I remember when I first started lifting, I wanted to get stronger as fast as humanely possible. The idea of ‘developing’ or learning a ‘process’ were ideas I wanted no part of. I wanted results and I wanted them now.
I think many beginners can relate to this when they first start lifting. On top of working out, they start looking for any supplement or lifting accessory that can bring them results asap. One of these lifting accessories is lifting straps. Beginners will see someone strapped into a heavy set of shrugs and think to themselves, “I need some lifting straps!” But… do they?
First off, I want to stress there is nothing inherently wrong with lifting straps. In fact, I use lifting straps multiple times per week as do countless other athletes and lifters.
However, the question here is, should beginners use lifting straps.
The answer is, no, I don’t believe beginners should use lifting straps for two reasons. First, beginners are still learning how to lift and should have sound technique before introducing accessories like lifting straps. Second, I think a beginner should develop a baseline of strength before using straps.
In this article, I’ll explain my reasoning why I don’t think a beginner should use lifting straps, when is a good time to start using lifting straps and how to use lifting straps if you’ve not used them yet.
When someone is first starting out on their iron journey, everything is brand new. It can take weeks, or even months, for a new lifter to get proficient in all the different lifts. The more complex the lift, the longer it may take.
Most lifters will pick up on a DB Shrug pretty quick, but a Clean Pull may take quite a bit longer.
This learning process and the subsequent improvements in the neuromuscular ability of the lifter is actually what leads to most of the “gains” a beginner sees in their first few weeks.
Trust me, at no other point in a lifter’s career will their deadlift go up 50 pounds in two weeks, but that can absolutely happen if you’re a beginner.
In my opinion, during this early phase in a lifter’s development it’s best to keep everything as simple as possible. The more basic and fundamental you can keep workouts and exercises, the better. This allows the lifter to learn and get reps (aka practice) at the basics.
Introducing lifting straps at this point adds a layer of complexity that just isn’t necessary, or beneficial, at this stage.
Any novice lifter, whether they are a freshman college athlete or a total recreational lifter, should focus on technique first.
Their next focus should be on building strength. I’m not talking about ‘win a Powerlifting meet strong’, just a good foundation of strength.
The purpose of a lifting strap is to help a lifter lift more weight once grip becomes a limiting factor. However, if you have no grip strength and grip is a limiting factor on all your lifts, then that is something that needs to be addressed.
If you have trouble holding onto 495 for shrugs, then sure, grab some straps. If holding onto a 40 for One Arm Rows is a struggle, let’s work on that grip strength.
When Should You Start Using Lifting Straps
This is a tough question to answer because I think it can vary widely for each individual.
If you are a new lifter and you’re going down the road of Olympic weightlifting then using weightlifting straps early on is probably warranted. This is because Olympic lifting involves a lot of gripping and pulling movements that can tear up your hands from all the volume.
Lifting straps, used on a limited basis, can take some stress off your grip and help protect your hands.
Otherwise, I would say if you get to a point on a certain lift and your progress has completely stagnated because you simply cannot hold onto the bar, then I would start incorporating lifting straps for your heavy sets. Shrugs is usually the first exercise where most of us will hit this roadblock.
To give you an example, we have a rule in our weight room that once you get to 405 you can start using straps for shrugs.
How to Use Lifting Straps
So, you bought yourself a pair of straps. (Maybe you read about the 7 that I personally tested) Now, how exactly do you use them?
If you’re lifting solo in your garage then you have plenty of time and opportunity to figure them out. However, if you’re lifting in a gym then you may find yourself on the spot going to use your lifting straps for the first time.
Since no one likes to look like an idiot, let me walk you through how to use a pair of lifting straps.
Your first pair of straps are probably going to be a Lasso strap, or possibly a closed loop strap. While they are a little different, both work basically the same.
Step 1 – Put the strap around your wrist. If done correctly, the strap should lay relatively flat against your palm. If the strap is going up your forearm, you have it on upside down.
Step 2 – Wrap the strap under the bar first (see pic above). This is where 99% of mistakes will be made.
Straps work by counteracting the natural tendency for the bar to want to ‘roll’ out of your hand.
However, if you loop the strap over the bar first, then it will be looped in the same direction that the bar wants to roll. In this situation, the straps will do absolutely nothing and the bar will still roll right out of your hand.
This usually leads to frustration and the statement of, “These are stupid, they don’t do anything.”
Wrap under the bar first.
Step 3 – Pull the strap tight by twisting it around the bar. The more you twist the bar, the tighter your grip on the bar will be.
Step 4 – If you have a closed loop strap or only have the Lasso strap looped around the bar once you can simply let go of the bar to release your grip.
That’s it! Now you can go use straps like a pro!
I do think lifting straps should have a place in the gym bag of every lifter. However, if you are a beginner you don’t need to be in a huge rush to go out and get straps.
Work on your technique first and then take some time to build a foundation of strength. Once you’ve done that, then you can start experimenting with adding different lifting accessories to your repertoire, including lifting straps.