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Purpose of Lifting Straps: The Safest Way to Train

Apr 29, 2019

What is the purpose of lifting straps and is wearing them really the safest way to train?

Walk into any gym and you’re going to see quite a few people with a long strap dangling from his or her arm while walking around between sets.

As they position themselves in front of the barbell you will see them attach the strap to the barbell.

When the strap is wound tight, the lifter’s muscles tense, and the weights move without much effort at all.

How did this happen–is this the real purpose of lifting straps?

 

Purpose of Lifting Straps: Most Common Accessory

Lifting straps are the most common and frequently used weight lifting accessory and wearing them is the safest way to train.

Strapping them on will make it easier to hold on to a heavy weight.

Often used by bodybuilders and casual gym-goers, wrist straps are extremely valuable to powerlifters and other strength athletes, too.

No matter how often you plan to use those weight lifting straps, it’s crucial that you know when to use them and why.

 

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Purpose of Lifting Straps:  What are They?

Lifting straps are sewn pieces of cloth or leather that loop around your wrist and the bar.

They are approximately 1″ to 1-1/2″ wide, 12″ to 18″ long, and made from either leather, canvas, or nylon.

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When you are using them, you are basically attaching the weight to your wrists/hands.

Lifting Straps take the pressure off the grip and transfers it to the forearm/ wrist.

There is a right way to prepare straps for the wrists and to wrap them around the bar.

Every lifter should learn how to wrap them properly before doing anything else.

It is also important to practice wrapping and positioning whenever possible, so that it becomes second nature.

 

Purpose of Lifting Straps: Why Should I Buy Them?

The purpose of straps is to allow the lifter to focus only on the pull portion of the lifts rather than focusing on the grip. 

 Of course, there are other ways to work on strengthening your grip, but is that your ultimate goal?

Your goal is to concentrate on your pull and not have to worry that a weak grip will cause you to mess up your form.

 

Purpose of Lifting Straps–The Safest Way to Train:  Your Grip

The Safest Way to Train: Hand gripping bar

As you think about all the movements in your weightlifting routine you realize your grip does weaken as you become more tired.

In one session you might go from cleans to snatches, to hang cleans, to jerks and eventually, your grip loosens.

No matter what kind of program you have, there is always the chance of sacrificing form as the body becomes more tired.

We all know that poor form leads to injury and time lost from the gym.

 This is the powerful benefit of strap use.

They allow us to use and/or maintain heavier weights than our grip can handle, without sacrificing form, and therefore preventing injury.

Related: The Rules of Safe Lifting | What to Keep in Mind

 

Purpose of Lifting Straps–The Safest Way to Train:  How to Use Them

Purpose of Lifting Straps--The Safest Way to Train:  How to Use Weightlifting Straps

  1. Put the end through the loop so that it forms a circle.
  2. Place your hand in the circle formed by the strap, and put your wrists into the round openings.
  3. Position the strap between your thumb and index finger.
  4. Place your less-coordinated hand on the bar and wrap the strap around it.
  5. Remember this is done with one hand only, so you need to start with your less dominant hand.
  6. Start wrapping under the bar and winding it back towards you.
  7. Now do the same thing with your other hand.
  8. You must wind the strap tightly since this is how you will be able to lift the bar with less grip strength.
  9. Twisting the bar towards you tightens the straps.

 

Purpose of Lifting Straps:  When to Use Them

Purpose of Lifting Straps--The Safest Way to Train: Collage of Dark Iron Fitness Lifting Straps

To progress in the gym, you must have constant, long-term overload.

But once you’re close to your physical potential, weak links will eventually become more noticeable.

As a result, it will become harder to keep pushing the load in the big lifts.

This is when lifting straps should be used strategically–during supra-maximal loaded training.

Wearing the straps means you won’t be limited by your grip strength and now your other muscles can be overloaded instead.

The hand, wrist, and forearm musculature is slow-twitch dominant.

Related: Various Weightlifting Grip Types and What they Do

This means it’s designed to withstand extended periods of tension.

Your grip is built for endurance, but during advanced training, there are times where the total time under tension (TUT) can be limited by your grip.

Your grip should not be holding you back during more intense moves.

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Purpose of Lifting Straps–The Safest Way to Train: Be Careful with Cleans or Snatches

Straps are used with all pull portions of the two Olympic lifts–the clean and jerk and the snatch.

Using lifting straps for cleans or snatches takes a lot of time to learn and can be dangerous if not done properly.

 You don’t want to do a heavy clean or snatch with a wrist caught incorrectly in a strap!

 

Ideal for Pulling Movements

man doing a lat pulldown

For pulling movements, straps are actually preferred in order to maximize the challenge of each set.

Straps are also helpful in more isolation-based movements to emphasize muscular actions at the back, shoulders, or the lower body.

During the lat pulldown, the primary focus should be the lats.

But the forearms and biceps often take tension away from the lats, making it extremely hard to get strong, high-quality contractions.

By using straps, the grip can relax so that the biceps are de-emphasized.

This will shift the load more directly to the lats, where you want it to be in the first place.

This is also true with higher-rep deadlifts with a back emphasis or shoulder work such as lateral raises.

It even applies to lower-body movements like lunges, done with your heavy dumbbells positioned against your sides.

Straps aren’t allowed in powerlifting—although they are often allowed in strongman competitions.

 

Lifting Straps Can Help You Reach Your Goals

During powerlifting, training straps can help you make strength and size gains that will directly carry over to your main lifts.

We know the number one benefit of using straps is that they allow you to fatigue the target muscle without worrying about your grip failing first.

So we should ask ourselves two questions when lifting:

  1. What’s the target muscle of this exercise?
  2. Which muscle fatigues first?

So, if your goal is to improve the size and strength of a certain muscle group, and using straps helps you make this possible, then do it.

 

Lifting Straps Make a Difference with These Exercises:

Purpose of Lifting Straps--man doing a Romanian deadlift

  • Dumbbell or barbell rows
  • Shrugs
  • Deadlifts
  • Romanian deadlifts
  • Rack Pulls

All these exercises help improve size and strength in the upper back, traps, and hamstrings.

They are not to directly train a competition lift.

Because of this, there’s no reason not to wear straps, especially if you can’t hold on to the bar long enough to fatigue the target muscle group.

 

Follow These Rules

  • Don’t wear straps to do everything, all the time.
  • Work without straps until your grip starts to fail or limits your technique, and then use them to finish your work.
  • Doing some dedicated forearm work to maintain and build up your grip is helpful if you do lots of work with straps.
  • You shouldn’t feel like you have to strap up just to hit a certain weight. Your grip can dictate how much you lift–you can still get stronger without straps.

 

Be Aware of Overuse Injuries

Purpose of Lifting Straps--The Safest Way to Train: man with muscular legs deadlifting

If you’re lifting heavy weights you are always crushing the bar.

Crushing the bar makes you stronger and safer.

But if you’re lifting heavy weights often, then this is something you are doing constantly.

Because this is something you are doing non-stop, your hands never have a chance to recover.

Purpose of Lifting Straps--The Safest Way to Train: 3 hand positions on bar

When you do something stressful all the time, and there is no opportunity to recover from it, then injuries will most likely happen.

For example, the perfect time to use straps is when you are up to your last set of lat pulldowns.

You’re almost finished with your workout and your hands are done.

But you need to do AMRAP for your final set—now is the ideal time to use straps.

 

Final Thoughts on Purpose of Lifting Straps–The Safest Way to Train

 In general, follow these guidelines for using straps:

  • Beginning Lifters: Do not use straps for at least 3 months until you have developed grip strength first.
  • Intermediate Lifters: Use straps in warm-up sessions on various pulls and deadlifts only. Always use them off the blocks.
  • Advanced lifters: Do not use straps 1-2 weeks out from any competition

Now you have enough experience to understand the application of the tool.

You’re using the straps to become more awesome, not as a crutch.

Get the right pair of straps and you will see that they make a huge difference in the stress on my hands, wrists, elbows and even shoulders.

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You may be interested in our...

LEATHER SUEDE LIFTING STRAPS

Made from high-quality and durable suede leather, these straps have reinforced stitching up and down the entire length of the straps, so they'll never rip, fray, or come apart like straps made of cheap cotton. Other straps have too much padding, which blocks the straps from tightening around the wrist. Not ours! These straps wrap snugly around any wrist size.


View Product