In Praise of Lifting Straps

Never Use Lifting Straps. They weaken your grip and make you a P.U.S.S.Y

I used to say that…a lot.

It was like gospel.

I was right then and I’m wrong now.

Mostly because I was young and dumb….

See, the problem with youth and/ or inexperience is that you’re young and have no experience. <—I know, that’s really deep.

The problem with being young, as it pertains to sports and physical stuff, is you can do really stupid sh@t, often, at high volumes, and intensities and recover almost immediately.

You’re like a metaphorical, living, breathing Wolverine…

Stole this pic, please don’t sue me Marvel

This means you don’t really learn from the stupid shit you do because the cost of doing said, stupid sh@t, is low.

But then you get old(er).

And your Adjustable Interest Rate….Adjusts.

And the cost of said, “Stupid Sh@t”, increases exponentially.

Which is where experience comes in.

Hopefully, you’ve learned after a decade or two of doing some stuff, what works for you when you do that stuff.

At this point (again hopefully) you’re not doing what the internet, some dude, or your uncle Bob, who used to bench 315 in high school or college, but working out, “messed up my, knees back, elbow and neck” so he can’t exercise anymore, did.

*Nevermind the fact that “Uncle Bob” spent the last 20-40 years in living a life akin to a human sloth. In beer and pizza induced coma. Mentally and physically inebriated by the idiot box for 6-10 hours a day. Cause that has nothing to do with his body breaking down on him. It was those bench presses, 30 freaking years ago, back in high school, when he was 18..

So you’ve practiced, failed (a lot if you’re trying), hopefully learned, and now you can apply said “knowledge”.

But it kinda sucks cause some of that failing and hence learning results in getting hurt and having to find ways to train around injuries and not get hurt in the future. <–cause the cost of injuries now, when you’re “experienced” is much higher than when you were young and dumb. I mean, we gotta get to work the next day. Lets face it, mortgages don’t pay themselves.

That’s where lifting straps come in.

They’re actually incredibly valuable, Do NOT make you a pussy, and can save you a LOT of aggravation.

In Praise Of Lifting Straps:

Lift long enough and you’re hands, forearms, elbows and shoulders (biceps tendon especially) will get beat the F- up.

And these $14 gifts from the lifting Gods can save you at least some of this misery.

How?

Lifting Straps simply take the pressure off the grip and transfer it to the forearm/ wrist.

It’s not that you don’t have to grip the weight still, you do.

It’s just you don’t have to absolutely crush the weight the whole time to keep the bar or bell in your hand. <–which you should be doing always, keeping the bar in your hand

Here’s the thing about crushing the bar.

If you’re lifting heavy weights, it’s really important to do.

Crushing the bar makes you stronger and safer.

BUT If you’re lifting heavy weights often, you’re doing it ALL THE TIME.

Your hands never get a chance to recover.

Do something stressful all the time, that you never get a chance to recover from and bad things will most likely (as in definitely/ eventually) occur.

We call those Overuse Injuries.

Ever heard of those before?

Think of straps this way:

Max Weight on the Bar With Straps = 70-85% of that weight in the hands. <—I just made this up, its how it feels to me.

This can be a HUGE stress reduction on the hands, wrists, forearms, elbows and even shoulders.

This is especially true with heavy weights and long sets. <—-Captain Obvious Strikes Again.

How/ When to Use Straps:

When you’re young and dumb.

Don’t.

Seriously, don’t put them on unless you have a hand injury and must (or you’re a bodybuilder and use them sparingly to extend sets).

Force yourself to crush the weights and build up the strength in your hands.

You’ll recover because you’re basically Wolverine bulletproof from a recovery standpoint and you’re too stupid inexperienced to realize you need them.

Just be young and dumb, do stupid workouts (quadzilla anyone?) and learn that sh@t is stupid.

*Quick note, I did the original Quadzilla. THAT was the single dumbest workout of my life. I was actually sore, like, to the touch SORE for an entire week.

But mostly, build your grip because grip is a major limiting factor as you get stronger.

If you do this, by the time you leave this stage you’ll have some vice grip hands (or at least some veiny forearms and it’ll be easy to have blood drawn, so that’s a plus) and you’ll intrinsically crush the bar and be able to crush the bar for the entirety of your set(s).

When You’re Still Young, But Not Quite as Dumb:

Start to use them.

Here’s where things like belts, wrist straps and lifting straps can come into play.

NONE of these are a panacea for you being a dumbass.

But they can “increase your area of jackassery physiological buffer zone”.

That “area” or “zone” between “this is awesome, I’m kicking ass, PR’s for days, swolegasm, I AM A GOLDEN GOD”

and that place known as “Snap City”.

General Rule of Thumb:

Never early in the workout. <—Try to go until your hands are tired/ grip is starting to fail.

Never on warmup or regular sets, unless your grip is fried (fried isn’t tired, btw).

Never more than 3-5 sets.

If you’re using them more often you should ask yourself,

“Self, do I need these straps or am I being a giant pussy?”

If you can’t lift it without straps, you can’t lift it with them.

EARN THE RIGHT TO LIFT THE WEIGHT.

That said, lets say you’re doing your last set of lat pulldowns, you’re near the end of your workout, your hands are done and the workout calls for a AMRAP (as many reps as possible) final set.

Ummmm, yeah, now you’re all like, “F- me, I gotta crank out a metric sh@t ton of reps on this and I can hardly hold on.”

This is a perfect time to use straps.

You can strap in to the bar, crank away, blow your lats up like wings and fly away.

Straps Used- Lats Trashed- Goal Accomplished

THAT, my friends, is the purpose of the straps.

Once You’ve Been Around the Block Once or Twice: 

This is the sweet spot for lifting/ sports.

Usually this occurs 3-5+ years after you start.

If you’ve made it this long and not been a jerk face you’re probably pretty strong and can do some sh@t. Often.

But aside from the occasional mishap and stupid “I’m gonna try this” stuff, you’re golden, and injury free.

Here you can use lifting Straps to extend sets and get your hands/ grip through those really tough workouts (like the last example).

PLUS, you can use them to actually allow you to LIFT MORE WEIGHT.

Like, as in, SUPRAMAXIMAL weights.

See here, you’ve earned the right.

You’ve paid your dues, developed technique, figured out what your go-to lifts are, build a solid base and can lift some stuff.

Stuck at a 4 plate deadlift (405lbs)?

Maybe strategically using some straps with heavier weights 90%+ for multiple reps or sets can help get you to 410 without them by overloading the other deadlifting muscles.

Maybe you need more hamstrings and could do RDL’s with 275 for 10, but your grip gives out after 6.

Strap em up baby.

The point is: you have enough experience to understand the application of the TOOL.

You’re using the straps to become more awesome, not as a crutch.

“Use a crutch long enough, you’ll learn to be lame” – Louie Simmons (I think)

You’re Getting Old, Kinda Beat up, Know your Limitations But Don’t Accept Them. 

This is also called denial.

This is where virtually every person in this game will reside until they call it quits and the “should I use lifting straps” question wont make a damn bit of difference.

This is where you can logically verbalize your limitations, know the stupid sh@t you should not do, but every now and then, think, “I’ll try this just to see”.

And you’re reminded why that is a limitation.

You can start to be pretty generous about deploying the straps.

I mean, at this point, if you’ve lasted this long you’re at or just past your prime.

You’ve handled your heaviest weights and they’re probably pretty heavy.

Remember, it’s easier to maintain muscle and strength than build it.

“Enough is Enough and Too Much is Too Much”

You’re probably handling a fair amount of volume (reps x weight x sets), your hands have years or maybe decades of gripping and crushing on them and you’re recovery probably isn’t optimal <–welcome to life.

Straps can be a real life saver here.

Should you use them on all your sets?

Nyet

Heaviest sets?

Maybe.

By now, you should have that “experience” thing and know WTF to do here.

Accessory work?

Why not?

All of your accessory work?

Probably not, but you should know what’s best for you by now.

If you’re a dude and have deadlifted 405, your hands are pretty strong, they kinda need to be. <—at least 406lbs strong…

And for that matter, what the hell is a set of lat pulldowns or dumbbell rows gonna do for your grip that deading 405 isn’t? Get my point?

Like I’ve Written Before: I’m a giant Puss Now

So I use lifting straps a lot now.

Almost every workout.

And it’s made a HUGE difference in the stress on my hands, wrists, elbows and even shoulders.

How to Actually Wear the Straps: 

You can totally wear straps around the wrist, like this:

But I prefer to wear them across the hand, the way Mark Rippetoe shows in Starting Strength 1st ed. <–maybe they still do it this way, I don’t know. 

Straps around the wrist always felt like it was “choking” my hand and going to pull it off.

Strap across the hand felt like the strap was less intrusive and was just locking my grip into the bar.

Don’t be that dude:

You know, the guy who walks around the gym with the straps on the whole time.

It takes him 5 minutes to set up for anything cause he has to adjust his straps 20 times….

Don’t be him..

Only use straps for pulling exercises like:

  • Deadlifts
  • RDL’s
  • SLDL’s
  • Dumbbell Rows
  • Barbell Rows
  • Lat Pulldowns

Or exercises where you have to “support” the weight statically:

  • Lunges
  • BSS
  • Stepups
  • Farmers Walks <—-VERY occasionally if its super heavy. If you have to question when, on carries, you shouldn’t until you know when. 

So, maybe lifting straps aren’t all that bad.

But they can be overused, just like knee wraps, wrist wraps and belts.

Just remember:

“If you walk with a cane, you’ll develop a limp”- Lou Simmons

Don’t let straps become a crutch for you.

It’s pretty easy for them to become that if you rely on them too often. #toolsnotcrutches

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