If you have perused Facebook or other forms of social media lately there seems to be a lot (and really always has been) of debate on the use of lifting straps in your training. Whether your sport is powerlifting, strongman, weightlifting, or you are a regular gym goer, straps have their place in training. Now with that said they can be abused just like every other piece of equipment you use for training. How many times have you seen that guy in the gym curling with a squat belt on? My point exactly. Lifting straps are simply another tool to allow you to consistently progress in your training. Whether you like them or not is besides the point, they can help if used correctly. Keep in mind that a majority of my experience with using lifting straps is from my career as a weightlifter. But when I competed in the highland games and strongman they were a staple in my gym bag, and I have talked to a few powerlifters who hook grip their deadlifts and use straps in training.
Before you start bashing the straps and calling those who use them a wuss, here are a few reasons why you should have a pair of lifting straps on you when training:
1. Hand Strength:
To be honest, not all hands are created equal. If you have small stout hands, a simple thing like gripping a barbell and holding onto it throughout an exercise can be a task. If you have long ape-like fingers, your chances of holding on are significantly higher. There are other factors that come into effect when talking about your hand strength besides the mechanical advantage you either have or do not have. People who have worked with their hands all their life tend to have stronger hands than folks who do not, it’s a simple fact. But that does not mean you cannot work on your hand strength and build it up. I could write a whole separate article on how to build your grip and hand strength up but right now we are just talking about it in relation to using lifting straps. The point is sometimes your hand strength may not be up to snuff. So while you are waiting for that day when all your hard work pays off and you can bend nails there is no reason why you can wrap your lifting straps around the barbell and continue to get your work done.
Piggy-backing off of the last point. No matter how good of a grip you have there are going to be days when screwing the top off of your pre workout will be a challenge (when hand grip is weak it also could be a sign of serious CNS fatigue, but I digress). Instead of lowering the weight or altering the workout because of this minor problem, grab your straps and get to it. Now I will warn you not to become dependent on this. Every once in a while you need to swallow your pride and strap up. But with that being said don’t kid yourself and confuse a little hand soreness with fatigue. There is a difference between the two and just like with any other muscle soreness you may encounter when training. Your body is not broken or temporarily out of commission so get on with it.
I am a firm believer that if you use a hook grip when you are competing (throwing in the highland games, deadlift, weightlifting) you need to use lifting straps from time to time. I am also a firm believer in practice how you play but when dealing with reps (especially heavier reps than normal), complexes, loads that exceed what you are capable of or required to move, or simply you have some pretty beat up thumbs, strapping up can help with training.
This is one I never thought about until I really got into my technique for the snatch and clean but straps have been helpful in keeping my form on lifts. When you are trying to pick up something heavy and your hands just don’t have enough in you what is the first thing to happen? You try to compensate in some form or another. When you move differently, bend your arms more than you usually do, are give yourself some for of a hitch to help you are altering the way you would normally perform the movement therefore, creating a new motor pattern confusing the brain. When I am doing heavy pulls or complexes I want to keep my arms in as relaxed a position as possible so using lifting straps from time to time will keep a consistent motor patter from lift to lift and not impede on my progress with training.
This is probably the least important of the reasons for using lifting straps but they are easy to make on your own and very affordable. You will spend less money on a homemade pair of straps than you would on shoes, a belt, knee sleeves, or the bag to carry all of that stuff in. If you have not checked out our latest video on YouTube on how to easily make a pair of lifting straps you can check it out here . In my opinion, making a pair is the way to go because: 1) The materials required are easy to get a hold of. 2) Multiple pairs can be made so you will always have extras. 3) If you use the right material they will last for quite some time saving you lots of money in the long run that could go towards a good hand and forearm massage.
The bottom line is this: lifting straps could and should be included in your training program if and only if you need them. There are some folks who tend to rely on them too much but if you have a strong grip and it doesn’t effect you then use them all you want. But if your hands are lacking and you are using straps as a crutch be honest with yourself about it. Use them if you need them but in the mean time work to getting those hands as strong as possible and start to ween yourself off of strap use except for those absolutely-have-to situations. Straps are just another tool in your arsenal to keep on getting better. Use them wisely and be better off for it.