Should straps have a place in your gym bag? Some people swear by them and use them for everything while other people shun them as crutches for the weak. What is the true answer? Let’s take a peek into both sides of the argument before coming to a logical conclusion.
Before we jump in, a brief mention about straps. This discussion is about standard weight lifting straps that loop around your wrist and then are lashed to dumbbells, a barbell, or even machines by some people. The concept is to help maintain a grip.
Why Are They Used?
The common reasons for straps, or at least the ones that make sense, are lack of grip strength, sweaty hands, small hands, or grip fatigue. The last can actually be fairly common near the end of a brutal, heavy session. The first item on the list is often debated when discussing straps. For the guys in the middle, sorry that you sweat a lot and have small hands.
Straps do work and they work quite well.
So from a working out standpoint why should you use them? If you are doing an exercise like dumbbell shrugs that is targeting the traps, more than likely you are lifting a heavy pair of dumbbells. If after 5 reps your arms start giving out but your traps are good for a few more reps obviously the straps would allow you to hold on longer.
That makes perfect sense. They are a tool to help maximize a workout on a target muscle.
Grip Training Argument
Those who are against using straps, and some people are weirdly adamant about it, often cite that using straps doesn’t train your grip. By holding those heavy barbells for rows or shrugs you are training your grip and forearms along with the back muscles. If you instead use straps then you miss out on that training to your grip and it will not get stronger like it should.
That does make sense, on one level. However the point that argument misses is that barbell rows are training the back, not the grip. If the grip gives out first them the back training is suffering.
Straps are a valuable piece of equipment and should be used…sometimes. From being in the gym a lot it is safe to say that some people strap up far too often and much more than is necessary. By doing this they are going to limit themselves and their grip strength. On the flip side you should use straps when you are doing the maximum weight set of whatever exercise and your hands do give out first. That is the exact time you want to strap up so the set goes to target muscle failure and not grip failure.
However, if your grip does give out regularly and you need to use straps then you also need to incorporate a grip training program. Obviously you have found a weak link in your body that needs to be addressed. A specific grip routine added on arm day should help correct the imbalance and make you need to use straps less often.