• Bryce Boratko

To use, or not to use weightlifting straps

The common thought in regards to using weightlifting straps is that 'If you can't hold onto the weight you're trying to lift, then you shouldn't be trying to lift it.' Or; 'I need to improve my grip strength, and using straps will only hinder that.' And even; 'Straps are cheating.'


Though those statements, or thoughts listed above may seem reasonable to some, they fail to account for context as to why straps can be useful, and effective. Along the same lines we can even replace weightlifting straps with belts, and even weightlifting shoes, but we'll focus on just the straps for now.


Not lifting a weight just because you can't hold onto it is a very broad, and general guideline that doesn't (and shouldn't) necessarily apply to every situation. First, you need to take experience into account. Do newbies need straps? Probably not, simply because they just don't lift enough weight (yet). On top of that, they are still building their technique more than they are intensity, so at this point their grip strength will likely not be a limiting factor. However, as they become more experienced and their technique improves, the amount of weight they will be able to lift will increase to a point where their grip now may become the limiting factor.


So, what are the primary factors that increase overall ability to handle heavier loads in pulling, or hinging movements? Mostly progressive volume, and intensity (load) over time. In most cases with a generally well balanced, more experienced lifter, grip strength will never be an issue for that heavy single, or 1RM lift. But, since we know that volume is also a primary factor for improvement on those heavier lifts down the road, lifting in multiple rep sets can, and likely should be done in any worthwhile program. This is where grip will start to become the limiting factor. In any accumulation phase of a strength program (typically higher volume, lower intensity) you should expect exercises with sets of likely somewhere in the range of 2-8 reps. Though those multiple rep sets are 'lighter' than heavier, lower volume sets, it doesn't mean that they'll feel light for the rep range. Snatching, or deadlifting for sets of 3-5 reps (or more in some cases) at loads that make those sets challenging may be nearly impossible for some. Not to mention, can really beat up the hands. That said, you may choose not to go as heavy as you otherwise might be able, prolonging improvement on that coveted heavy single or 1RM, or you can plow through, hoping for the best, and tearing your hands up in the process. Your choice.


There are better ways to measurably improve grip strength than to try to improve it while ALSO trying to improve compound lift performance! Over time, the stronger you become, the stronger your grip will get relative to the weights you lift. If grip strength is still lacking, plate pinches, farmer's and suitcase carries, wide grip dead hangs, and even snatch grip deadlift variations to name a few, are far more effective ways to improve overall grip strength.


Lastly, no, it's not cheating. You are using them for the purpose of improving your overall capability, or performance on a given lift. It's not as if they are doing all of the work for you.




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