One of the many dogmas that the functional training community has installed in our brains is that lifting straps are pure evil and only low-life moronic wannabe bodybuilders use them. This is one of the reasons why people are afraid to rely on straps for exercises like the deadlift.
FOREARMS vs. HIPS & BACK
Your forearm and grip muscles will never match the strength produced by your hips and back. Sooner or later, you will start missing reps because you can’t hold on to the bar. The most popular solution to this problem is to embrace the so-called mixed grip (baseball grip) for your work sets. One palm points towards you, the other one away from you. When your palms start to open, they negate each other’s weakness.
I have never used this grip because it has major downsides – it’s uneven and can cause biceps tears. That’s why in my wannabe powerlifting days I utilized the hook grip (the first four fingers wrap around the thumb).
The hook grip has several benefits over the mixed grip:
1. It makes your arms longer. This allows you to lift more weight.
2. It is much safer for your biceps tendons.
3. It’s perfectly symmetrical.
Unfortunately, the hook grip has flaws too. Your thumbs will hate every minute of it. Some people have even reported a loss of thumb sensitivity in the area.
Another major downside of the hook grip is that it does not develop your grip strength. The hook grip is just a way to create the effect of lifting straps without putting them on. That’s somewhat cool because you can rely on this grip in competitions, but what about those who don’t compete?
Well, you are going to hate the answer – add straps for your work sets.
Many people will hate me for writing this, but it’s the damn truth. I think that being labeled a loser for using straps is way better than tearing something while being called a real man. If you are so concerned about your grip, you can train it separately using stuff like weighted pull-ups, overhand grip deadlifts, shrugs…etc.
However, I have to admit that relying on straps for all back exercises is not the way to go. I don’t think there is a reasonable excuse other than injury to put them on for stuff like pull-ups, lat pull-downs, and dumbbell rows. Your lats cannot generate a force strong enough to open your grip. The deadlift, however, is a different story.
I remember the times when I used to look at straps with disgust. Sometimes it was justifiable. I’ve seen some crazy stupid stuff like a mixed grip and straps at the same time which is the equivalent of paying twice for the same purchase.
Meanwhile, my thumbs were crying every night after a deadlift workout. I even developed some sort of twitching. One of my thumbs started to shake from time to time without having received similar commands. I knew that the reason for this was the hook grip. I hated it, and that’s why I said to myself “I don’t care what they say. I am jumping on the straps train. I love my arms and thumbs too much.” I limited my hook grip use to a minimum and added straps for most of the work sets.
P.S. The post on natural potential has been updated.