One of the enduring arguments in the bodybuilding world is whether or not you should use lift straps. Some hardcore bodybuilders will quickly dismiss them and downplay their role, while others will revere them and the role they serve in the pursuit of gains. For a new bodybuilder, these divided schools of thought pose quite the challenge. Which side should you pledge your allegiance to?
What are Lifting Straps?
For the uninitiated, lifting straps are an accessory looped around the wrist on one end, and looped around a weight, typically a barbell, on the other. The primary purpose of using them is to strengthen or reinforce your grip, though quite a number of lifters use them to mitigate sweating, to lift bars without knurling or to simply overcome grip fatigue. They are a common accessory in the bodybuilding scene, as are wrist straps and weight lifting belts.
Advantages of Using Lifting Straps
Contrary to popular opinion, lifting straps do not weaken your grip. They actually strengthen it when used in the right instances. Common sense does apply, so if you use them every time, with every pull movement, there will be an over-reliance on them. If used well however, these straps play a crucial role. For starters, they help you focus on the lifting part of the movement, instead of the grip. This allows the tension to be shifted away from the grip and towards the target muscles.
The straps can help you work around bruised hands. If you have bruised calluses, the lift can be uncomfortable, but the straps help reduce this discomfort so you can execute your sets better.
The biggest advantage however, is that they allow you to lift heavier weight. When you need to overload your target muscle but lack the grip to hold on to the weight, the straps will compensate, and help you work through the initial fatigue that you feel.
The argument lifters make against the use of straps is that it denies you the ability to strengthen your forearm, hands, wrists and generally your grip. It’s an invalid argument for one simple reason- these are not the parts you are targeting to begin with. What they do, essentially, is to help you cheat. They give you the ability to move a larger weight than you would in their absence. If you worry about grip or forearm strength, you should train those parts in a dedicated workout, instead of foregoing the lifting straps.
Gaining the best benefits of lifting straps
It is important to keep in mind when you use straps. The golden rule is to use them only when you need them. If you are able to move a certain weight with your own grip, skip the straps. Use them for the heaviest sets instead.
If you are new to lifting straps, take a while to learn how to properly use them. There is an initial awkwardness that you must first overcome before you can comfortably use them. Also, make sure you shop for the pair that is made with the highest quality material.
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