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  • Lifting Straps

    Lifting Straps




    By: Doug Daniels



    Lifting straps are about the most cost effective of all training gear but there’s a lot of confusion and misunderstanding on their proper use. If they are used wisely, they can be of great value to just about anyone training with weights.


    Basically, lifting straps are made of strong fabric and are sewn or bolted on one end in a loop that fits around your wrist. The other end extends out for several inches. This end is wrapped around the bar and held inside your fist. Some of the weight is held by the wraps around the wrist, sharing the load with the hands. Of the two styles, I have experienced better durability with sewn straps. Since they’re inexpensive, you can afford to experiment with different types. Some straps also vary in the lengths of the end that is wrapped around the bar. Again, experiment.


    Their main purpose is to assist in gripping a weight that would otherwise be too heavy to hold for the period of time that it takes to perform an exercise, eliminating gripping power as the weak link. Their most common use is for back work such as pull-downs, row, chins, deadlifts, and shrugs. There are other subtle benefits to them that I’ll deal with later. They are also controversial. Some experts feel they hinder development of gripping strength so necessary in many sports, as they are used as a crutch by weak gripped lifters.


    Since back exercises are lifting strap’s main beneficiaries, I’ll examine some back moves for their application. Let’s say that you incorporate one arm dumbbell rows for lats. You start with a dumbbell that you have no problem holding on to, but as your lats and arms increase in size and strength, the heavier dumbbells you must use. This could cause you to have problems holding on to the dumbbell. Your lats are capable of 8 reps, but you can only hold on for 2 or 3 reps (this means you may have to interrupt the set every few reps to re-grip the weight). That takes away a lot of the intensity and concentration from the movement. Here, using straps would solve the problem. Using straps for these heavy sets would now enable you to get the whole set in and allow further increases in rowing strength.


    Shrugs are prime strap candidates too. The weights used here are relatively massive and using straps would enable the lifter to hold on to big weights and not worry about grip. Chins benefit too, as would pull-downs. Many powerlifters can deadlift more with straps than without because they can’t hold on to the weight. However, the use of straps in competition is not allowed. Partial deadlifts in the power rack can use straps because on these, the weights can far surpass your gripping strength. You can hang from the chinning bar and do leg raises for the abs at high reps without your grip being the limiting factor.


    One day when I was in the gym, a member asked the instructor why when he did back work, he pumped up his arms more than his back. Putting my two cents in, I suggested using straps. The subtle benefit of using straps for back exercises is that it can actually decrease the use of the biceps in many back exercises. By connecting the straps to the bar or handle, you lessen the involvement of your grip. This can result in less use of the biceps and forearms and allocate more of the movement or work to pulling the elbows down or back which is the direct function of the back muscles. If a lifter concentrates on pulling with the elbows and less with the arms, this connection can be further accentuated, thus more stimulation for the back and less for the arms. Arthur Jones, of Nautilus Fame, was one of the first to discuss the isolation of the back muscles in back work. Bypassing the use of the smaller, weaker arms muscles with straps can achieve this goal, of course to a limited extent, but much more inexpensively. Straps can be ‘high tech’. What will they think of next?


    The fear of some experts that using straps can hinder development of grip strength does have some merit. If you overuse straps, you probably won’t develop more gripping strength and you may lessen it. My suggestion is to use it only on sets of exercises where your grip would prevent you from using the amount of weight you could use. Start off the lighter sets without straps, but on the max sets you should use them. However, I do feel that using them on extremely heavy weights will add some strength to your grip because of the overload and your ability to now hold on to those big weights for complete sets. If you’re a powerlifter and you have trouble holding on to your deadlifts, do most of your sets without straps. Some deadlifts with straps are okay if they help develop your pull, but their overuse won’t help come meet day. Since bodybuilders don’t really care about grip strength, they can use them more, but I still recommend limiting their use to heavy sets. Their constant use will take away from forearm development necessary for a complete muscular development. I hope I have shed a little light on the benefits and proper use of lifting straps in training. They are an extremely cost effective tool that just about every weight trainer can incorporate. Use them thoughtfully and your training will be in ‘good hands’.
    Strength in life and lifting.
    shawnbellon.com

  • #2
    I wonder how many successful, competitive powerlifters actually do use straps? I have a set of Harbinger ones I bought more than 10yrs ago, and I haven't used them once since I have been training for powerlifting. I'm not against them as I realise they have their place in some instances, but I'd personally value them as one of the least important pieces of equipment/gear.

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    • #3
      You use them Shawn?

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      • #4
        Chris Duffin uses them.

        Sent from my SGH-T769 using Tapatalk 2
        Strength in life and lifting.
        shawnbellon.com

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        • #5
          No but I have considered it.

          Sent from my SGH-T769 using Tapatalk 2
          Strength in life and lifting.
          shawnbellon.com

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          • #6
            I have tiny hands so I use them to grip the big fat bars

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            • #7
              I use mine a bit. I can't double over hand hold more than 315 and that for just a couple reps. So shrugs, RDL, and some rows I'll throw them on.
              413/330/512 [email protected] APF raw

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              • #8
                Originally posted by lil mama View Post
                I have tiny hands so I use them to grip the big fat bars
                I'm bad, and that's good. I will never be good, and that's not bad. There's nobody I'd rather be, than me.

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                • #9
                  the first years of my training were devoted to bodybuilding, where i was encouraged to use straps as often as desired and grip was regarded as something useless.

                  since ditching bodybuilding, i've been able to build my grip strength up, but i really regret my over-use of straps
                  I'm bad, and that's good. I will never be good, and that's not bad. There's nobody I'd rather be, than me.

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                  • #10
                    when i trained for competitions i never used straps only chalk. i think you get a better workout just with plain chalk and nothing else. i sometimes didnt even train with my belt at times i only used my belt for competition or when i was testing out a new PR.

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                    • #11
                      I don't even like using chalk in training. Anything that will give me an advantage on meet day I tend to stay away from.

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                      • #12
                        I just started using lifting straps and I think that they help me a great deal.

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