Lifting Straps and Grip Strength

Importance of Grip Strength

“In the old days, Olympic athletes are amateurs. So they still need to work in the fields or factories, handling odd shaped objects. Nowadays, most Olympic athletes are professionals, simply used to only deal with small handles on dumbbells hence they lack the neural drive to their finger tips.” laments Dr. Stuart McGill, one of the most respected figures in the field of strength and conditioning. Pavel Tsatsouline, former USSR Spetsnaz trainer and subject matter expert for US special forces also emphasized the importance of neural radiation from tight fists for athletic power. Dan John, former US Olympian and coach echoes this sentiment.

This is the reason why both on my own training, and as I train my clients, I always emphasize on grip strength, using variety of handles such as fat grip and rope.

How NOT To Use Lifting Accessories

120 kg paused deadlift with no straps or weightbelt

Hence it is a shame that with the rising popularity of lifting accessories, increasing number of people are using them where they shouldn’t. Many times I walked into a commercial gym and see big muscular guys using lifting straps and lifting belts for everything including lats pull down! This is one of the causes of a modern day disease where seemingly big muscular men can hardly lift as heavy as a construction worker half their size. Those big muscles are just for show!

Its indeed an irony that although these accessories are originally developed for strength athletes, most of these same athletes do not rely on them as much as these cosmetic guys. Take a look at Dimitriy Klokov, noted Russian Olympic weightlifting medalist that only selectively use lifting straps and weight belts on his training videos.

How To Use Lifting Straps Properly

Lasso Type Lifting Strap

Having said the above, it doesn’t mean that there is no proper use of lifting straps. For example, if you are doing deadlifts and you are lifting at 95 – 100% your max, then the use of lifting straps could be justified if you want to prevent your callouses from peeling off.

If you are doing Olympic weightlifting and you are doing the hang and pull variations of your lift for reps, then the use of lifting straps would actually be ideal to make sure your grip position stays the same.

So yes, if you are serious in either powerlifting or olympic weightlifting, then you do need a lifting straps and for hygiene reason, having your own is ideal. If you are interested in finding the right lifting strap for you, you should read more about it here.

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2 Comments

  • DTodd says:

    As a rule I use as to whether or not to use straps is whether or not I’m doing an exercise where gravityis against me or where the resistance is pulling away from me, e.g,, rows, chin-ups, deadlifts. Grip strength is important so I like to do exercises specifically for improving grip strength and I love farmer carries with a plated weight. Do you have any recommended exercises to increase grip strength?

    • Damien Sutanto says:

      You are already doing well to improve your grip strength. Might want to play around with fat grips and axel bars just so you will get used to bigger handles. Dr. McGill really loves ropes, i.e. pull ups on ropes instead of horizontal bar or sled rope pull (http://magnusperformance.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=737&action=edit). My own favorite is the kettlebell bottoms up press as it requires you to maintain full body tension from your fingertips to your wrist, even your core.

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