape.
- Wrap a measuring tape around your wrist.
- Place the tape around your wrist (in the same area you wear a watch) to determine the circumference of your wrist in inches. The tape should be fitted as close to the palm as possible.
- You can measure your wrist size by using centimeters or inches.
- Journal your results by writing down your numbers on your phone or notepad.
- You can measure your wrist size every 4 weeks.
Currently, my wrist is around 9 inches. A couple of years back it was less than 8 inches.
Getting rid of slim wrists is not easy but it can be done. The size of your wrists is an indicator of your frame and how big your arms can get.
However, if you put in the work and patience, you can increase your wrists size by 1-2 inches. To get bigger wrists you need to combine strength training with compound movements, as well as include some isolation forearms work.
However, keep in mind that strength training after the age of 25 will only get you so far. People have small wrists including genetics, bone structure, and the type of physical activity people do or have done in the past.