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A Thought On Straps

For anyone that doesn’t know, wrist straps are a piece of assistive equipment used by strong weightlifters (note that I said strong weighlifters) to enhance their training by removing the grip as a limiting factor in exercises.

They are probably second in popularity among such equipment, only behind the weightlifting belt. These wrist straps are not the same as wrist wraps, used by lifters to stabilize the wrist during pressing exercises.

The most common type of straps loop through themselves to create a secure wrap around the wrist. You then wrap the loose end around the bar and twist until the connection is tight.

This is what straps look like.

Do not confuse straps with any of the other stupid implements that you may see people using in the gym. For instance, wrist-things with hooks built into them are not straps and are just plain stupid. Stupid may sound harsh, but this is weightlifting, not cooking class. Also, do not confuse straps with those weird looking wrist-wraps that skinny kids use when they’re pretending to be strong.

Please don’t ever use these.

Like I mentioned earlier, straps are used to remove the grip as the limiting factor for an exercise. For most trainees, grip nearly always fails first and can sometimes even get in the way of proper training. The problem with straps is that trainees can become dependent on the use of straps, ultimately ruining their grip by using them for every exercise that involves holding a weight. Here’s a quick set of ground rules on the use of straps.

  • For Olympic lifts, do not use straps. These include snatches and clean & jerks.
  • For power lifts, do not use straps. These include squats, bench presses, and deadlifts. (God help you if you use straps on bench presses or squats.)
  • For dumbbell exercises, do not use straps.
  • For cable or machine exercises, do not use straps.
  • For grip work (obviously), do not use straps.

By now, you’re probably thinking, “Okay, so what can I use straps for?” Well …

  • For “big,” second, or accessory exercises, you may use straps on your heaviest sets. For instance, common exercises in my program include RDLs and snatch-grip deads. I use straps on my heaviest sets. And I only use straps with barbells.

Snatch-grip deadlifts are great for grip development (when you don’t use straps).

Otherwise, I don’t really see the point of straps. I don’t use them for my main lifts, because competitions don’t allow straps. If you can’t hold onto the weight, you probably can’t lift it with good form.

I use farmers carries and various dumbbell rows to hit my grip. The straps on my snatch-grip deads allow me to take my grip a little wider than I normally could.

As you’ve noticed, this isn’t a “Pros & Cons” type of post. The cons are obvious, you aren’t progressively overloading your grip strength when you consistently use straps. The pros are obvious as well, you can lift weight without your grip failing.  Here are a few other pros/notes about using straps.

  • You may save a bit of “mental energy” by not “wasting” neuromuscular recruitment on grip strength. This may lead to easier overall recovery from sessions. Or you could just hold onto the bar. Whatever floats your boat.
  • Straps do not entirely replace grip strength. Don’t expect to add 50 lbs to your RDL simply by purchasing straps. They merely make up for the last bit of strength that your hands lack when compared with other muscles.
  • Straps can also be used to assist during front squats.

Those with limited shoulder/wrist mobility can use straps during front squats.

I apologize for this post not being very humorous. I was observing some strap use in the gym today and didn’t want to head into the weekend without throwing my thoughts down on the internet.

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