There are two camps when it comes to weightlifting straps. One is formed by the brainwashed bodybuilders who use straps for everything including opening doors and carrying groceries, while the other camp is the shelter of people who would rather cut their hands off than use straps for anything. They’re both wrong.
Straps Are Meant To Preserve Your Fingers, Forearms and Wrists
The whole point of using straps is to allow the big muscles to accumulate more volume without being limited by forearm and finger strength. There are certain exercises that just cannot be trained with sufficient volume unless straps are used to cover for the weak link. A good example of similar exercise would the the Snatch done by Olympic weightlifters.
It’s an exercise that fatigues the hands really fast because of the wide grip which has to be used. That’s why almost all weightlifters use straps when doing the exercise in training in order to be able to accumulate sufficient volume. If they were to play the purity card and avoid straps all together, progress will be limited because the hands will forever, no matter what, limit them.
Usage Of Straps Must Be Planned Intelligently
The use of straps must be planned intelligently so that it doesn’t cripple you and make you 100% dependent. Straps must be used only to accumulate volume and it’s your job to preserve your strength. This means that you should be able to lift your heaviest work set without straps for at least a few reps.
A similar usage of straps is observed among deadlifters who rely on the hook grip.
For the warm-ups straps are not used. The idea is that as your deadlift gets stronger your warm-ups will get heavier too and doing them without straps or hook/mixed grip will ensure that your grip strength increases steadily.
However, the deadlifters who use the hook grip for their heavy sets face one big problem – it hurts a lot since the bar is compressing the thumb. That’s why they just use the hook grip for 1-2 heavy sets just to train it and rely on straps for the remaining work. That way their tolerance and strength are preserved while not overdoing it.
It’s worth noting that lifters relying on the mixed grip for their deadlift could very well avoid using straps altogether. The idea is that the mixed grip is not as uncomfortable as the hook grip while still making it easier to lift a lot of weight. Also, when straps are introduced the movement is altered since you will technically be using an overhand grip. When you switch to the mixed grip you’re risking form issues since this type of grip promotes uneven extension, not to mention that the stress on the biceps tendon of the underhand arm is severe. That’s why we recommend to use the hook + straps method, if your thumbs can handle the pain. Whatever you choose, be careful!
Most Exercises Don’t Really Require Straps
Unfortunately for the SWAG lifters in Planet Fitness most exercises don’t really require straps. Unless there is a medical condition you don’t have an excuse for using straps for pull-ups, Barbell rows, biceps curl…
Straps should be used only for heavy pulling and to prevent injuries. It’s permissible to use straps for deadlifts, shrugs, power shrugs, trap bar deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts, Kroc rows, Snatches…etc.
Straps can sometimes cause more trouble than good. Above is a video of Zack Krych who walks you through his wrist injury and recovery. If you look carefully during the video, you will see that when he got injured he was doing barbell cleans with straps. This is one of the reasons he was unable to let go of the bar when he fell. Without straps the chances of avoiding the injury was much higher.
Straps Can Help You Through Injuries
If you are suffering from elbow tendonitis or general overuse of the forearms, straps can relief some of the stress. In that case using straps for exercises such as pull-ups makes sense while the injury is healing. Gradually, the use of straps has to be decreased in order to gain all the strength back.
Should I Buy Expensive Straps With The Name Of Ronnie Coleman On It
Not really. You can make your own out of wide baggage straps or something similar. In the video below Mark Rippetoe explains how to do heavy power shrugs and at around 3:30 he presents you the straps he uses which are simple as it gets. Make sure to watch the video onwards in order to learn how to properly wrap the straps around the bar.
There are times when you use straps and times when you just don’t. For the most part unless you are doing heavy barbell pulling or you are injured – there’s almost no need to use straps. The forearms can take a lot of beating and need the extra work to get strong. When straps are used intelligently, strength development will not be harmed in any way.