Straps or no straps? This is question I often get in the gym, and it’s a question I’ve asked myself many times over the years.
The argument for using weightlifting straps is obvious. You can lift more weight with them. However, the argument against using straps is that your grip strength may suffer. So I’d like to go over the pros and cons of using weightlifting straps. Lastly, I’ll give you my specific method of when to use lifting straps.
Pros of Using Weightlifting Straps
If you’re doing a bodybuilding style workout, you’re goal is to target the specific muscle you’re working. You’re not concerned so much with grip strength or any supporting muscles.
An example is doing dumbbell rows for back. You want to exhaust your lats. Typically, you’re grip strength is going to give out before your back muscles do. Using weightlifting straps will allow you to get those last few reps, which is where muscle exhaustion takes place. Without the assistance of straps, you’re sort of cheating yourself out of maximum muscle growth.
Another example is if you’re training for strength. Let’s say you’re wanting to get your max on deadlifts. This is a powerful multi-joint compound exercise, and if you practice, you’ll be able to pull a ton of weight. But you’re going to be limited by your grip strength, so naturally using weightlifting straps will help you lift more.
Cons of Using Weightlifting Straps
There are a couple of downsides to using weightlifting straps. We’ve gone over the most common already; grip strength. If you use them all the time, your grip will ultimately suffer. This may or may not be a bad thing. However, the muscles used to grip the bar are indeed supporting muscles. So you do need to strengthen them to some extent.
Another downfall of using lifting straps is if you’re a strength competitor, you may not be allowed to use straps. Sometimes true strength is measured by what you can lift as a raw lift, meaning using no support, such as straps.
Using lifting straps can also inhibit your guard. The types of exercises you would use straps for usually involve the lower back. Using any type of support, whether it be straps or a weightlifting belt, can trick us into getting lazy on the lift, which could result in injury. I’ve personally experienced this before. So you really have to be on guard and stay focused (whether you’re using straps or not).
When to Use Lifting Straps
Rather than ‘straps vs. no straps‘ I prefer to use balance, like with most things in life. There’s a time and place.
For starters, there are only certain exercises I will use straps for. In fact, there are only three.
- Barbell rows
- Dumbbell rows
There are other exercises I could use them for. Like I’ve seen some folks use straps on seated rows and lat pulldowns. To me, that’s going a bit overboard.
Also, I don’t use straps for every single set on those above exercises I mentioned. I start out with a raw grip; no straps. I typically only use weightlifting straps for the final set or two (I go up in weight each set; reverse pyramid).
Here’s an example of what I do for barbell rows on back day:
- Set 1 x 12 reps; no straps
- Set 2 x 10 reps; no straps
- Set 3 x 8 reps; straps
- Set 4 x 6 reps; straps
Here’s another example of my typical dumbbell row workout:
- Set 1 x 10 reps; no straps
- Set 2 x 8 reps; no straps
- Set 3 x 6 reps; straps
This gives me the best of both worlds. I build my grip strength with those first few sets. One my final set (or sometimes my last two sets), I’ll throw on the weightlifting straps. This allows me to lift the maximum amount of weight and reach muscle exhaustion on that set.
The moral of this story is you don’t have to go to the extreme of ‘straps vs. no straps.’ There’s a feasible balance here, as you can see.
Leave a comment and let me know how you use weightlifting straps.
Train with Passion,