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A person doing a deadlift using lifting straps in a gym

Lifting Straps and Other Strength Training Accessories: How and Why You Need Them

If you’re like many people in the gym, you might look at those super strong people that carry around lifting straps and belts and have a hard time stifling your judgement. “What a tool,” you might find yourself thinking. However, as time goes by and you’re putting in the work with strength training, you might soon gain a new perspective.

What happens when your legs and back get so strong that you know you can deadlift a lot more weight, but your hands simply can’t manage the weight? It’s a good problem to have, and the solution is simple, lifting straps and other accessories.

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 What are Lifting Straps?

 

Grizzly deluxe cotton lifting straps
Lifting straps are strength training accessories that aid grip. They’re typically made of sturdy canvas or cotton material, which is looped around the wrist and wrapped around a dumbbell or barbell. In some cases, like these Grizzly Fitness lifting straps, the loose strap is attached to a padded wrist band.

 

How to Use Lifting Straps

  1. Create loops with your lifting straps by inserting the loose end into the loop at the opposite end. Make sure the fabric lays flat and does not fold or bunch at all.
  2. Put your wrist through the loop and position the strap so that it lays at the base of your wrist, where it meets your hand. The loose end of the strap should follow the direction of your thumb.
  3. Grab the barbell or dumbbell with the strap hanging behind. Then wrap the loose end of the strap underneath and over the bar. Once the strap is wrapped all the way, use your hand and grab the wrapped strap. Use your fingers to twist the fabric back. This should tighten the strap to the point that it feels secure.
  4. Perform your strength training lift as you normally would, with more comfort and grip! 

How to Know if You Need Lifting Straps

The question of whether to use lifting straps has everything to do with your strength training goals and a little bit to do with getting over your pride if you’re one of us who previously judged others for using them * cough, cough. *

You can benefit from using lifting straps if your primary goals are:

You can also benefit from using these if you feel that you could move a lot more weight during certain pulling exercises if you could carry it. They’re also great if you happen to have a wrist injury or your hands hurt when performing pulling strength training exercises.

Which Strength Training Exercises Can Benefit from Using Lifting Straps? 

Grizzly fitness cotton lifting strap

We’ve mentioned pulling movements. These could include: 

  • hang power cleans
  • deadlifts
  • lat pulldowns
  • rows

Other strength training exercises that aren’t pulling movements, but those in which the weights are being carried, can also benefit from lifting straps.

These could be:

  • dumbbell lunges
  • dumbbell split squats
  • shrugs
  • or any other carrying exercise that is not meant to strengthen your grip

When to Avoid Using Lifting Straps

man wearing shorts and sneakers with his feet apart and weights in between his legs

You should avoid using lifting straps for any exercise designed to strengthen your forearms or grip strength, and in any case where using lifting straps provides no benefit, such as:

  • horizontal presses
  • vertical presses
  • curls
  • triceps extensions
  • triceps pushdowns 

Other strength training exercises like farmer carries or chin-ups are situations where lifting straps could help but might impede strength results. For example, you probably want your wrists and forearms to be able to support your own body weight in a pull-up, and you’re likely performing farmer carries (at least partially) to gain wrist and arm strength.

What are Lifting Belts?

Now that we’ve discussed when and why to use straps, let’s talk about lifting belts. A lifting belt is a heavy-duty belt, usually made of leather, that goes around a lifter’s mid-section to support the back, prevent injury, and add support to the lifter’s front body by increasing abdominal pressure.

How to Use a Lifting Belt

  1. Take a deep breath and allow your abdomen to expand. Hold your breath while you brace your abs. Position the belt around your core in the space between your hips and ribs.
  2. Tighten the belt so that it slightly restricts your braced abdomen.
GRIZZLY DOUBLE PRONG LEATHER POWER LIFTING BELT

This method helps you to properly take advantage of the lifting belt so you can lift as heavy as possible while preventing injury during strength training.

How to Know if You Need a Lifting Belt

Lifting straps aren’t necessary all the time, and the same can be said for lifting belts. There are even fewer instances where lifting belts are appropriate than there are for straps.

Lifting belts can indeed prevent injury and support the back, but they’re only truly necessary if you are attempting your one-rep max. You could also benefit if you’re performing near-max reps, like 90% of your maximum.

Which Strength Training Exercises Can Benefit from Using a Lifting Belt?

Examples of strength training exercises that may benefit from using a lifting belt are as follows:

  • squats (back or front)
  • deadlifts
  • clean and jerks
  • rows
  • bench press

Again, the belt is probably only necessary if you’re lifting very heavily. 

When to Avoid Using a Lifting Belt

In addition to times when you don’t need support while lifting at your max or near-max, you should avoid using a lifting belt any time the spinal erectors (the muscles that run up and down the length of the spine) are not in active use.

For example, a lifting belt provides no benefit with the following strength training exercises:

  • lat pulldowns
  • sit-ups
  • leg extensions
  • and more
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Strength training accessories such as lifting straps and belts certainly have their place in training routines, but many people tend to misuse them. When used correctly, you can use straps and belts to take your strength training up a notch. There are, however, times when using accessories (primarily the belt) is useless and silly. Make sure you know how to wear and use these accessories properly, and you won’t have any problems.

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