Lifting Straps

Pros and Cons of Using Lifting Straps

Resistance training and disciplines such as powerlifting or strongman require of a lot of strength to be able to lift such weight. Quite often you may see lifters failing one or more reps due to the lack of grip strength. Lifting straps are used in this cases, allowing to lift heavier weights and avoid failure due to grip strength. But they also show some drawbacks. What are the pros and cons of lifting straps?

At first, you may think that lifting heavy weights and getting stronger is not relevant when it comes to bodybuilding or aesthetics. But far from reality, practicing athletes and recreational subjects like lifting heavy. Materials such as lifting straps, wrist wraps, belts,... are widely used, each with its advantages and disavantages as well.

In this post it's the turn of the lifting straps. We'll discuss the uses, types, and pros and cons of lifting straps. Scroll down and enjoy the content.

FUNCTION OF LIFTING STRAPS

Before evaluating if they are for you or not, why don't we go first through their functions?

The main function of lifting straps is to minimize the requirements of your grip during the lifting. Widely used in deadlift, they enable to take grip strength out of the equation to focus solely on technique and the lifting itself.

Besides improving your ability to lift more, lifting straps also confer higher grip security (study) and are tought to exert an ergogenic effect (study).

In short, lifting straps are used to minimize grip requirements, improve ability to focus on the lifting itself, and provide higher security during the movement. Although their primary function is solely mechanical, there are some psychological improved by the use of lifting straps. Therefore, if used on the right moment and exercise, lifting straps can come very useful to improve your strength and liftings

TYPES OF LIFTING STRAPS

Nowadays we can find three types of lifting straps on the market. Depending on your preferences and requirements, you may go for one or the other one. The goal of this post is to be able to know which ones are for you and when to use them. These three types are:

  1. Lasso lifting straps
  2. Figure-eight lifting straps
  3. Closed loop lifting straps

All three types function similarly, but there are some differences on the 'set up' and grip simulation. All of them are versatile and cheap, being accesible for all sort of people. Now let's go discuss each type.

Lasso Lifting Straps

Lasso Lifting Straps

These are the most popular type of straps. They are either attached at the ends, or one end is looped over and sewn to the strap and then the strap is passed back through the loop.  Your hand goes through the space created by a looped strap so that the strap rests on the back of your hand just below your wrist.  The rest of the strap goes over and outside your thumb on one side, and outside of your hand (just below the wrist) and down your palm (to slightly beyond your fingers) on the other side.  You now wrap the strap around the barbell by going underneath and around the bar, and then cinch it up so that the bar is tight in your hand—you are gripping the bar with the strap wrapped around it so that it will not slip out.

Compared to the other two types, lasso lifting straps are slightly more difficult to use and require of more practice. On the other hand, the grip is mantained to a higher extent, simulating the grip you'd be using without straps. This enables you to not depend fully on the straps and be able to mantain your grip strength.

Lasso lifting straps are also more secure than the other two types. Because the attachment is not 'permanent', they will unroll and drop the bar if you open your grip. In case of failure, just open your grip and the straps will unroll automatically.

8 Lifting Straps

Figure-eight lifting straps

This type are pieces of strap sewn in a manner that ressembles of the shape of an eight. When using these straps you don't need to roll the strap over the lifting bar, making it easier to use them.

The set up is considerably easier than the other two types. Simply put your hand through one nod, take the bar and close the bar with the other nod passing underneath and coming back to your hand.

These straps provide a very passive grip. If you want to keep your grip and go back to 'raw' weightlifting, these may not be for you. Due to the structure of the straps and their permanent sewing, you are not able to unroll the straps and drop the bar in the middle of the set. When it comes to safety, you have to be aware of this fact, otherwise undesired events can happen.

During heavy deadlifts, these straps provide a slight shorter range of movement through the lifting. Because the straps are sitting over the distant phalanges of your hand, you have a few centimetres less to lift, probably giving a few more pounds to your lifting.

Closed Loop Lifting Straps

Closed Loop Lifting Straps

These are the least known type of straps. The mechanism and set up is basically the same as with the Lasso lifting straps. They are shorter, and only one loop is made around the bar, while Lasso provide at least two loops.

They are widely used on olympic weight-lifting. Because they are shorter, there's a higher risk of losing the bar during the exercise. However, if you are doing compounds weightlifting movements, these straps will provide a higher flexibility of movement throughout the exercise.

Pros and Cons of Lifting Straps

PROS OF USING LIFTING STRAPS

Using such aids are usually positive for your performance. But you need to think carefully when and how to use it. Lifting straps can be very useful and become your best friend during your training session. To improve your releationship with them, we'll talk about the advantages of using them on different situations.

Prevents from failure due to grip strength

How many times has the grip strength be the limiting factor when doing deadlift or lat pulldowns? In pull exercises moving heavy loads, grip strength is usually the limiting factor. This simply means that the muscle of interest (in this case your back) is not being activated to its fullest because there's something (grip) making you stop before that happens.

During this study performed in 2021, they were able to show the ergogenic effect of lifting straps during deadlift (study). Participants using straps were able to mantain a better grip, perceive a greater security and power, and improve overall mechanical performance.

Not only the performance, but the muscles to be worked out will be highly activated due to get closer to failure than when grip is limiting you. And to date, we know that the closer to failure, the higher the recruitment of muscle fibres, and the higher the response of muscular adaptations (study)

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Allow for higher volume loads

As we use lifting straps, we are able to perform more repetitions because of the empowered "grip". If on each set we are able to achieve one or two more reps, that'll be translated on a higher volume load for the muscle of interest.

We know that the volume load is one of the main factors when it comes to muscle hypertrophy (study). By using lifting straps we'll achieve a higher volume and higher muscle adaptations over time.

Help you mantaining the quality of the sets

The grip strength is not only the limiting factor, but has a very low capability of resistance. Our grip fatigues fairly easy when compared to bigger muscles. This means that after 1-2 sets, quality of your grip and set will drop dramatically.

The use of lifting straps prevent this to happen. In addition, a higher quality of sets will enhance our motivation and adherence to training. Let's put it this way. What do you enjoy more; going to the gym to see how your grip fails or give it all and fail cause of your muscle burning so bad? I would go for the second one...

More focused on the movement itself

The use of lifting straps enables you to minimize the 'noise' of all the disturbing factors related with your grip. When you are deadlifting or doing any pull exercise, the last thing you want to be doing is to struggle with your grip. That will basically mean that you are not fully focused on the movement, technique, muscle activation...

Being inmersed to a higher extent on the movement is optimal for our performance. We want to be aware of everything happening during the movement related to muscle and neural activation. That will, again, lead you to 1-2 more repetition. And we already know the importance of volume load for muscle hypertrophy (study) (further reading)

Better response to pull exercises

Lifting straps are widely used for deadlift, but that's not it. You can use them in pretty much all pull exercises, being heavy rows and lat pull downs the most common.

As it happens with deadlifts, grip strength may be limiting your performance and muscle activation during these exercises. Preventing that to happen, we'll be able to take our sets to a higher intensity and add more volume load.

So if we use lifting straps on these exercise, we'll achieve higher volume load and intensity. Being the two main variables for muscle hypertrophy (study), the use of lifting straps will indirectly take you to achieve more muscle growth.

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CONS OF USING LIFTING STRAPS

We've seen the use and situations in where lifting straps can come useful. But everything has its pros and cons, and lifting straps is not an exception. Now we'll go through the disadvantages and consequences of using lifting straps. With these, you'll be able to evaluate wether lifting straps are for you or not.

Don’t train your grip

This is probably the biggest cons of lifting stroas. As another muscle, you can train your grip to progressively improve it and become stronger. The use of lifting straps will take the grip out of the equation, and the volume load given to the grip will be much lower.

To avoid you can simply use the straps only in heavy sessions or the heaviest set of the workout. By doing that, you'll be still training and improving your grip strength on the other sets.

Your technique will be slightly different

Every additional component used for your movement will change your technique. When we use lifting straps, we unconsciously start the deadlift from a higher point, not paying too much attention to the lifting straps. Because of the security the straps give us, the first 'attack' is usually more agressive, and that can deteriorate your technique as well.

But again, this has an easy fix. Simply don't use the lifting straps on every set, and as you get closer to the competition (if competing in powerlifting), you might have to take them out completely.

You may become only-reliant on lifting straps

The psychological factor also plays a big role here. When you are used to use lifting straps in all our workouts and exercise you may become full-reliant on them. And when you can't use them for any reason, performance will drop like crazy.

First, you'll be feeling that the weigths you were to lift are too much for you to hold your grip. Then, you'll blame lifting straps completely, and won't notice that the straps are not actually the reason. The reason is that you think you need the straps to lift heavy. But in reality, lifting straps don't add that many pounds to the movement, it's more 'nocebo effect' than anything else.

Noticeable reduction in forearm and grip strength

You usually only train forearm and grip strength indirectly through compound exercises. If in these you are using straps, then you won't be training them at all.

You rarely see in the gym someone doing an specific exercise to improve their grip strength, right? That's because they are way too specific and not time efficient. The best way to train them? Through compound exercises. Among these, the ones that give the highest stimulus to your forearm and grip strength are pulldowns, pullups, free rows and deadlifts.

WHEN TO USE LIFTING STRAPS

We have explained the theoretical and practical 'pros' and 'cons' of using lifting straps. But even after that, you still may be thinking: 'Okay, but should I use them, and if yes, when?

We'll solve this very quickly. Here you'll have a checklist of situations in where we'd recommend using lifting straps and where they are not useful at all.

When to use lifting straps

General advice: only use them when the real limiting factor of the exercise is the grip strength or the forearm instead of the desired muscle.

  • If you are an advanced subject and your liftings are considerably heavy (>220lbs squat, >270lbs deadlift, >180lbs bench press)
  • Heavy sets on deadlifts and free heavy rows
  • Advanced techniques on pull exercises (e.g. dropset in lat pulldown)
  • Weighted pulll-ups with high demand of grip strength
  • In the last sets or more intense sets of the session
  • *Bonus*: some people also use them for doing front squat. Personally we haven't done it ourselves, and we cannot recommend it.

When not to use lifting straps

General advice: don't use if you are still developing a good technique and grip strength, or if the forearm and grip are not the limiting factor.

  • If you just started going to the gym and you grip is still not strong enough
  • On seasons close to competition (if competing in a strength discipline)
  • During backoff sets on deadlift or lighter sessions
  • Don't use them on all sets of all exercises.
  • On exercises with a developing not-established technique.

RECOMMENDED LIFITNG STRAPS TO BUY

In general, lifting straps are very cheap and of high quality. But once in a while you end up buying a p**ce of sh*t that you cannot use for anything. After surfing on the web I found these straps, which seem reliable and of good quality. I highly recommend looking at these as a start point, and if you find something that fits you better, definitely go for it.

CONCLUSION

Lifting straps are an aid you can use to improve the performance on your deadlift and some other pull exercises. In this post we evaluated the pros and cons of lifting straps, showing both the darks and the lights of this aid.

They make us feel more confident and reduce the demands on our grip strength and forearm. However, that doesn't mean that everyone should use at all times. During this post we have seen the different types there are on the market, and the situations and cases in where we recommend (or not) the use of straps.

We hope you enjoyed the content, and we are very looking forward to see you back on one of our posts. If you still have any doubts regarding this topic, please leave it below on the comment section.

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