As raw and primal as weight lifting can feel at times, there are important strategies that are often used to make weight lifting more comfortable, effective, and safe.
Our bodies are very complex and even though our major muscle groups are strong and able, our smaller connecting body parts and muscles, such as our wrists and hands, can fail us. When we want to lift heavy and we know our biceps can do it, our hands might be too tired to hold the weight that the biceps want to lift.
When our bodies can’t accomplish this alone, man uses his great wisdom to create a tool to help. This article will talk about one of those man-made creations that are used in the weightlifting world to help achieve the unachievable – weightlifting straps.
As uncomplicated of a piece of equipment weightlifting straps are, there are so many people that can’t seem to understand the methods and reasons for using them. They fumble around trying to get them right until they finally ask for help from someone or put them on all wrong and end up losing their grip.
This article will explain exactly what, how, and when, to use weight lifting straps.
What are weightlifting straps?
Wrist straps are pieces of sewn leather, canvas, or heavy-duty nylon cloth made into loops that fit around your wrists and the lifting bar. These straps might seem to look cumbersome, but they actually help the lifter in certain circumstances, which we will talk about later.
Straps vary in size from 1”-1.5” wide and a foot to a foot and a half long. They can either be connected on the ends or have a loop at one end that the other end is meant to loop back through during use.
You’ll often see them used by Olympic weightlifters and bodybuilders but any athlete can use them to their benefit if used the right way. Of course, you would always have one for each hand.
When and how to use lifting straps
There is a little bit of controversy about when you should use lifting straps. Some say that you can use them as often as you need in the beginning to help lift heavy, while others are determined to not overuse them so as not to become dependent on them and to strengthen their hands.
Most people say that you can use them only for pulls and not for real lifts. Some would never use them for warmups, but others say that its best to use them during warmups to save your hands for competitions.
There are certain circumstances where you should never use lifting straps because it is just too dangerous. When doing squat cleans it can be very difficult to get out of the way of the bar fast enough when your hands are strapped down with lifting straps. Some have broken wrists or pulled muscles doing this. It’s just smart to rely on your own strength with these.
It should also be mentioned that you should never wrap the straps around the bar more than once so that if you do get into a situation where you need to get out fast, you can easily just release your grip and slip out.
Let’s get into how you use these babies.
First, you need to set up the straps on both hands. The correct way to do this is to create a loop with each strap by putting one end through the loop on the other end. Then put each hand through the bigger loop you just created.
It’s important that you lay the straps just right on your palm. The loop should be sitting in the palm of your hand with the strap around your wrist as close to your hand as possible. You don’t want there to be any space between your palm and the strap around your wrist because this is the perfect way to break a wrist.
The unlooped end of the strap should be going through the space between your pointer finger and thumb across the palm.
Now you set up in front of the bar and grab it with both palms making sure to leave the straps on the opposite side of the bar. Your hands will be gripping the front of the bar and the straps will be hanging from your wrists behind the bar.
Use your thumb to grab the strap and wrap it around the bar one time. Then you can rotate the bar to tighten the strap and your grip of it good and tight.
If you are using a different type of straps, such as the figure eight or the closed-loop, the set up is significantly easier but not as secure. To use the figure-eight simply put your wrists in one loop, wrap the other loop under the bar and back over your wrists. For the closed-loop, you put your wrists through the loop and feed the other end around the bar and tuck it into your grip.
Now you’re ready to get lifting.
What are the benefits and drawbacks of using lifting straps?
Many of the controversies of when and when not to use lifting straps have to do with the benefits and drawbacks of using them. The funny thing is that some of the very things about lifting the weight with straps are considered a benefit for some, but a drawback for others.
I’ll explain in more detail because that can sound confusing. For many, they use straps because they want to lift heavier but don’t have the grip strength to do so. This benefits the lifter because they can concentrate on increasing the strength and size of certain muscles that they couldn’t achieve without the use of straps because their grip would give out before they could.
This very benefit is considered a drawback for some because of the nature of certain lifts. For example, when doing deadlifts your grip can protect your back muscles from injury.
But, all in all, the main benefit of using lifting straps is that it allows you to lift heavier without worrying about your grip failing.
The main drawback of using lifting straps is becoming dependent on straps if you overuse them because your gripping muscles won’t get worked and become weak making you need to use straps more and more.
There is an easy way to fix this drawback and that’s to use straps sparingly. When you are trying to increase your lifts, try without straps first until your grip begins to fail and then finish with straps.
An obvious way to keep your grip strength strong even when using straps is to do some dedicated forearm strength training.
What to look for when buying lifting straps
When you are choosing which lifting straps to use there are a few things you should take into consideration. It is important that your straps are durable and strong. You don’t want to be in the middle of a lift and one of your straps snapping in two or tearing. That would be dangerous and really put a damper on your workout.
Another thing you want to decide on is which style would work best for you. There are three to choose from; closed loop, figure eight, and lasso straps. The lasso type is the most commonly used because of its security and safety. The closed-loop is similar but can be easier to slip out of. The figure-eight straps are very secure but aren’t very safe for lifts that you might need to get out of quickly.
You will want to make sure that your straps are comfortable and grip well. Some will get better with use. The leather ones, for example, will get softer and looser the more you use them, forming to your wrists. The lasso straps often have extra padding around the wrist area, which significantly helps with wrist comfort.
5 Best lifting straps in 2020
Below we put together a list of top 5 weight lifting straps based on a collaborative effort between ourselves and reviews from fitness experts and enthusiasts.
If you’ve gotten up to the heavyweights but haven’t yet invested in a good pair of straps, I highly suggest that you do. You’ll be surprised at how much stronger you are when you try one of these.
These are some of the most widely used lifting straps because they are not only very durable and can be used for the heaviest of lifts but also pliable making them comfortable to use. They are made of the cotton canvas giving them strength but the neoprene padding around the wrists keeps them from digging into your skin.
They are available in a wide variety of colors so you can pick one that fits your style and they are unisex. They are 23” long which is longer than most, making them able to be double wrapped for lifts that are safe to double wrap with. Some have claimed that these frayed and ripped easier than they expected but that the company was more than willing to replace them. For their price, you can afford to replace them quickly.
These aren’t really straps but are an alternative to straps that also aid in the gripping process. They have built-in wrist wraps to help support the wrists. They are a popular alternative to straps because you don’t have to worry about chafing and slipping as they are like gloves with an added flap of leather that wraps around the bar and into your palm to increase your grip. It’s also super convenient when doing drop sets. They are safer than straps and many prefer them for comfort.
They offer two different sizes. The Pro size is made for men because it fits the bigger wrists and the Fit size is for women since it fits a smaller wrist. They have many different colors to choose from. They are much more expensive than straps but last a lot longer.
These are made of suede leather and are much stronger than cotton straps. The stitching is double stitching up and down the straps for reinforcement. The straps are softer than most and lightweight even though they are very strong. This makes them extremely comfortable even when you are lifting super heavy. Leather straps definitely grip stronger than cotton ones and won’t slip.
They are 22” long and can be used by both men and women. Even though they are a bit pricier than the competition, the company offers a lifetime replacement after registering your order.
Harbinger is a trusted name and these straps live up to their reputation. They are 21.5” long and made of strong cotton canvas with a 5mm thick neoprene cushion around the wrist. This will help with comfort while you lift. The extra stitching makes them stronger letting you lift without worrying about snaps and tears.
They are available in two colors, black for men, and pink for women, or vise versa, whatever you like. They are very affordable and the merrowed ends make frayed ends a very unlikely problem.
These straps are one of the shortest available so that might be an issue with you if you enjoy longer straps. They are, however, extra wide, which makes the grip better.
This combo is nice because not only do you get the straps, but you also get wrist wraps that help support your wrists but aren’t so stiff that you can’t move or do push-ups in them. Great for bench presses and such. The lifting straps are made of cotton and have a thick neoprene padding for comfort. The ends are merrowed like the Harbinger brand straps, which almost guarantees that these straps won’t fray at the ends, which is a common problem with cotton straps.
They are 22.5” long, a nice measurement, not too long and not too short. They come with a carrying bag to add convenience and portability to the deal. The deal is also a great price because both products are close to the same price as many of the straps.