Weight lifting straps are a great way of increasing your grip on barbells, dumbbells, and pretty many other pieces of gym kit.
Needing to ditch your set of deadlifts halfway through to adjust your grip, dry your hands or give your wrists a rest can seriously hamper the benefits you can gain from “big lifts” like deadlifts and heavy rows. Weight lifting straps (also called deadlift straps) take away these problems, but how do you use them most effectively, and what other benefits can they bring?
Well, good news, I’ve been using straps for years when performing deadlifts, pull-ups, racks-pulls, you name it, so I can give you a pretty great breakdown of how to use weight-lifting straps and why they’re excellent for helping you reach your full lifting potential.
Here’s a sneak peek of what we will be covering in this article
- How to wear weight-lifting straps
- How do weight-lifting straps work?
- What are the different types of weight-lifting straps?
- Exercises that benefit from weight-lifting straps
These are just a few of the tips I’ll be covering in this article, by the end, you’ll know everything you need to know about how to get the maximum benefit, and how they can help you smash out those all-important final reps, so keep reading!
What are deadlifting straps?
Deadlift straps are strips of material that are wrapped around the wrist and onto a barbell, dumbbell, pull-up bar, or handle. They can be made of leather, nylon, or cotton, and are used to protect the wrist and improve grip, allowing sets to be completed before grip fatigue sets in.
In larger movements such as deadlifts, pull-ups, and heavy row exercises, the forearms, and grip will often begin to fail whilst the target muscle is relatively fresh. As progressive overload is required to increase the shape and size of a muscle, having smaller muscle groups fail before larger ones can hamper the rate at which you make progress.
They allow you to overcome this issue by giving enough support to the wrist and ensuring the target muscle is able to become fully fatigued.
How do weight-lifting straps work?
Deadlifting straps enhance your grip and support your wrist by allowing you to (essentially) attach your hands to whatever piece of equipment you are using. Wrapping the fabric around the bar and pulling it tight creates a much firmer grip on the bar or handle than bare hands would allow.
Not only does using a lifting strap prevent your hands from slipping as a result of moisture on your palms and fingers, but they transfer the weight through your wrists and forearms, rather than needing to grip the bar with just your palms and fingers, which tend to fatigue quickly, this lets you continue sets to the point of muscular failure of the target muscle, rather than from a failure of grip strength.
They also ensure the wrist stays in a neutral position, which is vital to ensure no injuries occur when lifting heavy weights.
Who uses lifting straps?
Whilst they tend to be more popular amongst powerlifters and bodybuilders, everyone can benefit from using deadlift straps in their training routines. From my experience as a personal trainer, I noticed that the quality of many of my client’s pull exercises was compromised by their lack of grip strength. This really held back the progress they could make in the exercises I prescribed for them, which in turn, extended the time required for them to reach the results they were looking for.
They have also become very popular amongst Cross-fit competitors, as the training they undertake includes many of the Olympic-style lifts, such as deadlifts and power cleans, which require them to be able to perform compound movements for multiple reps and sets in a competitive setting.
What are the benefits of deadlift straps?
A surprising benefit I personally found from learning how to use deadlift straps in my workout routines was that they increased my confidence. I don’t mean that I felt like a tough guy walking around the gym with my straps on, but more, I would feel confident about being able to lift a considerable amount of weight with them.
From a psychological stance, going into a set believing that you will be able to complete it makes it far more likely that you will. With my rather odd benefit out of the way, here are five of the more commonly reported benefits.
- Reduce hand pain from bar grips
- Allow you to train the target muscle to failure
- More effective than lifting gloves
- Protects the wrist from strain and injury
- Allow you to lift considerably more weight
What are the cons of wearing lifting straps?
It’s important to note that there are usually cons that accompany the pros of most things, and deadlift straps are no different, unfortunately. With that, here are a small bunch of some of the negatives that I, (and others) have found when using them.
- Overreliance on accessories
- Lack of grip strength progression
- Overuse may deteriorate your grip strength over time
How to wear lifting straps
Putting on deadlift straps isn’t very hard at all, but there are a few steps to ensure you’re wearing and making use of them to their maximum potential. Here are the steps;
- Find the loop opening
- Take the long end of the strap and pass it through this opening
- Pass your hand through the loop you’ve just created with the palms facing up
- The end of the strap should be facing your thumb
You should now be wearing both straps, with the long end of the strap passing up between your thumb and index finger.
Next, place the long strap around the barbell, dumbbell, or any handle, and pull your wrist as tight to the barbell or handle as possible. Wrap the strap around the handle by lifting your palm to the side and passing it under. Keep the strap as tight as possible and keep wrapping around the bar until all the strap is used.
Attaching the second hand will require a little more dexterity, as you won’t have the benefit of using both hands this time.
Instead, use your fingers to wrap the strap around the bar in the same position (under the palm), use your thumb to keep the strap in place, and using two fingers, wrap the strap around the bar once again.
To tighten the straps, hold them in your palms against the bar and “rev” them like a motorcycle. Each time you do this, you’ll reduce the slack in the strap until it becomes tight.
What are the different types of deadlift straps?
There are a few types of workout straps on the market, each with its own pros and cons. As to which one you should use comes down to personal preference, but after I’ve described each one, I’ll let you know what my preference is, and why.
Loop Straps/Olympic straps
These are the most commonly used you’ll see in commercial gyms, they are exactly how we have described above, with a small loop at one end and a long strap from the other.
- Can be easily tightened for a greater grip
- Can be attached to the bar easily
- Tight and secure grip on the bar/handle
- Cheaper option
- Can initially be frustrating when learning how to put them on
- Can are subject to wear and tear
Hook straps are used far less commonly, in fact, in all my years of working as a personal trainer, it was only myself that I’ve seen using them, and this was only for a very specific reason with a client who did not have the ability to grip a bar.
- Very easy to use, wrap the wrist strap tightly, hook the bar/handle, and begin
- Great for people who physically cannot grip a bar
- Locks the wrist into place and stabilizes
- Won’t grip the bar/handle as tightly as straps, and can easily slip if not secured with the thumb
- Unnatural feel
- Far less versatile than straps
- Less comfortable than straps (personally)
Figure-eight straps are most commonly used by strength athletes. The figure-eight design allows for a great grip strength which can help if you are lifting considerable weight in exercises such as deadlifts, but there are again advantages and disadvantages.
- Provides maximal grip strength
- Shorter learning curve
- Excellent for increasing grip strength for exercises like deadlifts and shrugs
- Cannot be used for power exercises where you may need to drop the bar quickly (weight dumping)
- Lack of grip strength increases
As promised, I did say I would say which was my favorite, and it has to be the loop straps. They are very simple to use, gave a great grip on the bar and I could easily drop a weight if I needed to. They worked great for both myself and my clients, and are in my opinion, the best of the bunch.
Exercises that benefit from lifting straps
Whilst there are many exercises that can benefit from extra grip strength, most don’t require the assistance of straps. However, below are some of the most commonly performed exercises that really do get the full benefit from using them.
- Hang power cleans
- Lat pull-downs
What types of materials are best for lifting straps?
There are typically three types of material used for gym straps, and as usual, they all come with their pros and cons.
Cotton straps are the most common that you’ll see being used in commercial gyms. They are certainly the most cost-effective of the materials out there, and whilst they may feel comfortable during your lifts, they do suffer from stretching under heavy weight, which can make lifting uncomfortable, they’re also not as strong as nylon straps, so you are limited by their weight capacity.
Nylon straps will set you back a few extra pounds, but the benefits they provide are definitely worth the slightly higher price tag. They don’t suffer from stretching as the cotton straps will, and even though they don’t absorb sweat as well, they are considerably stronger and in turn, can handle far greater loads.
This makes a huge difference when you’re lifting heavy weights on a regular basis, as a failing strap could lead to serious injury.
The most classic material used for lifting wraps is without a doubt leather. And whilst going “old school”, is pretty cool a lot of the time, it’s not always the best option. In my opinion, leather straps are probably the worst choice, for both value and efficacy.
I found leather straps to be uncomfortable, harsh on my wrists, and stiff to begin with, which takes time to “break in”, which meant a few hours of twisting the leather in an attempt to make it more pliable.
Are wrist wraps and lifting straps the same?
No, these two types of straps are often spoken about interchangeably, but they perform completely different purposes. A lifting strap is designed to be wrapped around a bar or handle to increase your purchase and improve your grip, allowing you to lift a greater weight without fear of sweat or fatigue cutting your set short.
By contrast, a wrist strap’s purpose is purely to support the wrist whilst performing lifts with heavy weight. The wrist wrap is placed tightly around the wrist in order to offer support to the joint, this helps to prevent wrist injuries. It plays no part in assisting your lift and will not improve your grip strength or lifting capabilities.
Should you always use lifting straps?
No, in most cases, you shouldn’t be using a lifting strap every time you go to the gym. Much as it may feel pretty awesome to be able to lift heavy weights without ever worrying about your grip giving out, it will never improve if you don’t practice.
The way to get the best of both worlds is to use straps sparingly. Using them to finish off a set once your grip starts to give out, allows you to train your grip strength, whilst being able to work your target muscle to failure.
Should everyone use lifting straps?
With all the benefits I’ve listed today, you would think I would say that every person walking into a gym with the intention of lifting weights should be strapped up, but I’m not.
Most casual gym-goers, don’t need to buy straps in order to get a good workout, because they probably aren’t lifting weights sufficient to cause forearm or grip fatigue.
However, straps aren’t made for casual gym-goers, they are made for serious lifters who are fed up with having their workouts ruined because their hands got sweaty or holding the bar was too painful.
In most cases, for people who want to make some serious gains in the gym, I would recommend getting yourself a set. Remember that you don’t always have to go for the most expensive pair, but make sure the pair you get feel comfortable and are up to the task.
When should you not use lifting straps?
There are some circumstances in which you should never use straps. In the situations listed below, they would not improve your lifts, and they could make them more dangerous due to slipping or a result of being attached to the bar.
The main examples of when you should not use lifting straps are as follows:
- When you’ve just begun training – As a beginner, you will compromise the development of your grip strength, which makes progress down the road harder to attain.
- Any pressing movement – A pressing movement (such as a bench press), has no requirement for straps, they provide no benefit in this instance and may make it more likely that your hands will slip on the bar, potentially causing serious injury.
- Powerlifting competitors – Most powerlifting competitions do not allow the use of straps, so training with them can decrease your overall lifting ability when you aren’t using them. It’s far more beneficial to train exactly as you would in the comp, by developing your natural grip strength.
- Bicep curls, triceps pushdowns, or any single-joint movements – This is another case where they really aren’t needed, and the benefit you gain will be minimal.
So there we go, I hope this article has given you a pretty good breakdown of how to use lifting straps and their benefits.
As I stated, I used them fairly frequently myself, as did my clients, but this was mostly when we were working on strength training together, the rest of the time, we got by just fine without them, but if you’re seriously into your bodybuilding or powerlifting, they can be a godsend.
If you think they are the right choice for you, give them a go, I think you’ll be surprised at just how easy they can make lifting 100kg feel!
Thanks for reading, and have a great day.
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