I’m writing this short post today because I want to talk about a great peace of lifting equipment I’ve been using more of lately – wrist straps!
Which got me thinking, because I hear people ask, “Should I use wrist straps?”
A lot of people don’t really know how to use weight lifting wrist straps properly, or they consider them as a tool for cheating that will hinder gains. Yes, wrist straps have been getting a bad wrap (cheesy pun intended) but I’m here today to tell you that if used properly they can be very useful.
They will NOT get in the way of your gains, in fact you should expect them to improve your muscle development. Wrist straps (not to be confused with wrist wraps which are used to reinforce the wrist on pressing movements) are designed to aid your grip on pulling movement such as rows, pulldowns, deadlifts or shrugs. They will help you maintain a grip of heavy weight without it slipping out of your hands.
Some people will says that using wrist straps will reduce grip strength and forearm muscle size. Forearms come into play as a secondary muscle when doing pulling movements so sure, they get worked and will gain some development. But if you take the forearms and grip out of the equation by using straps it allows for much better focus and contraction on the back muscles, which is your main target muscle when training back. If you want big strong forearms then do a forearm exercise routine on a separate day.
Benefits of Using Straps
I’m sure you’re familiar with the term progressive overload whereby you progressively add more and more weight to your lifts, allowing you to become stronger over time. The problem here is that over time your back will become very strong and able to pull more weight, but your forearm grip strength will not be able to keep up and your training will come to a stand still.
When your grip strength is slightly weaker than your back and arms you won’t be able to hold onto the weight or focus on training your back when performing exercises like rows. This is where straps come into their own by taking over the stress of gripping you’re able to pull more weight. This allows for better isolation and intensity of the back muscles, leading to bigger and stronger development. This is the very reason you will find most pro bodybuilders using straps.
You should only use wrist straps when you absolutely need them such as when losing your grip or when you’re training around an injury, which I’ll cover more about in a minute. Don’t use straps on your warm up sets, you will only ever really need to use them on heavy pulling movements when your grip is likely to fail or you’re getting too much of a painful contraction on your forearms.
When I picked up a nasty elbow tendon injury I would have had to stop training completely if it wasn’t for straps. Using a strap when you have tendonitis helps to take a lot of stress and tension off the injured tendon, giving it time to heal and allows you to continue with you training.
How to use Wrist Straps Properly
It’s amazing how many people I see in the gym using wrist straps incorrectly. I’ve seen dudes using strap on the bench press and even when doing bicep curls. Listen up, learn when and how to use wrist straps properly, otherwise they’re not going to benefit from them or you’ll make a complete fool of yourself.
Check out this video demonstration so the next time you step in the gym you can set them up properly and actually make improvements in your lifts.
Avoid Cheap Straps
Make sure you buy a good quality pair, because some of the really cheap ones are prone to bursting, and believe me, if the strap snaps while you’re doing 500lbs shrugs the outcome will be no joke. I would avoid the really cheap straps you can get off eBay for a couple of pounds (or dollars). Instead get a pair from a sports shop or online retailer that has some customer feedback reviews. You don’t have to spend a fortune or anything. I picked up a decent pair from Amazon for just over £10 that are great quality and very comfortable.