The two questions I’ve been asked the most as a strength coach by far are, ‘how many pounds is a kilo’ and ‘how to use lifting straps’.
Lifting straps are an amazing tool that should be in any serious lifter’s gym bag. They give the lifter increased grip strength and can protect help protect a lifter’s hands from wear and tear.
You would assume a simple strap that just wraps around the barbell would be simple to figure out. However, learning how to use lifting straps properly isn’t always as easy as it may seem.
If you feel like your struggling with using your lifting straps and they aren’t quite working as well as you feel like they should, you’re in the right place.
In this article I’m going to show you step by step how to use lifting straps and where you’re most likely making your mistakes.
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Types of Lifting Strap
One of the aspects of how to use lifting straps that makes things a little more complicated is the fact that there are 3 different kinds of lifting strap. And while all three provide the same functionality – improved grip for lifting heavy weight – all 3 are designed and work a bit differently.
Lasso straps, closed loop weightlifting straps and figure 8 straps are all popular types of lifting straps, but don’t worry, I’m going to over each here. (Technically there are also open loop lifting straps, but those are very advanced and I’m going to leave those alone for this article)
Let’s start with the most popular and most used type of lifting strap (and most beginner-friendly), lasso straps.
Lasso Lifting Straps
Lasso straps are straps that usually around 18″ long made of either heavy duty cotton or nylon and have a loop that is stitched into one end of the strap. Lasso straps are typically used to lift heavier weights on exercises like dumbbell rows and shrugs where grip can be a limiting factor.
They are the most common lifting straps, because they are the easiest to use and what I would recommend for a beginner to try first.
How to Use Lasso Lifting Straps
Start by looping the strap end through the stitched loop end, creating a large loop that you can now slide your wrist through.
Slide your wrist through so that the strap lays flat across your hand, falling between your forefinger and thumb. If the strap is pointed up toward your forearm, it’s on backward.
Now, pull the strap so it tightens down on your wrist. The tighter the strap is on your wrist, the more effective it will work.
Now it’s time to address the barbell and here is where the biggest mistake is made.
Start by looping the straps under the bar first and then back towards you, taking as much slack out of the strap as possible.
Finally, you can loop the lifting straps around the bar multiple times if you like, however it’s usually not really necessary. For most exercises like barbell rows and Romanian deadlifts I will only loop them around once because it’s easier and takes less time.
The part of process that takes a little bit of time to get the hang off is setting up the second hand. Let’s say you start with the left hand strap. You can use your free hand to help you get the strap secure.
However, when it comes time to do the right hand strap, now you’ll have to get setup with only one hand. It’s harder for sure, but after a little bit of practice you’ll get the hang of it pretty quick.
Closed Loop Weightlifting Straps
Closed loop weightlifting straps are generally nylon straps that are used for Olympic lifting movements like Snatches and Cleans. They’re also used for accessory pulling movements like clean pulls and rack pulls.
Closed loop straps are designed the way they are to allow for lifters to be able to quickly release the bar in the event of a missed lift which is extremely important from a safety standpoint.
Many lifters, myself included, also use weightlifting straps not just to improve grip strength, but to also save the hands from wear and tear. Olympic lifting involves a lot of pulling movements and at times the volume of work can do a number on your hands.
Using lifting straps can help take some of that stress off the hands and help keep them from getting torn up.
The way they work though, is the exact same way that lasso straps work, but because they are designed differently it can take a minute to figure them out.
How to Use Closed Loop Straps
Unlike a lasso strap that has a long piece of material that wraps around the bar, a closed loop is already formed in the shape of a loop and stitched together, hence the name ‘closed loop’.
With a closed loop strap, start by placing your hand through the loop so that strap lays relatively flat in your palm with the point of the stitched seam facing forward.
Now, address the barbell by looping the strap under the bar first and back towards you.
Closed loop straps are much shorter than lasso straps so they won’t loop around the barbell nearly as much, but they don’t need to.
Figure 8 Straps
Figure 8 straps are primarily used by powerlifters for heavy lifts like deadlifts or Romanian deadlifts. They’re probably the most durable lifting straps of the three varieties.
Instead of tightening down on the bar, figure 8 straps by basically hanging the bar directly off the wrists and almost eliminating grip strength demands entirely. If you want to lift heavy weights on pulling exercises and not have to worry about grip fatigue at all, figure 8 straps may be what you’re looking for.
How to Use Figure 8 Lifting Straps
Start by sliding your wrist through one of the loop holes.
Next, bring your hand down by the bar and loop the strap underneath the bar and back toward you.
Now, slide your hand through the second hole.
Finally, take your grip on the barbell. Your hand should be through both loop holes and the straps should be wrapped around the bar just to the outside of your hands.
Be aware that you won’t be able to release your grip on the bar, but just letting go of the bar like with the other lifting straps. You’ll have to sit the bar down and unhook the straps off your wrists.
Wrist Straps vs Wrist Wraps
If you’ve read through this article and are really confused because none of these “lifting straps” look or work like your straps then you may in fact have wrist wraps, not wrist straps.
I get it. They both use the word wrist, they’re both used for lifting and they rhyme so I get the confusion. But, wrist straps and wrist wraps are two very different pieces of gear used two very different purposes.
Straps are used to help you keep your grip on the bar and wrist wraps are wrapped around the wrist to help give wrist support for lifts like bench press and other pressing movements.
Why You Shouldn’t Use Lifting Straps
If you’ve heard that you shouldn’t use lifting straps, there is a little bit of truth to that and I wanted to quickly address those concerns.
Lifting straps improve your grip strength by doing the large majority of the work for you. This works great when working with heavier weights that you may not otherwise be able to do.
What you want to be careful with though, is letting your lifting straps become a crutch. Just like the guy at the gym who does his entire workout every day with a weight belt on, you don’t want to be using lifting straps for every exercise, every set, every rep.
Work on improving your grip by not using lifting straps until you really need them. If you do this consistently you’ll be able to gain strength and use more weight before having to break out your lifting straps.
Lifting straps are an amazing tool to help with lifting heavy weights for pulling exercises like shrugs or even weighted pull ups.
Knowing how to use lifting straps can be a little tricky at first, but once you get comfortable with them they’ll be an absolute asset to your strength training regimen.
If you’ve just started looking into getting a pair of lifting straps for yourself, be sure to check out my Best Lifting Straps Guide. I bought and tested 8 pairs of lifting straps and I tell you which pair I still use the most.
I hope this complete guide was helpful and got you locked into the barbell with your lifting straps.