Weightlifting straps – When and how should they be used

PRECISION PERFORMANCE
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One of many never ending arguments taking place on weightlifting forums revolves around weightlifting straps. Should straps be used on all exercises or just for certain ones? Should you use them for every set or just heavy sets? Do they help you, or are they a disadvantage? Should you even use them in the first place or are they one thing that should be avoided completely?

The reasons these questions lead to arguments in the weight-training world is because you have two different types of people with completely different opinions on this training tool.

The two most common being:

  1. Never use them. They prevent you from building up your grip strength. They hold you back in terms of building up your forearms, hands and wrists.
  2. Use straps when you need to. Don’t use them for the sake of it.

Number 1 being the most common response here. Now let’s look into what straps actually are and why it is right or wrong to use them in your training.

 

WHAT ARE WEIGHT LIFTING STRAPS?

 

Just in case any of you are unfamiliar with straps and have never heard of them before, they are used to help you hold onto the weight and strap you to the dumbbell or the bar so you can go for longer without worrying about your grip strength giving in first and dropping the weight. You loop one end of the strap to your wrist and the other to the weight, thus basically locking you to the weight. You will mainly see people using them for rowing or pulling movements in comparison to any pressing type movements as they have no benefit to them.

Doing so improves your grip on the weight you are holding and helps prevent the weight from slipping out of your hands. This happens all the time for a number of different reasons, the most common being lack of grip strength, sweating, small hands and even lack of knurling on the barbell or dumbbell you are using. Weight lifting straps prevents all of the above. But should you actually use them or are they going to be a disadvantage in the long run?

 

WHEN SHOULD STRAPS BE USED?

 

If you don’t have grip issues on certain exercises, don’t use straps for that particular exercise as there is no need for it. But if you do have grip issues, then yes, go for it. And if you only experience grip issues on certain sets of exercises or as you are coming to the end of your workout and your hands are shot then throw them on.

So for example, if you’re doing heavy dead-lifts or rows and your grip is giving out for your last few sets; use them for those specific sets. The same goes for if you are only having problems with your later sets when your hands grip strength starts to fatigue use them for those sets, as there is no real benefit from using them when you don’t need them.

Yes, using straps for the sake of it will take away from your grip strength and your grip strength is extremely important especially if you’re training as a power-lifter. You should never rely on something in your training bag weather it is a belt, straps, or sleeves. But that does not mean all of these tools do not have a place, because, yes, they do. I use these tools myself, from time to time, in my training, but I think it’s extremely important to build up a solid foundation of strength and only use such tools when you really need to or are fatigued come the end of a workout.

Basically whatever sets or reps where your grip is hindering your performance or holding you back from training with the required weights on your training programme is when straps should be used.

 

HOW TO USE WEIGHT LIFTING STRAPS.

Rather than trying to explain how they work as it can be quite confusing for some people, especially if you are unfamiliar with straps, the best way to see them in action would be in a video which I have attached below.

 

HOW NOT TO USE STRAPS.

This may sound ridiculous to some of you but I think it’s extremely important to mention as I have seen it too many times in the gym. The use of straps is only warranted where you’re working against gravity or where the resistance is pulling away from you.

Exercises where they would be used would be dead-lifts, chin ups, shrugs and any other pulling/rowing type movement. They can also be used for exercises such as walking lunges and DB split squats as a lot of people will complain about their forearms lighting up really bad and loosing grip whilst doing these for high reps.

As I have mentioned before they should only be used when your performance is being hindered without them, so by no means should you be strapping up to do a set of bench press or curls as they have no benefit from this movement and you are simply just making a fool of yourself.