Lifting weights is part of a well-rounded exercise routine. Although it can get you looking ripped, weightlifting is good for more than just muscle-building. Studies show that it lowers blood pressure. It helps make your bones incredibly strong. It can lower your insulin levels. In addition to all of this, building up all of that muscle doesn’t just look good—it can boost your fat-burning potential, carving away flabby areas even when you’re not working out. However, when you’re using large weights, you want to lift them safely and effectively. In this article, we’ll discuss why and how to use lifting straps to give you the ultimate workout.
Wrist Straps for Lifting
When you’ve been working out at the gym, you’ve likely seen guys with straps hanging from their wrists. Although it may not be apparent what the straps are for if the person isn’t in the middle of a lifting exercise, these straps are not for decoration and they’re not just to look tough. These straps can make a huge difference in securing a lifter’s grip when they’re working with a particularly heavy set of barbells. Knowing how to use lifting straps can help you lift heavier weights much more easily.
Most of the lifting straps you’ll find are an inch or so wide. They’re usually anywhere from 12” all the way up to 18” long. They can be made out of canvas, leather, nylon, or heavy-duty cotton. There are all kinds of straps available on the market. Look for ones with heavy-duty stitching that can really stand up to abuse. You can find ones that have padding, as well as ones with weightlifting gloves attached to the strap itself. Some people find that the extras prove to be more of a distraction than a help, while others swear by them. The important thing is to find a set of straps that you’re comfortable with. After all—you’ll be the one lifting those barbells!
How to Use Lifting Straps Properly
Using the straps is pretty easy, but getting used to them when you’ve been used to lifting without a strap will take some practice. Once you’ve gotten comfortable with them, however, you’ll become a lifting strap devotee. It’s really important that you fully understand how to use lifting straps before you get started in order to avoid injuring yourself or others. Let’s take it one step at a time.
1. The first step is to put the end of one strap through the loop at the other end of it. You’ll note that this creates a circle for your wrist to fit through. If you’re using a different kind of strap besides the basic loop strap (remember how we discussed that there are a zillion different kinds of straps), you won’t need to do all of this. The general idea of how the straps work, however, is the same.
2. The next step is to place the straps on your wrists. You want the end of each strap to hang down towards your fingers, as this is the bit of the strap that’s going to wrap around the lifting bar. Pay attention to how tight the straps are around your wrists. While they should be snug, they shouldn’t be so tight that they cut off circulation.
3. Here we go. It’s time to attach yourself to those weights. Take your time in getting the straps adjusted correctly so that they don’t slide around on you as you lift. Those loose ends of your straps? Kneel down and place your hands over the bar so that the strap hangs down behind it. Wrap the strap behind and under the bar, then continue wrapping until you’ve taken up all the excess slack. Wrap it tight.
4. Now the straps have created a nice, grippy, handhold for you. Grab the bar over the strap, turning the strap towards you slightly to tighten it even more on the bar. This is an important step in how to use lifting straps, as you don’t want them shifting once you start to lift the weights.
5. You are now ready to lift. Keep in mind that the straps are not there to enable you to lift the weights using only your wrists. Doing so will result in you injuring yourself. Lifting straps are used to help you secure your grip so you can focus on lifting, rather than maintaining your hold on the bar.
Note: The above instructions are for regular lifting straps. If you are using hook straps, you’ll have a wrist band that attaches to a lifting hook that will be positioned under the bar. The plus to these kinds of straps is that you don’t have to wrap a strap around each bar, as the bar will simply sit in the hooks. The downside is that the hooks make it hard to get a good grip on the bar handle. As with any kind of exercise equipment, each style has its fans. With practice, you’ll be able to determine which kind of straps works best for you.
Also here is a video explaining how to use lifting straps correctly, in case the above instructions weren’t clear enough.
Things to Know About wrist straps for weightlifting
Now that you know how to use lifting straps, here are some extra tidbits, tips, and trivia that will help you as you practice with them.
Grip Strength is Incredibly Important
In fact, experts at using lifting straps suggest that you not use the straps at all until you have trained for 3 months to build your grip strength. Why is this? Remember how we talked above about not lifting the weights using only your wrists? In order to ensure that you’re not putting undue pressure on your wrists, you have to have the strength to maintain a grip on that bar—and you have to build this before you start using straps. Hand grip exercisers can help you prepare. You can also practice with battle ropes or do pushups using your fists or fingertips in order to build strength in your grip.
Know When to Use Weight Lifting Straps
Just because you know how to use lifting straps and have gotten really good at using them doesn’t mean you should strap them on every time you pick up a set of weights. Different experts have various ideas about when they should be used. One way to think of them is this: what muscles are you trying to target and fatigue—and will using the straps help you do this? If they will, wear them! If they hinder your ability to target that particular area, get rid of them for that moment in time.
Another suggestion is to do the majority of your workout without using the straps so that you’re not dependent on them. As you begin to get tired and your grip begins to fatigue, the strap can be useful in helping you push through even further.
Know When NOT to Use Them
Now that we’ve had a thorough discussion of how to use lifting straps, you have an idea of how they work. They help keep the bar from rolling away and out of your grip. Because you understand this, you can imagine how straps will be of zero assistance to you in exercises such as bench pressing where you are moving the weights up and away from you. Wearing lifting straps to bench press will do nothing for you except elicit giggles from those who are wandering past. Just don’t.
How to Use Wrist Straps with Failure
Just as important as knowing how to properly lift barbells with lifting straps is knowing how to safely release them. When you’re getting used to a new pair of straps, start with lighter weights until you know what to expect. Use them before your muscles are so fatigued that you feel out of control. This is especially true if you’re going to be doing Olympic-style lifts such as snatches and cleans. Many people are opposed to using straps with these kinds of lifts due to the potential for real injury (think snapped and crushed wrists). Straps are best used for lifts that can be released quickly. If you’re training to failure, know how to do it safely.
Don’t Become Dependent on Wrist Straps
A good exercise routine is all about variety and this matters when using lifting straps, too. Their purpose is to help you overload and fatigue certain sets of muscles without having to focus on and worry about losing your grip. However, building your grip is important, as well. Advanced, competitive lifters always avoid using straps for a few weeks before a competition. This helps them maintain grip strength, but it also keeps their hands tough. If a competitive lifter’s hands have become softened, their palms can rip while lifting during a competition—not good. Avoiding straps before competing will keep your palms toughened up.
When you first start experimenting with lifting straps, take your time and be patient. The most important things to keep in mind are that you must know what you are trying to accomplish, as well as realistically knowing your limits. This will help you achieve your goals and avoid injury while doing so