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    March 2, 2015
      By James Hein

      There’s a saying that I absolutely love but isn’t quite right- “Train smarter, not harder”.  It should read- “Train smarter and harder”. Using gear correctly allows you to do both.  A perfect example of this are lifting straps – they’re a great piece of gear but are often used improperly or not at all. Let’s set the record straight about how to use them, when to use them, and how they’ll catapult your training results.

      Lifting straps are simple: they’re just a loop of fabric, typically nylon, that is wrapped around your wrists and then around a barbell.

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      Just like lifting shoes (see my article from last week), lifting straps are not a crutch if you use them correctly. They help you hold on to the bar past the point when your grip would fail so that your grip can outlast the muscle group you’re attempting to train.  This frequently happens when performing higher repetitions or at higher intensities with the posterior chain- your back, glutes and hamstrings; examples include deadlifts or the snatch.  By removing the limitation of a weak grip you can overload the muscle groups being trained and focus on your end goal- getting stronger!

      No matter how helpful lifting straps may be in improving performance, nothing removes the requirement of training grip strength. Smart training is all about addressing the weak link.  If your weak link is grip strength, the smart thing to do is work on it. Farmer’s walks, plate pinches, ropes and thick implement training are all great ways to bring up a lagging grip. As your grip increases you’ll notice improvements in your pull-ups, chin-ups, and dead lifts (among other exercises).  You absolutely cannot go wrong with training grip strength, even if you need to use straps during big lifts.

      Straps are not only for big lifts, though there is no “one size fits all” answer for when to use them. While they are extremely useful, it is super important that you never become overly dependent on them.  Here are a couple of quick guidelines:

      1. Train your grip
      2. Avoid using them on your warm-up sets
      3. Avoid them on your normal day-to-day lifting
      4. Only use them on exercises that your grip is limiting factor, when your grip starts to fail
      5. For Olympic lifting use them on clean pulls, snatch pulls, and occasionally on snatches.  Skip them on cleans; they’re not worth the accompanying risk of injury from a missed lift.
      6. Power lifters should drop them several weeks out from competition. You won’t be allowed to use them in competition so you’ll need to prepare your hands and grip running up to the competition.

      Remember – train smarter and harder! Straps can help you do just that, so long as you also train your grip strength. Now throw a pair in your gym bag and let them help you break plateaus and push your performance to a whole new level.

      Stay strong folks!

      James Hein is a Poliquin International Certification Program Performance Specialist Level 4, a former Navy SEAL, and is co-owner of

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