Weightlifting Straps - Good Or Evil?
Added On September 2, 2011
To use straps or not to - this is the question. The function of the weightlifting straps is pretty simple - they support your grip and you can hold on to the bar. This can be good and bad at the same time. Let's first see why it's bad.
If you train all the time using straps your forearms will never get a chance to get real strong. I guess you've all seen the "straps guy" - the one who uses straps for every exercise on his back day. Well, I feel sorry for this guy because his grip is probably only trained when he spends time alone with himself. The forearms are extremely important because we use them all day long and it makes perfect sense to make them big and strong. If you use straps for every single set your grip will remain weak. Sorry. If you don't train it you lose it. That's why I never recommend straps for rookies. First they don't lift heavy weights and second they will get used to straps usage and may abuse it pretty quickly. Below is a list of exercises that in my opinion should never be done with straps.
Pull-ups/Chin-ups/Lat-pulldowns - when you do pull-ups you won't be hanging on the bar or rings that long anyway so strap usage is forbidden. If your grip fails on the last couple of reps just stop the set. Rest for 10 seconds and do a few more reps. That way you achieve two things - you get the benefit of the so-called rest/pause training and you make your grip stronger.
Bench press, overhead press...etc - I think it's pretty obvious why pressing exercises do not require straps and yet I've seen guys using it on bench press.
Biceps curls - straps on bicep curls is stupid since the exercises does not require that much grip strength and strong biceps without strong forearms is just funny;
There are many more exercises and situations when straps are not needed but those are the main ones. Ok. Now let's see when the usage of straps can actually help your training.
If you are an Olympic weightlifter straps are a must on snatches and assistance exercises such as high-pulls, power shrugs...etc. There is no way that your hands will handle high-volume snatches all day long. This is where the straps are useful - you can train longer and have more productive sessions. However I think that straps are dangerous when used on cleans or hang cleans because you might fail to dump the weight at the bottom position and destroy your wrists. That's why many coaches never allow the lifters to use straps on cleans because the risk of sprains is way too high.
If you are doing exercises such as high-rep deadlifts or Romanian deadlifts straps can very useful. Chances are that your hips are much stronger than your grip and they won't be able to get enough muscular stimulation since your hands will go to failure first. However I don't recommend using straps on deadlifts when the reps are 5 or below. in that situation just use a hook grip. I don't recommend using mixed grip on deadlifts because the strain on the bicep tendon is way too high. Many biceps have been ruptured during deadlift singles with mixed grip. The hook grip is a great alternative. Your thumb will hurt a little but you will be safer in the long run.
Another exercise that is almost impossible without straps is the heavy power shrug. The power shrug is probably the exercises that allow you lifts the most weight. Actually you will be able to lift more than your 1RM deadlift. There is no way that you will be able to hold on to the bar without straps or hook grip. Mixed grip on this exercise is absolutely forbidden. Don't even think about it.
Straps can also useful if you've had a forearm injury aggravated by some exercises. In that situation strap usage is obviously allowed and beneficial.
Weightlifting straps are a great tool which can be very useful. Their usage should be limited however unless you want to have the grip strength of a teenage girl in depression.
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