This is a pretty common scene in our gyms: Some poor guy who’s new to lifting walks in, all raring to go. He has his new shoes on and he starts putting on his lifting straps. As he gingerly walks to the rack, a couple of muscular dudes notice his straps and start preaching the Gym Bro Bible to him.
“Yo dude! Why are you using those lifting straps?? Only weak people waste their money on that stuff. Be a Man! Lift with your bare hands. Throw those straps away!”
It’s very rare for a person to not receive half-baked advice in the gym.
Whether or not you use lifting straps is hardly a measure of how tough or manly you are. As with everything related to fitness, this question too must be seen in the right context and evaluated on the basis of science.
What are Lifting Straps?
Lifting Straps or Wrist Straps are straps that are made of cloth, nylon or leather and are typically fastened with Velcro. They loop around your wrist and have an extension that can be wrapped around the bar/dumbbell that you are attempting to lift.
People use these straps because they are able to grip and lift a heavier load which they may not be able to do with their bare hands. But there are those who prefer using their bare hands and think that using lifting straps is wrong!
So who’s right? Should you or should you not use lifting straps?
To strap or not to strap, that’s the question
The usage of Lifting Straps depends entirely on your lifting goal and where you are in your fitness journey.
Competitive Powerlifters are judged on their 1 RM lifts. They need to clear the weight with proper technique and form and lifting straps are not allowed at the event. Hence, someone who’s training for powerlifting contests should never use lifting straps as they could impede their progress. An exception can be made for ancillary lifts which form a part of their training protocol and are used for building strength and power to support the main lifts.
So, who can benefit from using lifting straps? In some cases, it makes sense to use them for improving the quality of your lifts.
This is especially true when the lifter wants to activate the targeted muscle with greater stimulus without having to worry about losing his grip. This is the case where someone is looking forward to building strength. In such cases, lifting straps can help them safely lift heavier weights.
If you want a strong back, then lifting straps could be for you. During heavy lifts, it’s possible that the biceps and traps could end up doing most of the work instead of your back, leaving it under-developed. Using straps could take the back and traps out of the equation and make for a better back workout.
Compound lifts can improve thanks to lifting straps.
Using straps while performing the heavy compound lifts such as Deadlift, Romanian Deadlift or heavy Squats will free you from the fear of losing your grip and getting injured and can actually help you focus on the targeted muscle instead. All it takes is one bad rep to cause an injury and put you out of action, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Whether or not you should use lifting straps ultimately boils down to your goals and targets. If your goal requires you to develop a strong grip and you don’t have any specific grip-strengthening work in your program, then it’s best to avoid wrist straps.
If your goal is to simply build an aesthetic physique where grip strength is not that important, then using lifting straps can help you lift heavier weights and provide more stimulus to your targeted muscles.
Ultimately, you should decide whether or not to use lifting straps after weighing the benefits and drawbacks for your individual case.
So now that we know there is no shame in using lifting straps, you know what to say if someone tries to stop you…NOTHING! Just tune them out and keep lifting.
Author: Anand Soni