Grip Strength... Are Lifting Straps Really Worth it??
From Globo gyms to CrossFit boxes worldwide you’ll see lifting straps as one of the main pieces of equipment for lifting weights. Weightlifters will use them in the Olympic lifts, powerlifters will use them for heavy deads, strongmen will use them for farmer’s carries, bodybuilders will use them for accessory work, and CrossFitters will use them for all of the above. It’s a trend for sure but do they truly work? Do they actually allow you to lift more weight? And how exactly does throwing a piece of cloth around a bar actually cause less strain on the forearms like it's said to do? I will explain all of this below and exactly how lifting straps can help when lifting weights!!
What are Lifting Straps used for?
As you may already know, lifting straps have been used for decades by some of the strongest men and women on the planet. And you’ll notice that each one of them will be lifting more weight with the straps than without the straps. But how? Let’s start by thinking about what happens when you grab a bar to do deadlifts without straps…. You’re purely relying on your grip strength to keep your fingers around the bar. Essentially, the weight on the bar is going to pry your fingers open slowly with each rep. If you have a massively strong grip, that’s great! But what happens when you surpass your body’s ability to hold a specific weight and want to overload the deadlift? You can’t! The bar will start to slip out, your back will begin to round in order to compensate, your forearms will strain, and you may hurt yourself/drop the bar. No bueno.
So now let’s envision a standard lifting strap. Just a simple strap with a loop at the end. The strap loops around your wrist and through itself. Once that strap is snug around your wrist, the rest of the strap is wrapped around the bar. That’s it! Now picture that deadlift from before but now with straps. The bar will be a lot more difficult to pry open your fingers because you have closed the “loop” around your hand and the bar. On one side you have your fingers/hand and on the other you have the strap. Note you have 2 points of extra security here: the part of the strap that is wrapped around your wrist and the part of the strap that is wrapped around the bar. The weight on the bar has now been distributed between your forearm strength and the strap around the wrist. That’s the simple science behind lifting straps! Check out the video below on standard lifting straps.
***In case you want to know more, I’m going to get slightly more advanced. The straps do a little more than just distribute the load of a bar/dumbbell... they allow your brain to “feel” a greater sense of stability and strength. If your brain senses the body is stable/strong at your hands/extremities, you will be able to do more work overall and have better positioning through your core. You will not need to bend your elbows or round your spine to hold a load simply because you have essentially “tricked” the brain into feeling more stable which is another reason you can lift more.
(The athlete above applies standard lifting straps around the bar.)
The Flaws of Standard Lifting Straps and the Answer
Applying standard straps around the bar looks simple, right? Well sort of…. The athlete in the video above is an advanced-level CrossFitter with years of experience so strapping into the bar is flawless for him without much difficulty. But imagine trying to figure out how to use those straps when you haven’t been lifting for years on end. It literally will take an extra 10 minutes to figure it out. No one has time for that. Also let’s recall that standard lifting straps only have 2 points of extra security (the strap around the bar and the loop around your wrist). It’s great because it has extra security but unfortunately not as strong as it could be.
So at Element 26 we took the lifting straps and made them even better. The answer we came up with are the NEW Figure-8 Lifting Straps. Remember how the standard lifting straps only have 2 points of extra security? Well these straps have 3! Two loops around your wrist and 1 around the bar. Essentially this reinforces the strap around your wrist and “locks” you to the bar. This makes it a lot harder for the weight to pry your hands open. And if you think the two loops around the wrist would become painful and dig-in, no need to worry because they are padded with neoprene. Also because there are 2 loops around the wrist, the surface area increases, which disperses and reduces the stress on the wrist.
These Figure-8 Lifting Straps are also a lot easier to use because you simply place the strap face down on the bar and then slide your hand through each loop. No fooling around and wasting time trying to strap yourself in. Check out the videos below to see them in action.
Are You Ready to Use Lifting Straps?
Let’s start this off by talking about training level. If you are new to the gym/box then I would encourage you to work on your basic strength and general movements first. That means spend a good 6-12 months being consistent with learning the ins and outs before relying on lifting straps to increase the weight on the bar. Using the straps are nice and definitely allow you to throw more weight around, but having an awesome grip + straps allows you to be unstoppable. Now, if you have a solid strength background and want to throw more weight on the bar in your primary/accessory movements then put some straps on and watch the muscle growth. One huge benefit of straps, especially the Element 26 Figure-8 straps, are that they allow for more “time under tension” (TUT) using heavier loads. TUT does some amazing things such as increase growth hormone release, improve bone mineral density, and allow you to perform more work in a fatigued state. You become a savage athlete. Now should all your training be done with straps? Absolutely not! But when used appropriately to overload a specific movement, they can work wonders.
***Note: do not attempt to perform Olympic Lifting (clean/jerk and snatch) with the Element 26 Figure-8 Lifting Straps. You are literally locked into the bar so “bailing” on a movement will not be an easy option and you could get hurt. Keep the movements to deadlifts, lunges, farmer’s carries, holds, shrugs, high-pulls, pull downs, pull-ups, etc.
To get started moving some weight and adding gainz to your training, click the button below to grab your Element 26 Figure-8 Lifting Straps. #science
Dr. Phil Gauthier
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