The use of lifting straps is a somewhat controversial topic. Just like a weight lifting belt. According to one you should never use them, according to the other you can’t do without them. As so often, in this case too, the truth lies in the middle.
WHAT ARE AND HOW DO YOU USE LIFTING STRAPS?
A lifting strap is essentially a piece of durable fabric about half a meter long and four centimeters wide. At one end the strap is folded and stitched, so that an opening is created. Here you can put the other end of the strap through, creating a loop, as it were, through which you can put your hand. You can then tighten the loop around your wrist.
Many lifting straps are equipped with a neoprene cushion at the height of your wrist, to protect your wrist.
Most straps are made of nylon, others of cotton or leather. Lifting straps are very durable and easily last two years, even when you use them intensively.
WHAT ARE LIFTING STRAPS FOR?
When you have put the lifting strap on your wrist, you will be left with a dangling piece of fabric. You can wrap this two or three times around a (dumbbell) bar, creating a larger contact surface and more friction, giving you a better grip on the bar. That way you can lift heavier or do more reps.
WHEN DO YOU USE LIFTING STRAPS?
Grip is an important factor in many exercises. Think of the deadlift. When grip becomes a barrier, you can use lifting straps to lift heavier or do more reps with a certain weight. So you actually use lifting straps when you want to lift a heavier weight or do more reps than you could without straps. It’s that simple.
Whichever way you look at it, your grip is always stronger with straps than without. No matter how strong your grip is. Straps always multiply your grip strength by a certain factor.
Basically, you use lifting straps primarily to do more reps with a heavy weight, not to lift heavier. Let us explain.
Your grip is static. That is, the muscles in your forearm, which are largely responsible for your grip strength, don’t lengthen and shorten like your biceps when doing biceps curls. This lengthening and shortening of the muscle is called eccentric or concentric contraction, or together dynamic contraction. Your grip strength is not a dynamic contraction, but a static or isometric contraction.
With one heavy rep, your isometric strength endurance shouldn’t be a limiting factor. With higher reps, it’s only natural that your isometric strength endurance, the constant contraction of the muscles in your forearm, becomes a limiting factor.
We should extend our advice to use lifting straps when you need them, or rather specify it with the comment that you should also not use them when you don’t need them. Doing heavy deadlifts for many reps is the ultimate way to develop a strong grip. And from a functional point of view, what good is a strong back or strong legs, without an equally strong grip?
That functional vision is primarily the vision of strength athletes. Bodybuilders have a more practical view on the use of lifting straps. Lifting a heavy weight off the ground when deadlifting, for example, is not an end in itself for them, but a means. They reason that they are not training their grip or forearms at all, but their hamstrings and back. Or their traps when doing shrugs. And anything that helps to train the target muscle more heavily is allowed. To some extent, bodybuilders have no practical purpose for a strong grip, unlike powerlifters, who are not allowed to use lifting straps during competitions.
WHICH EXERCISES ARE LIFTING STRAPS USEFUL FOR?
Lifting straps come in handy for any exercise where grip is an impeding factor. In practice, these are heavy pulling exercises, such as deadlifts, shrugs, bent-over dumbbell rows, seated cable rows, pull-ups and pulldowns. With the bench press and biceps curls, lifting straps are of course no use.
In addition to doing more reps, lifting straps can also help you focus on the target muscle group in (most) pulling exercises: your back. Though this may be just a mental benefit, we have to admit. Many people tend to let their biceps do a lot of the work with exercises like bent-over dumbbell rows, seated cable rows, and pulldowns. Lifting straps can help you shift your focus from bending your elbow to pulling it back.
In some exercises where grip is important, you should not use lifting straps, especially not with farmer’s walks, and with the clean and power clean.
THE (POSSIBLE) DANGERS OF LIFTING STRAPS
The use of lifting straps is not entirely without danger. Lifting straps are first of all no reason not to exercise maximum grip. This prevents the straps from pulling on your delicate wrist joint. It is therefore best to attach the straps above the bone on the outside of your wrist. Although it is no problem to attach them underneath if your grip is sufficient.
Make sure to avoid overlap when wrapping the straps around the bar! Without overlap, the straps unwind automatically if your grip breaks. If this happens with overlap, it could have adverse effects on your wrists.
BUY LIFTING STRAPS
Lifting straps are available at just about any (online) sports store or specialized fitness store. Prices vary according to the quality (and thus durability) of the material.