Using lifting straps is actually a topic that I have gone back and forth on during my fitness career.
I used to think that lifting straps were for the weak, and if you couldn’t hold onto it then you shouldn’t lift it.
That was my philosophy. Lifting straps weren’t “functional” in my eyes. If you’re out in the real world you don’t use straps, you just lift it! And in that sense, I still believe that’s true. But there are other factors to consider when deciding whether or not to use lifting straps as a tool.
here’s why I changed my mind
You use your grip for just about everything you do in life right? Well that counts for double in the gym. Basically every exercise requires you to hold onto something! So over the time period of your workout, your grip strength is tested. If you just blasted 4 sets of heavy deadlifts, you may not be able to hold onto your typical heavy set of barbell rows as well as you normally would. Your tired grip makes the exercise feel harder than it should and the rest of your back workout suffers.
Another benefit of using straps, and the main reason I switched to the dark side, is being able to better isolate the muscle group and create a better contraction during each rep. For example, if you are doing reverse grip lat pulldowns and your forearms are on fire but your lats could probably squeeze out 4 more reps, lifting straps would allow you to remove your forearms from the equation and complete the movement to failure of the muscles you are actually attempting to work. I understand that certain exercises have multi-muscle benefits, but what cost are you willing to pay? Are you ok with your lat development suffering because your forearms have a nice pump? You’re better off strapping up and then finishing your workout with some additional forearm work and grip strength exercises.
What I will advise against is a powerlifter or strength athlete using straps on deadlifts regularly. You can mix them in once in a while when you want to add some volume to a point where grip strength would otherwise limit your ability to do so. But feeling the true weight of the bar is entirely different than pulling it off the ground with the use of straps. Getting used to that will be a setback in your training. But a powerlifter using them for accessory work can be a major benefit for the fact that you are saving your grip strength for when you need it!
In my personal experience, I have found that I get much better reps, much better pumps, and much better workouts with the specific muscles I’m training when utilizing straps as a tool in my training. I absolutely do not use them for everything, but I work them in with certain movements that I know I can better isolate and create a pure mind-muscle connection with. Grab a pair and throw them in your gym bag. You won’t regret it!
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