Building Bigger Wrists: What You Need to Know
Are you self-conscious about having slender wrists? Are you concerned that having thin wrists affects your aesthetics? Do you think thicker wrists will improve your athletic performance, e.g., arm wrestling or baseball? Do you worry that a large watch could look out of place on your thin wrists? These are all valid concerns. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation about wrist size and how to increase it, which can lead to a lot of frustration and wasted time and energy. That’s because your wrists are mostly made up of bones and not muscles. As such, once you’ve finished growing, there is not a lot you can do to make your wrists thicker. But all is not lost because you can definitely make your wrists stronger, and that’s far more beneficial.
In this article, we delve into the hot topic of building bigger wrists, revealing what you can do about your small wrist size.
Genetic and Environmental Factors Affecting Wrist Size
Your wrist size, like the color of your eyes, the size of your feet, and your height, is primarily determined by your genetics. Genetics describes how your genes express themselves and is like the blueprint for a building. Your genes determine the shape, structure, and function of your body, and, currently, your genes are unmodifiable. Returning to our building analogy, you can’t change the plans for your building part-way through construction. However, there are things you can do to ensure you make the most of the genetic cards you’ve been dealt – more on that later.
Now that we’ve set the stage, let’s delve into the factors – both genetic and environmental – that determine wrist size.
Anatomy of The Bones Of The Hand and Wrist
The wrist is made up of several bones. This includes the ulna and radius of the forearm and the carpal bones, specifically the lunate and scaphoid. These bones determine wrist size. While, like all bones, these structures get stronger and more dense in response to weight-bearing activity, once your bones are fully grown, they have very little capacity for getting bigger. This is why exercise won’t have much impact on wrist size. Some people are blessed with thick wrist bones, while others have much more slender wrists. If you are unhappy with your wrist size, you should blame your ancestors, as genes are inherited from previous generations of your family. If you have slim wrists, it’s safe to say other members of your family tree probably do, too.
Connective Tissue Thickness
While your wrist is mostly a group of bones that come together to form a joint, it’s connective tissue like ligaments and tendons that hold those bones together. Ligaments and tendons are immensely strong, can be strap or cord-like, are non-contractile, and have a relatively poor blood supply. Where ligaments attach bone to bone, tendons attach muscle to bone. Connective tissue thickness, like bone thickness, is mainly genetic. These structures do not grow like muscles, although, with appropriate exercise, you can make them stronger. They may thicken in response to stress, e.g., doing manual labor, but increases in size are marginal at best. However, despite their inability to grow, connective tissue thickness still contributes to wrist size.
While fat mainly accumulates around more obvious areas of your body, such as your waist, thighs, or next, it can also build up around your wrists. This is especially true if you are obese, i.e., carrying a large amount of excess fat. As such, gaining fat may increase your wrist circumference, while losing it could make your wrists smaller.
Edema, or fluid retention, can temporarily increase wrist circumference by causing swelling in the wrist area. This condition can distort measurements and give the appearance of a larger wrist size. Still, it’s important to note that this does not indicate actual bone or muscle growth. Edema can occur due to injury, e.g., a sprain or an underlying medical condition, such as congestive heart failure, kidney disease, or liver cirrhosis.
Activity Levels During Your Formative Years
Your body is very adaptable, and that’s especially true during your formative years, i.e., when you are growing. So, if you were sedentary or did a lot of activities that didn’t really stress your wrists, they didn’t have a reason to grow thick and strong. For example, if you grew up doing lots of running or cycling, your wrists wouldn’t be as big as they might have been if you’d done more weightlifting, gymnastics, or rock climbing, which put a lot of stress on the wrist joints.
Diet During Your Formative Years
It’s often said you are what you eat, and that’s especially true as you grow toward physical maturity. Bones need vitamins, minerals, protein, and calories to grow, as does the rest of your body. If you suffered malnutrition in your youth, your skeleton might not have developed fully, and that includes wrist bone thickness.
There are several diseases and conditions that can affect bone growth and, as such, could have an impact on your wrist size. Examples include hypothyroidism, rickets, growth hormone deficiency, and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, repeated wrist fractures and subsequent joint immobilization for healing can also cause slimmer wrists.
Because of the hormone testosterone, men tend to have thicker bones and greater bone mass than women (1). However, a large-framed woman could have thicker wrists than a slender-framed man, so comparing wrist sizes between genders may not be very useful.
Your ethnicity can also affect your wrist size. For example, people of Asian origins often have smaller, lighter bones than Caucasians and African/African American populations (1). Of course, there is also variance within each ethnic group, so this is only a general observation and may not apply to individuals. Genetic factors, lifestyle, and environmental conditions can all contribute to variations within these groups.
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